Australia totally rejects TNR because they think it doesn’t work

It’s clear that all the states and territories of Australia wholeheartedly reject TNR as a method of controlling feral cat numbers. They just don’t think that it works. It is as simple as that. The last territory where TNR is operated has changed its mind about it. That territory is the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It is currently the only Australian jurisdiction where TNR is operated but things are going to change because on 1 July 2022 a new law will make it obligatory to keep domestic cats indoors or on a leash outside. That makes all the cats outside, on the streets, in breach of the law.

Therefore, there will have to be a transition period regarding the operation of the Canberra Street Cat Alliance (CSCA) which operates TNR. They are going to ask for an exemption and I guess negotiate a transition period. I suspect that they will phase out.

Australian feral cat
Australian feral cat. Photo: PoC.
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Why does Australia reject TNR?

In America TNR is popular. It’s run by volunteers all over the country. Australian “experts” don’t believe in it at all. They don’t think that there is enough evidence that it works. And it puts cats back on the street and in the countryside where they continue to prey on precious native species such a small mammals and marsupials, which have become more precious since the devastating fires of last year which wiped out about 2 billion animals (estimated). That, incidentally, is arguably due to global warming, a human-made catastrophe. But that’s another story; humans are more damaging to native species than cats 😢.

The reason behind the rejection of TNR is perhaps summed up by John Read, an Australian ecologist who specialises in feral cat management. He says that TNR sounds good but it doesn’t reduce the numbers of feral cats while allowing them to spread disease. This is another reason why TNR is criticised. He says that the federal government forks out AU$6 billion annually to deal with the consequences of the spread of toxoplasmosis from feral cats to humans.

I don’t know whether he has hard science to support this. But essentially Australians reject TNR because it puts the cats back where they live to kill animals and spread disease. And they don’t believe there is enough evidence to support it. They don’t think it reduces cat numbers.

John Read said:

“It’s at multiple levels that TNR is counterproductive. It sounds good to idealists, but in reality, it’s a really dangerous and short-sighted approach.”

It is interesting that he says that supporting TNR is “shortsighted”. Some people would argue that Mr Read is shortsighted. To rely on killing feral cats is arguably shortsighted. TNR is a long-term process. But there must be commitment and there isn’t.


It seems to me that this is a question of scaling. The feral cat problem as described is so big in Australia that TNR can’t manage it because the states and territories or the federal government has failed to fully embraced it. For TNR to work properly it has to be complete and all-encompassing. If you just have little pockets of TNR throughout a jurisdiction it doesn’t work well. There has to be a commitment to it and Australia has never committed to it but the opposite; they’ve always rejected it which means that they’ve conducted it half-heartedly. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They want it to fail and it has failed. They prefer to kill them. I see an attitude problem. TNR is too gentle and humane for them.


So, taking ACT, with TNR being phased out (maybe?) the only alternative is to kill the cats. This is what they’re doing in other states and territories. It’s an Armageddon-like state of affairs where they kill feral cats as fast as they can while disregarding any question over the morality of it all and the inhumanity of the process. It’s irrelevant to the governments of the states and territories.

TNR experts have consistently said that killing feral cats does not work to get rid of them because they breed and then fill the spaces where they been eradicated (vacuum effect).

Feral cat pictures
By Mick Stanic under CC license. Killed feral cats Australia where they are considered worse than pests. Cruel I say.

Long-term strategy

John Read probably voices the thoughts of others when he says that he wants cats to be treated in the same way as dogs. He said:

“Cats should be registered, just like dogs are, they should be contained, just like dogs are.”

That is going to be the end result probably in Australia across all the territories and states: cats and dogs managed in the same way. And in parallel the eradication of existing stray and feral cats.

TNR run by CSCA

CSCA would seem to disagree with other Australian experts. They decided to operate TNR in the ACT in 2014. The decision was based on studies conducted overseas. They had to rely on overseas studies on TNR because there was a lack of them in Australia (indicative of a disdain for the method). They believe that it does work. In Canberra’s largest cat colony, they been able to rehome 33 of the 51 cats and kittens. They returned 18 cats after sterilisation. In the year since there have been no new cats within the colony. It works if you just look at a specific operation.

But the problem, as I see it, is a question of scaling, as mentioned. If you scale up that small-scale operation to a national level, TNR won’t work because you can’t get the commitment, the manpower and resources to make it work.

They are going to apply for an exemption to the cat-containment laws within the industrial zones of the Canberra region so that they can continue TNR operations. As mentioned, when the cat containment laws come into effect cats that are not contained i.e. stray and feral cats, are going to be in breach of the law so what you do with them?

Feral cat Australia
Feral cat Australia. Pic in public domain.


The RSPCA’s ACT chief executive, Michelle Robertson, said that they were concerned about stray and feral cats but they can’t endorse TNR because there is not enough evidence to support the view that it works.

She said:

“I would like to see happy, healthy, loved, contained pet cats and happy and healthy populations of our native wildlife that’s able to survive and thrive in our urban and non-urban landscapes. This can’t be done with TNR programs.”

She supports the killing of stray and feral cats by trapping and euthanising them. And backing that up with sterilisation and vaccination of domestic cats.


I’m repeating myself but the fact of the matter is that Australia has never embraced TNR. It’s an attitude problem. That’s the way I see it. It’s too gentle an approach. It is not immediate enough. And Australians do like to kill ‘pests’ as they regard them. They like to shoot them. This is an attitude issue as well. And in addition, there is a very big feral cat problem and perhaps it is so big that TNR can’t cope with it without a huge investment in resources by all the states and territories. They are not prepared to deliver those resources. This leaves them in a no man’s land with the only alternative being to kill the cats. And then in parallel confine domestic cats to the home under strict laws. That is the way Australia is going.


Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

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