Is it legal to shoot feral cats in PA?

To outsiders “PA” means the state of Pennsylvania, USA. I have answered the question “off paper” by which I mean through research rather than relying on first hand experiences. If anyone can add first hand experience (excluding trolls such as Woodsman001) I’d be happy to publish their comment.

The answer to the question in the title lies in the overlap of the following issues:

  1. Statutory law regarding animal cruelty in Pennsylvania (5511)
  2. Hunting regulations in the state
  3. Pest control in the state
  4. Control of ‘nuisance animals’


Regarding killing, Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws concern domestic or zoo animals as stated in the first line. However, the law clearly states that a person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he willfully and maliciously kills, maims, mutilates, tortures or disfigures any dog or cat whether belonging to himself or otherwise.

The word “otherwise” must mean a cat belonging to somebody else or belonging to nobody which in turn must apply to feral cats and stray cats (Section 5511 cruelty to animals).

Also, I have stated several times before, how is a shooter able to distinguish between a feral, stray or domestic cat? And let’s be clear, many feral cats are semi-domesticated. Would that or should that place them under the protection of the law? Therefore on a practical level it is highly unwise and should not be attempted. A person shooting a cat that he thought was feral could well end up in the criminal and civil courts expending a pile of money on his defense and still find himself in jail and massively out of pocket.

The forum (a hunting website) backs up what I have stated. It states that “owned and loose, stray, and feral; killing them is against the law”.


You might expect that the hunting regulations and pest control regulations of Pennsylvania refer to feral cats specifically allowing them to be culled or exterminated at will by the citizens of the state. However, I can find no reference to feral cats in the law regarding hunting in this state therefore it cannot be said that shooters have permission under hunting regulations. The reason is the impossibility of distinguishing feral from domestic.

In another article on whether hunters can shoot feral cats in Wisconsin I telephoned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and spoke to a lady there who told me, and agree with me, that it is illegal to shoot feral cats in that state. We agreed that it is impossible to distinguish between feral and domestic cats at a distance and therefore to allow the shooting of feral cats would also allow the shooting of domestic cats. Also, feral cats are not regarded as ‘wild mammals’ and therefore cannot fall within the context of unprotected species in Wisconsin. I’m sure that a very similar regulation applies to PA.

Is It Legal to Shoot Feral Cats in Wisconsin?


As for pests, a Pennsylvania state website ( refers to invasive species. They say they can be pests. They list them. The feral cat is not on the list. Therefore feral cats are neither invasive species nor pests as listed by the authorities in this state and therefore cannot be dealt with under this heading.


As for nuisance animals, feral cats could fall under this heading. The website states that “shooting live ammunition, whether to frighten or kill, has limited application. Generally, live ammunition may only be fired during hunting season or under permit”. Therefore we have to fall back on hunting regs referred to above. And once again there is always the overriding issue of distinguishing feral from domestic.


Exceptionally rarely a person may have to kill a cat, either domestic or feral, who is attacking them. They may shoot the cat and therefore under the circumstances they may raise the defence in court that they shot the cat in self defence. This would be unfortunate because whenever a cat attacks somebody it is, in my opinion, the person’s fault unless the cat has rabies.


It is illegal to shoot feral cats in Pennsylvania. My telephone call to the Pennsylvania Game Commission confirms that. I had quite a nice conversation with the gentleman at the Commission. We agreed that it is impractical in any event to allow people to shoot feral cats because you cannot, as explained above, tell the difference between someone’s pet and a genuine feral cat at a distance. Also, as explained above, the law encompasses unowned cats so this article puts to rest the argument. Cat shooters will try and shoot the argument down! They will be wrong. Don’t listen to them.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

46 thoughts on “Is it legal to shoot feral cats in PA?”

  1. All cats will kill even if they just fed on a bowl of Friskies. I have no use for a free roaming cat, feral or house bred. Reduce them.

    1. They are outside because humans put them there. These are not a breed of “wild” cats. They are wild because humans put them there and they have survived. If it were as easy as culling feral cats and problem solved, it would have been done in another location or country for that matter. The fact remains that it just opens up for another group of cats to take over the area. Until people work to spay and neuter and be responsible pet owners, feral cats or as I like to call them community cats will remain.

      Dogs will kill also if left to their own resources and expected to survive on their own. If you include cats you include wild dogs that are found in our most southern regions.

      I know this comment was meant to fish for atrocious comments but let’s try to be civil and think for a moment. Use common sense to find a solution. TNR(trap, neuter/spay, return) works. It needs to be a staple iin all states.

  2. Folks In Australia got it figured out. You own a cat keep it under control, Just like a dog. Collect your bounty for cats that are not under control pretty simple huh??

    1. They are outside because humans put them there. These are not a breed of “wild” cats. They are wild because humans put them there and they have survived. If it were as easy as culling feral cats and problem solved, it would have been done in another location or country for that matter. The fact remains that it just opens up for another group of cats to take over the area. Until people work to spay and neuter and be responsible pet owners, feral cats or as I like to call them community cats will remain.

      Dogs will kill also if left to their own resources and expected to survive on their own. If you include cats you include wild dogs that are found in our most southern regions.

      I know this comment was meant to fish for atrocious comments but let’s try to be civil and think for a moment. Use common sense to find a solution. TNR(trap, neuter/spay, return) works. It needs to be a staple iin all states.

      1. I say this as someone who works first hand with ferals, strays, and TNR. TNR is awful.

        Cats are captured, extremely stressed, undergo invasive surgery, and then are left to get sick, starve, and injured severely. TNR does not stop cats from killing billions of native animals yearly, and does nothing but cause suffering to the individual cat. Trapping and then euthanizing is much more humane.

        I’ve seen TNR cats torn to shreds, have their eyes pulled out of their skull, drag their paralyzed bodies around, starved and emaciated, riddled with disease, and exploded from car tires. Not to mention the amount of birds, reptiles, and small mammals I’ve found mutilated and writhing in pain from “sport kills”. If you support TNR, you support cruelty to animals.

        1. Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your views. I welcome all views even when I disagree with them as they do in this case. I think you paint a rather extreme version of TNR. TNR isn’t always like you say is and perhaps rarely is. In fact, some TNR colonies are managed so well that the cats live good lives. Many of these cats live better lives than those inside homes where the caregiving is poor. And you pick up on the fact that feral cats kill billions of animals. No doubt you’ve heard this in the news media where they exaggerate the results of studies. And the news media extrapolate data from very small studies. They expand data from studies to cover an entire country (e.g. Australia) when the information concerns a small part of the country or even another country. You can’t do that and maintain accuracy.

    2. Michelle L. Heil

      Australia has not gotten control of the feral cat population. You have tried, but it has failed miserably. You have thought by just going out and killing as many as you can it would resolve the problem. Until you educate, have a standard TNR(trap, Neuter/spay, return) program you will get nowhere. You have tried for years and yet even looking at the news today you still have a problem you think you can kill your way out of it. It won’t work. Time to come up with a new plan Australia. TNR aggressively. Its your only hope. Major educational marketing program. Australians put the cats outdoors to survive. They survived and more. Australians will have to learn you can’t kill your way out of this one. Cats will and can survive it. They are smart. Its time to try an aggressive TNR and educational program.

  3. I came across this site, while checking Pa laws. I can’t belive some of the comments.The people who complain about these cats, cant care about animals at all.It isn’t the cats fault. Will you kill a stray dog to? Instead of shooting off your mouth, get a trap and get the kitty fixed. Contact groups that will come out and TNR. That will help solve your problems.

        1. Michael- I don’t know why my fellow Americans love to shoot animals. It’s quite a double standard, they’ll bring heaven down for their dogs but dislike all other animals. But regardless, if we all sterilize our animals and not only “cat owners need to control their animals,” this page probably wouldn’t exist.

  4. an invasive species is a species that is brought from its natural habitat, into an area by humans. these animals are usually very bad for the environment, and are hunted by the us most of the time. when the US thinks and sees the damage, they will start legalizing it. its only a matter of time. cats are an invasive species. i am neither against nor with killing these cats. i am only interested in facts and statistics. no opinion comments please.

    1. The issue of ‘invasive species’ is very complex. Here is one example: to be an invasive species it has to be likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Well, the domestic cat does a lot of good for human health and millions of domestic cats are full-time indoor cats not harming an animal or the environment. Feral cats are a problem. But humans created them through careless cat ownership. We have a duty to reduce their numbers humanely. And by a factor of 1000s the human causes more environmental harm than domestic and feral cats. Shall I go on? There is more.

      1. Keyword or in environmental harm or harm to human health. They may not be impacting humans directly, but cats can hurt native bird species, rabbit, chipmunk, and squirrel. Also, when there is an area with overpopulation of cats, the chances of disease are higher. Disease spreads fast, and can cause harm to humans and livestock. If a kid plays outside and sees a cat with rabies, they might not know. They would want to let and hold it. Cats are also very aggressive. A cat will protect itself and it’s young no matter what it costs, and when they don’t have young to look after, it is almost always looking for a male cat, or food. Cats also hunt for sport. Even when they are filled, they will still hunt. This also impacts the small wildlife, and disease spreading.

    2. Michelle L. Heil

      Reality you can’t go shooting feral(community) cats in a city neighborhood. How does that work? What are you going to do poison them? Use a bow and arrow? What if a bird eats it instead? Or a child? I dare to say that most countries that have used killing as an option with feral cats have not contained the problem. They never will. Cats adapt, they are smart, and will survive. Humans put them there. It’s time for an aggressive worldwide TNR (trap, neuter/spay, return) program with a major marketing campaign on education of spay and neutering of all pets.

  5. Just shoot them already they breed and destroy all small game. Where I am in PA all the squirrels chip monks, rabbits, have disapeared. The reek havoc on the eco system. They are an invasive species!

    1. Shit, you make some terrible assumptions “destroy all small game”. Prove it in detail. You can’t. Plus humans kill far more wildlife, far more in a thousand different ways. I guess we will just have to shoot you.

      1. Tell that to the 2 dead, mauled squirrels and woodpecker I’ve found in the yard so far this spring. Neighbor’s cat can just run all over my yard? Bullshit.

    2. You are forgetting the enormous population of birds of prey..Red tail hawks are thriving in every state.they are not limited to rural areas nesting in big cities & suburbs.They kill up to 3 times a day..other birds,& all types of mammals. including dogs and cats up to 10 pounds have been seen snatched from their back yards.
      I’ve seen owels & hawks flying by with a kitten in it’s talons.
      Blaming cats for diseases is total bullsit,Racoons carry distemper & rabies,therehas been no outbreak of rabies in cats anywhere, cats would only get rabies from those small animals you blame them for killing.

    3. Michelle L. Heil

      There is a hawk program along with an eagle program that is quite active in PA and in other areas. I beg to differ it’s the cats. I would have to see real research other than I see cats outside and that has to be the reason. The bird population or its decimation is questionable. The numbers don’t make sense to me. If we are losing that many birds, how am I seeing any birds? It does not make sense and I beg to differ with the Audubon society on their calculations. They are the only ones with these numbers. I still have all kinds of birds, etc. If you put out food, you will see all the birds, squirrels, chipmunks etc. Other wildlife is in the mix also. Again, what are you doing with cats in the city streets. You can’t just put down poison, shoot them, or otherwise without possibly harming other animals and people.

  6. I live on s farm and city folks drop litters of KITTENS off every year..we take them and give them ALL GOOD HOMES..I never would think of SHOOTING one !!!..,I’m a hunter who hunts EVERY YEAR ,but would NEVER SHOOT A TAME OR FERAL CAT !!! some people make me sick !!!…,why not try n help them out like we do??..maybe you will feel good about it ?.after all it’s not the cats fault ???.it’s the owners who drop them off or just kick them out !!!

    1. We said and well done Randy. I like your attitude and thanks for commenting. It is sad to hear though that city folk abandon cats on or near your farm. That is terribly cruel and immoral. In fact in may well be a crime in your state.

  7. The people on here who think it is ok to kill cats are evil . These cats didn’t ask to be dumped outside —- they didn’t ask to be born. They are innocent and if more people would pitch in to help TNR – if others would spay/neuter and vaccinate their pets ( and keep them indoors) perhaps this overpopulation would start to diminish.. cats are wonderful creatures – very smart and loving when given the chance- I have housed and fed ferals over the years and have gained respect for these Kitties that survive in bitter temperatures in the winter or soaring heat in the summer- they learn to respect and appreciate their caretakers – haveva heart and help them out .. PA laws are pretty strick when it comes to harming and killing animals- a man was just put in jail for drowning raccoons he trapped!bif you ahoy and kill cats, I hope you are reported and prosecuted…

  8. I shoot them with a population of 500 on my property and growing its a problem. They fight. They are nasty. The bring mites and fleas near our animals. They are nuisance animals. Unless domesticated. Look at wild pigs. A domesticated pig is ok it breaks out it takes weeks before it adapts to the wild. Becoming a nuisance animal. Cats are the same.

    1. Well, I say that you are committing a crime because you don’t know for sure that the cats are all feral. Some may be stray domestic cats. And feral cats are not classified as nuisance animals.

    2. Michelle L. Heil

      Again, if it was as easy as killing them, we would not have a problem. I know that is ghastly to some people but think about it. I had a call that coyotes were killing cats and I should go in the woods and see the bodies. First, not doing that. Second, I advised them while it is concerning, we still have a cat problem. It will not solve the first problem. Humans dumping cats. Until you educate people about spaying and neutering, making it not ok to just dump an animal, and just on animal welfare, you will not resolve the cat feral or otherwise problem in all countries across this rock.

      TNR(Trap, Neuter/Spay, Return) works. We just need everyone on board and a major marketing campaign on spaying and neutering your pets.

  9. I was admiring a blue jay on the back deck rail. Today under the deck furniture where feral cats have been living I found what was left of it after the “domesticated” cats that were born in a neighbors brush pile had dinner. I have found feathers in the yard several times this summer. My smaller old dog has almost lost his eye trying to “befriend” them…he was just curious.Females are very protective of their litters and can be dangerous. The asshole across the street puts large quantities of food out for them, usually there are 5-8 adults lounging there. Apparently “Beth” you have either never had such a problem or you may be one of those assholes feeding them. They are a nuisance, they are dangerous ( because of their feeding on wild animals they are a rabies risk) and they need to be dealt with. In my case there is no spay/alter release program near me. There are approximately 8-12 adults probably 15-20 younger kittens living in an area of about 2-3 acres. I do not dislike cats…but do the math. In no time at all the bird, rabbit and small animal population will be gone from my area. I am sure there are some sadistic fucks hunting them for fun, that I assure you is not the intent of most who have a feral cat issue. Trap and release elsewhere does not solve the problem. It is the same as a rat infestation. Unfortunately thats how i will treat it. I like cats in general, it does hurt me to have to kill them. Hunt them? Never. Still they must be controlled just as other animal population that is a nuisance to the welfare of a particular area.

    1. I have published your comment in the interests of free speech and a balanced argument. I disagree with you of course. TNR does work and it does reduce the numbers. And it is humane. What you want to do is inhumane. Don’t blame the cats, blame the people who irresponsibly let their cats create them. And you are demonstrating speciesism, the preference of one species over another. There is more that it wrong with your argument and the counter arguments are on the site in numerous places.

      If you are Woody aka Woodsman001 don’t write a second comment as it will be deleted.

      1. Its the Owner’sfault, It’s the owners fault!!!! MAYBE WE SHOULD SHOOT THE OWNERS!! That would help solve the problem!!

    2. I agree with your comment. I have a neighbor who has about 10 cats that come over and crap and pee in my yard. I have dogs that I keep under control at all times. My dogs end up eating the cat crap. Where are my rights as a property owner? I do not want those cats on my property. What about transferring worms, ticks, fleas not to mention rabies to my pets? People need to keep their cats on their own property or face the consequences. Every time I go out the door or look out the window I see a cat. It’s disgusting! I have a right to keep them off my property. Also they do not spay or neuter so there are always more and more cats.

      1. I agree completely that your neighbor is being unneighborly and irresponsible. The problem is the person not the cats. You do have rights as a property owner. It is hard because if you enforce those rights you will end up in dispute with your neighbor which will make things worse. The best solution is to move. That sounds defeatist but it is the best solution. Bad neighbors usually win I am afraid to say because they are inherently anti-social and you can’t correct that defect.

        1. We were at our property years before them so why would we move? They need to control their cats or move to a cat friendly neighborhood where people don’t mind cat crap and pee in their yards. There has even been times I have found them in my trees on my property. Unacceptable!

          1. I agree it is very unfair and wrong. But in my experience the best solution is to move. I know it is hard and annoying etc. but this is a no win situation for you. Look if you ‘win’ and stop the cats coming into your yard the owner will be very annoyed and nasty to you. And it won’t stop. Is that winning?

            1. Me having to move because of cats? Not going to happen. I really don’t care what the neighbors think. They brought the problem into the neighborhood and they will need to take care of it. Thank you for your advice.

              1. Michelle L. Heil

                See my comment below. Don’t move. Work with the neighbors and get a TNR program going. It does work. It takes some work. I totally understand the annoying neighbor and agree people need to keep their cats indoors, but that is not what is going on here. Look for a TNR program near you. Sometimes they will talk to the neighbor and you about some solutions. Moving is not the solution. There are some simple ideas that will work to stop cats. Some plants, some organic ideas. You just have to stay on top of it.

    3. Michelle L. Heil

      I get it Joe. I never understood it either, but again its not as easy as just killing them all. I get what you are saying. Many areas are new to the TNR(trap, neuter/spay, release) programs. So get it started. Go to a community meeting. Ask the neighbor to work with you in spaying and neutering these cats. You need a feeder to be on board. Again, if it was as easy as killing them, it would have been resolved in Australia by now. Its not. Look it up. They are still trying to resolve it the easy way. They still can’t make a dent in it.

      I started TNRing in west Pittsburgh, PA communities. I am close to 800 cats in about 8 years. Its hard, mostly because people are not aware of the problems with not spaying and neutering. They just don’t understand until they are 20 deep in cats. Sure your neighbor could stop feeding. It won’t stop the cats from continuing. If it were that easy. They will just use hunting skills and be more diseased and still be everywhere. They are a smart animal. They will do everything to survive.

      First most cats are going to be protective of their young. Common knowledge, moms kick butt. You don’t mess with moms. Because it is a smaller animal you think that makes a difference. It’s like messing with a mama bear. Don’t do it. Keep your dog away from them. They are not his buddies. He can chase them off his property, but don’t let him go looking for them. Since they are not vaccinated, you don’t know what they may or may not have. Keep your dog in a fenced yard, on a leash, or on a lead.

      Again I understand your frustration. It would make no difference if there was a feeder or not. Those cats would and will survive otherwise. Work with the neighbor to combat the problem. That is what I did and now I work with neighboring areas to control their population. I’m not saying you need to be an advocate, but learn to not expect others to resolve a problem that you can help to solve. Get a couple of racoon traps, watch some videos, and do it. Its hard at first, but you will see results. Work with the neighbor, you need her to not feed the day before trapping. Email me, I’m more than happy to help you get started. 🙂

  10. Again, educate yourself. ALL house-cats (the Felis catus species, created by man by selective-breeding for human purposes), whether feral or indoors or in your silly self-stroking lap, are called “domesticated cats”. Stop using your layman’s terminology and definitions. Your doing so is driving you insane. Use the definition and term as used by all laws and all fields of science, and anyone with even a first year of high-school education. Felis catus, feral or not, is a domestic or domesticated species.

    Did you even go to any school at all?

    Laws do not GIVE you permission to kill animals, they can only deny you permission to kill which ones and/or how many.

    1. Beth, you are Woody (Woodsman0001) in drag – and you are a drag and you’re completely wrong. It is you who needs educating. True feral cats are not domestic cats. Don’t you understand the word ‘domesticated’?

      1. 2do•mes•ti•cate \-ket, -‘kat\ noun (1951)
        : a domesticated animal or plant

        Please tell us how you can “tame” and/or “train” a plant into a lap-plant, according to your definition of “domesticate”.

        domesticate verb
        to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of man (the man who domesticated the first dog)

        1do•mes•ti•cate \de-“mes-ti-‘kat\ do•mes•ti•cat•ed do•mes•ti•cat•ing (ca. 1639)
        verb transitive
        1 : to bring into domestic use
        2 : to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans
        3 : to make domestic

        do•mes•ti•ca•tion \-‘mes-ti-“ka-shen\ noun

        1do•mes•ti•cate \de-“mes-ti-‘kat\ do•mes•ti•cat•ed do•mes•ti•cat•ing (ca. 1639)
        verb transitive
        1 : to bring into domestic use
        2 : to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans
        3 : to make domestic : fit for domestic life
        do•mes•ti•ca•tion \-‘mes-ti-“ka-shen\ noun

        You would do yourself and all of your pathetically stupid readers a world of good if you even knew the definitions of the terms you try to (but wrongly) use.

        You fuckingly PATHETIC & STUPID MORON who never even went to ANY school! You’ve proved that without one doubt left.

        1. Woody you are a complete arsehole and you must have been pissed when you wrote that. Are you an alcoholic? It sounds like it. The domestic cat is barely domesticated as it is. When a domestic cat becomes feral he/she is genuinely wild and unsocialised. Such a cat cannot be described as domesticated.

          What point are you trying to make? You are being utterly stupid and ignorant.

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