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.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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’

NOTICE: BEFORE I ADDRESS THESE 4 ISSUES, I CAN CONFIRM THAT I HAVE TELEPHONED THE PENNSYLVANIA GAME COMMISSION ON 717 787 4250 AND SPOKEN WITH THEM. THEY TELL ME UNEQUIVOCALLY THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO SHOOT FERAL CATS IN PA. THIS IS DEFINITIVE AND UNARGUABLE.

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

Hunting

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.

RELATED: Is It Legal to Shoot Feral Cats in Wisconsin?

Pest

As for pests, a Pennsylvania state website (extension.psu.edu) 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.

Nuisance

As for nuisance animals, feral cats could fall under this heading. The extension.psu.edu 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.

Self-defense

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

  1. I just got off the phone with PA game commission. They instruct you to call local pd or animal rescue in the case of a feral cat. They deal with game not cats.

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    • Yes, it does not surprise me. Different staff members will have different opinions as feral cats generally non-plus them but the person I spoke to exercised common sense and I stand by what I have written. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. 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.

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    • 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.

      Reply
  3. 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??

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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.

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        • 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.

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    • 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.

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  4. 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.

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        • 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.

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  5. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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