Is It Legal to Shoot Feral Cats in Wisconsin?

Shot cat
Shot cat. Pic in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I explain why it is illegal (and impractical) to shoot feral cats in Wisconsin. My assessment of the situation is in stark contrast to the assessment of hunters and trappers who like to kill feral cats anyway possible. For example, one such person made the following comment:

“It is perfectly legal to do so [kill a cat], someone’s pet or not. Nuisance-animal, pest-control, depredation-control, and invasive-species laws supersede ALL other animal-protection laws. Even an endangered Florida Panther can be legally shot to death if it is threatening the well-being of you or your own animals. Just be certain that you shoot to kill or use any other of the legally agreed-upon methods under which hunting and trapping is allowed. Shoot to maim is illegal and falls under animal-cruelty laws. But a dead cat is a legal cat…….” (feral cat hunter/killer)

This person even says that you can shoot someone’s pet if that pet is a nuisance animal or a pest and an invasive species because the laws governing these issues supersede all other animal welfare laws. He does go on to say, though, that shooting to maim a feral cat is illegal as it would fall under the animal welfare laws. You have to shoot to kill cleanly; this is his argument (I think he got this point from me!). Obviously, I disagree with everything he says.


Umbrella Animal Welfare Law

As mentioned in a previous article, the general, umbrella law, regarding animal cruelty in Wisconsin is governed by the Wisconsin Cruelty to Animals Statute – Chapter 951. This law covers all animals meaning every living warm blooded creature except human beings, reptiles or amphibians. Cruelty is defined in a common sense way: causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death.


This statute does not include any exemptions or exceptions with respect to feral cats. It does not say that the Act does not apply to feral cats. Therefore feral cats are included in the Act as an animal protected by it.

Therefore, I have to ask if the feral cat can legally be shot under any other statutes or regulations in Wisconsin? Well, firstly, the feral cat is not listed as one of the invasive species in Wisconsin. Therefore it cannot be said that a person can shoot feral cats because they are considered to be an invasive species in that state.


Therefore so far we have to say that it is illegal to shoot feral cats. We then have to discuss the question as to whether a hunter is being cruel when he shoots a feral cat dead. As mentioned above, if a feral cat is doing nothing in particular, not attacking anybody but just minding his business then shooting that feral cat would be an unjustifiable death and therefore in breach of Wisconsin animal welfare statutes under Ch 951.

As to whether it is possible to shoot a feral cat without causing the cat pain, you would have to ask an expert that but in my opinion it is impossible to do this. In addition it is impossible at a distance to shoot a feral cat so accurately that the cat is killed instantly without any pain. Therefore the hunter causes unnecessary and excessive pain to the feral cat and therefore the hunter’s actions once again are in violation of the animal welfare/protection laws of Wisconsin.


In the comment above you can see that the hunter believes that when a cat, whether someone’s pet or a feral cat, is a nuisance animal he/she can be shot dead legally. This has to be incorrect. I think the hunters are getting mixed up with the laws governing predation on livestock by predators such as the mountain lion. However, the Wisconsin Department of natural resources say that wild cougars probably disappeared from the state by about 1910.

The concept that feral cats are pests and nuisance animals is untenable. Firstly, you cannot tell the difference between a domestic cat, stray cat or a feral cat particularly at a reasonable distance. A stray cat might be a domestic cat owned by somebody and if you shoot him/her you are committing criminal damage (another crime) and violating the animal welfare/protection acts of Wisconsin. Domestic cats are allowed to be outside in Wisconsin. A domestic cat cannot commit trespass or nuisance.

To the best of my knowledge, feral cats are not considered to be pests in Wisconsin. The reason is probably because, as mentioned, you cannot tell the difference between feral cats and domestic cats in many situations and therefore it makes any law defining feral cats as pests and nuisance animals unworkable. I visited a couple of pest control businesses in Wisconsin and neither listed feral cats as pests.

The Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations 2017

These are lengthy but the core text states that unprotected species means “all other wild mammals not specifically mentioned…..” – unprotected species can be hunted with a license.

Feral cats are not mentioned as unprotected. The feral cat is often a feral domestic cat. They are often semi-feral and frequently tame and domesticated. They are not wild mammals. They are often not born in the wild but in homes. It is impossible to describe feral cats as wild mammals in the conventional sense. Therefore they are not unprotected species under these regulations. Therefore they are not animals that can be hunted under these regulations. In addition how does a hunter identify a feral cat over a domestic cat? Impossible at a distance. Therefore a hunter could kill a person’s cat. This would be a crime.


About 15 years ago, Wisconsin came up with a controversial proposal to allow hunters to kill feral cats. It gathered some support but it did not get off the ground. The state’s Department of Natural Resources said that 51 counties supported the proposal and 20 rejected it with a no-vote in one county. Congress was obliged to consider the proposal to get it passed into law. This did not happen. The reason was almost certainly because the concept is unworkable, impractical and unenforceable. It would have meant hunters shooting domestic cats, someone’s cat companion which is a crime obviously.

The fact that this proposal was put forward and was rejected also supports the argument that there is no specific law, today, in Wisconsin which allows hunters to shoot feral cats. I have covered all the other options above. Therefore I can say with some confidence that it is illegal to shoot dead a feral cat in Wisconsin unless it occurs under exceptional and particular circumstances; for example due the person’s fault a feral cat attacks the person which is highly unusual. Under these circumstances I suspect the person could legally shoot dead the feral cat.

How do they get away with shooting feral cats?

The reason why these hunters get away with shooting feral cats is because law enforcement are disinterested in prosecuting such cases. The feral cat shooters know this and therefore they continue doing it. They then find a way to justify it as you can see from the comment above but they are misleading the public. They can mislead some of the public because the law is complicated and tiresome. People don’t want to read it.


I am open to correction and amendment quite obviously but it is impossible to refute the conclusion. However, feral cat hunters/trappers must be polite and support their argument with chapter and verse references to the law. You won’t be able to.

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38 thoughts on “Is It Legal to Shoot Feral Cats in Wisconsin?”

  1. First off there are documented mountain lions in Wisconsin. Cars just like dogs are required to have tags and be under control ( on a leash) when outside. It is illegal to let your cat out without being under control.

    1. You are wrong about the necessity of keeping cats on a lead and under control when outside. There is no such law in Wisconsin or any state that I know of. Quote the exact law and prove me wrong.

      1. Unprotected species
        Unprotected species include: European starling, English (House) sparrow, coturnix quail, chukar partridge, opos
        sum, porcupine, skunk, weasel, and all other wild mammals not specifically mentioned in the hunting, trapping,
        and migratory game bird regulations [NR 10.04).
        andowners/occupants are not required to have a hunting or trapping license to shoot or trap these species year
        -round on their own property if these species are causing damage or nuisance. Landowners/occupants may solic-
        ‣ an agent to aid in the removal of these animals. Agents of the landowner or occupant are required to have a
        valid hunting and/or trapping license when removing these animals [NR 10.04 Note, NR 12.10(1)(b) & (3)(c)].
        Unprotected species, coyote, fox, and raccoon may be hunted without hunting hour restrictions except when, if
        unting with a bow or crossbow, all hunting hours apply to all bear and archery deer seasons [NR 10.06(8)(a)] or
        during the regular 9-day November gun deer season, when hunting hours apply to all bow and gun hunting.

        1. If it has no collar, it is not owned and therefore qualifies as an unprotected, introduced or invasive species.

          Wisconsin law only provides guidance for native wildlife. Anything else is fair game.

          1. How do you know that it is ‘not owned’ at a distance when you are about to shoot it with a rifle? You have to scan for a microchip first. Not all owned cats have collars. Perhaps half do so that is not a test of being owned. Sorry but you are talking BS.

            1. You may consider this off topic but, can I ask why it is illegal to dump your minnows from a bait shop into any body of water in Wisconsin?
              “It’s really mean to throw 20 minnows in the bushes just to die…”

              To prevent any new “introduced or invasive species into our fragile ecosystems”

              No different then cats left to do as they please nightly.

              You can call “BS” all day long but, YOUR cats belong on your property.

              My land is for the NATIVE birds and wild life. Not your cats to free range and hunt.

              1. Flathead minnows are native to America. I am not sure what you are saying. Would you like to clarify Dallas? You appear to be saying that throwing minnows away to die in bushes is the same as allowing domestic cats to go outside unsupervised. It isn’t. Thanks for commenting though. Much appreciated.

                1. No gauntees it’s just fat heads in the bucket. I am just citing the law and reasoning.

                  Where was the law protecting feral cats on private property? Other the ” Lindsay” with DNR. She is not something that can be referenced.

  2. Do you think because some paper says it’s illegal to whack a cat that’s going to save it’s life? Really? That happens only in your dreams. You could have an entire library saying it’s illegal. Keep your cats indoors.

  3. In the country, keep cats indoors. Many, many people shoot all cats on sight–that’s all cats with the emphasis on “all”. Or, they’ll trap them and dispose of them later. Outside is the most dangerous place for your cat. To insure a long life for your cat, keep them indoors.

  4. Here’s the newest family member ! — We call it “Flatty” — We don’t believe in the use of firearms to alleviate the feral pests ! — 2006 Cat Cb224e 46 ” Diesel Double Drum Vibrator work MUCH BETTER !

      1. Keep your cat inside and on your own property and maybe you wouldn’t have to worry about it, it’s tragic I know, and it isn’t easy to shoot what many consider to be man’s companion but… With how detrimental they are toward environments and how they kill for sport, yeah I’d say it’s fair to consider that some people may respond as such. I know for me I used to have a lot of birds that would visit my moms property a fee years back, a year ago a neighbor with a cat he lets outdoor a lot arrived and slowly species of birds began to stop, with the Pigeons, then the Blue Jays, then the Robins, it is sad.

        1. Yep, I know there is a big discussion about keeping cats indoors. But beware of the information about cats killing billions of birds and other prey animals. They are estimates and aren’t necessarily accurate. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. No Law Against It = Legal – Comment from Admin: this statement is pure rubbish. It should be ignored. I have published it in the name of freedom of speech but…BS it is…

    Too bad you don’t know how hunting laws work. Laws can only deny you from hunting specific animals protected under laws. If there are no laws against it it makes it perfectly legal. If you take into account all invasive-species laws, then it is not only legal, but a mandatory act and civil duty to kill all stray cats to protect the fragile environment and all native species from ignorant and biased pavement-brained eco-terrorists like yourself.

    Just because you desperately want to believe something is illegal doesn’t make it so. If you’re not going to curtail stray cat populations then everyone else will do it for you, using means that you don’t seem to enjoy. Just like you often claim that it is illegal for people to trap cats and dispose of them. If that were true then no TNR practitioner anywhere on earth could legally trap stray cats anywhere and do with them what they want. There are no laws against it so it makes it perfectly legal to trap stray cats and do with them whatever you want. All agreed-upon hunting and lethal trapping methods also apply to cats.

    The sooner you start to comprehend this and accept the reality of your world, the sooner you can start saving cats from being shot to death or trapped in lethal traps, by educating your fellow cat-ass morons on how to keep your vermin cats out of lethal traps and out of the path of loaded guns — by cat supporters containing them on their OWN property. It’s the only way to save the lives of your vermin cats.

    Whinging about them being shot and poisoned to death for decades now doesn’t seem to be stopping that from happening, now does it. No, the few cases you actually hear about are increasing daily, because you and all just like you won’t do one damn thing to stop throwing cats to their certain deaths. You might just as well run over cats with your cars yourself or feed them antifreeze yourself so someone else doesn’t have to do it for you so you can just whinge about it your whole pathetic and irresponsible life.

    Grow the fuck-up, you immature addle-brained twat.


      I have spoken to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources twice you idiot and they say that it is illegal to shoot feral cats in Wisconsin. Read the article again. Moron. I am correct and you are dreaming.

      1. Try calling them back, say you’re a farmer and have a problem with feral cats. Then ask if it okay to shoot feral cats on your property. You’ll likely get a very different answer.

    2. You are a douchebag. I don’t understand how people like you get to walk around freely and spread your cruelty to innocent animals. FUCK YOU.

  6. It’s perfectly legal to shoot feral cats in Wisconsin. They are not listed as a protected species by the DNR. According to the WDNR small game regulations all wild mammals that are not specifically mentioned in hunting, trapping, and migratory game bird regulations and also not listed as endangered, threatened, or protected are considered unprotected species. Unprotected species can be harvested all year, with no bag limits.

    The only reason a feral cat-hunting season wasn’t enacted into law is because the governer at the time vetoed it, against the wishes of the people.

    1. The Wisconsin Small Game Hunting Regulations 2017

      These are lengthy but the core text states that unprotected species means “all other wild mammals not specifically mentioned…..” – unprotected species can be hunted with a license.

      Feral cats are not mentioned as unprotected. The feral cat is often a feral domestic cat. They are often semi-feral and frequently tame and domesticated. They are not wild mammals. They are often not born in the wild but in homes. It is impossible to describe feral cats as wild mammals in the conventional sense. Therefore they are not unprotected species under these regulations. Therefore they are not animals that can be hunted under these regulations.

  7. UK Laws Even More Lax

    Instead of asking this of Wisconsin laws in the USA, you might want instead to ask this of the laws in the UK that make shooting cats 100% legal. If you let others know how and why their cats are being shot to death legally right where you live, maybe you could convince some cat-owners to keep their cats from being shot to death legally. But you don’t really care about that. Or you would already be doing just that without question.

    Your site thrives on articles about flattened kitties. Whatever would become of you and your site if you didn’t have dead-cats to exploit.

    “… feral cats which can legally be shot as a pest control method.”

    Lists the feral house-cat for open season hunting, year round, no license required in the UK.

    1. Your comment is ridiculous. You clearly do not know anything about UK law. It is 100 percent illegal and criminal to shoot cats in the UK under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and other acts. I can’t be bothered to read the rest of your comment because as stated it is a meaningless, stupid attempt to criticise my article but which has failed miserably.

      1. UK Laws Even More Lax

        I suggest you write to the hundreds of sites online in the UK that describe how and why your UK cats are being shot to death legally. Maybe you can convince them how “right” you are. 🙂

      2. I appreciate your efforts to try to talk some sense into people. Some people will never have any sense. I agree with everything you have said.

          1. you dont know anything. We like to shoot animals such as pest or anything along those lines. The email or whatever that said it is normal to shoot neighbors cats you probally wrote it.

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