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National Wildlife Control Training Program vol. 1.

House Cat Control

Scientific Name: Felis domesticus  or Felis cattus  Photo Credits: NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Photo Feral Cat. Felis domesticus, Photo by NebraskaLand Magazine
  • Physically, feral and owned house cats are visually and genetically indistinguishable.
  • Activity depends on situation. Cats can be active day or night.
  • Cats can mate year round but reproduction occurs most frequently during warmer months


  • Toe pad marks on hind feet tracks are nearly round. About a 9-inch (23 cm) stride between tracks.
  • Single line of tracks with hind prints superimposed upon fore-prints.
  • Claw Marks not typically left when walking.
  • Often seen during the daytime.
  • Dead animals left at door steps
  • Scrapes and toilettes

Damage caused by free-range house cats

  • Feral and free-range cats are consummate predators. They will kill animals up to 2 pounds regardless of how well they are fed. The numbers of animals cats kill in the U.S. is staggering and has raised significant concerns amongst conservationists.
  • Kills young of songbirds, game-birds, rabbits and other wildlife; but rarely anything larger than ducks or pheasants. Scientists now list invasive species (including house cats) as the second most serious threat to bird populations around the world (Source: Connecticut Wildlife Mar/Apr 2007 p. 18).
  • Messy feeding behavior. Portions of their prey are often strewn over several square yards in open areas. The meaty portions of large birds are consumed entirely, leaving loose skin with feathers attached. Small birds are generally consumed and only the wings and scattered feathers remain. Cats usually leave tooth marks on every exposed bone of their prey.
  • Disease hazards: Their toilettes can be a nuisance and health threat with toxoplasmosis. Unvaccinated cats are a significant source of rabies exposure in the U.S. Consult the for more details.

Stop before you control house catsLegal Issues

  • Cats are not considered wildlife in most areas. Therefore, restrictions on their control are more stringent. CONSULT LOCAL LAWS before initiating any control.
  • Unfortunately, most communities do not enforce licensing laws (assuming they even have them) on cats. It can be very difficult to know if the cat is truly feral or someone's property.
  • The need for the creation and enforcement of leash laws on cats is truly great.

Control Methods

Habitat ModificationHouse cat under a deck. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.

  • Fence your property. The fences designed to keep cats in your yard work just as well to keep them out.
  • Trench-screen decks, porches, sheds etc. to reduce potential living quarters for the cats.

Frightening Devices

  1. Cats are easily frightened away from locations. However, they will return once the stimulus is removed.
  2. Repellents

    • Chemical repellents are not effective long term.

    • Repellents to repel cats include, allyl isothiocyanate (oil of mustard), amyl acetate, anethole, capsaicin, cinnemaldehyde, citral, citronella, citrus oil, eucalyptus oil, geranium oil, lavender oil, lemongrass oil, menthol, methyl nonyl ketone, methyl salicylate, naphthalene, nicotine, paradichlorobenzene and thymol. Oil of mustard, cinnemaldehyde and methyl nonyl ketone have worked in some instances. from Fitzwater, W. D. 1986 article in Pest Control.

    • Use dogs to frighten cats from property.
    • Motion activated sprinkler may work. (For use only in above freezing temperatures).


    Before any trapping of cats is initiated, it is critical to understand that trapping mistakes can be costly. Cat control has unfortunately become highly emotional. Many people believe that cats don't need control and if they do then trapping should not be part of the control method.  Be sure you follow the law and know how to use your equipment properly. But remember, just because a technique or activity is legal doesn't mean it is the best choice!!  Second, cats can wise up to trapping very quickly. Catching a cat that has been released can be very time-consuming. Avoid accidental releases at all costs as it may be the last time you capture the cat. No. 1 Padded foothold with shock springs and extra swivels. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel

    • Footholds: steel jaw size #1. Padded jaw use #1 (see photo).
    • Snares--use with care as this will kill the cat.
    • Bodygrip--use with care as cat will be killed. #120 or #160 sizes.
    • Cage traps should be 11-12 inches (28cm-30cm) square and at least 30 inches (76cm) long, double-door traps (at least 42 inches (107cm) long) are better as they can be used in blind sets as well.
    • Bait -
      • Catnip
      • Fish--fresh or canned
      • Cat food-- canned or dry
      • Chicken--table scraps
      • Live bait--(not legal in many states). If legal, place a house sparrow or common pigeon in a  cage.  Be sure the cage has food & water and an area for the bird to find shelter from the wind/rain/sun. Place caged bird in the bait area of the trap to be used to capture the cat.


    • Can be effective where legal and safe. Silencers and night vision increase efficacy. Use 12 gauge shotguns or .22 rifles. Some air rifles are powerful to be effective also. 


    • None registered


    • Cats are a greater risk for transmitting diseases to humans because humans do not immediately recognize them as a potential disease carrier.
    • Cats can carry, rabies, cat-scratch fever, ticks etc.

    Living With House Cats

    • Install fencing to keep your cat on your property. 

    Publications & Resources

    American Cat Project--Details the complexities of the feral cat issue 

    Wildlife Society Policy on Feral Cats (2006). HTML

    Wildlife Disease Association Position Statement on Feral Cats Feral Cats

    Facts on Cats and WildlifeFeral Cats--University of Maine

    Florida Commission Statement on Feral Cats  Feral Cats

    Wisconsin Bird Conservation HTML

    Feral Cats and Their Management --Feral Cats Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln (2010)

    Guidelines for Reducing Feral/Stray Cat Pop. on U.S. Military Installations 

    Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats



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