Cats: Review of Feral and Free-Ranging Cats Policy

Gray CatAdopted by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
May 30, 2003

What is the policy?

  • To protect native wildlife from predation, disease, and other impacts presented by feral and free-ranging cats.

  • This is a policy only and not a regulation.


Why was this policy needed?

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), as the steward of Florida's wildlife, is entrusted by the public with the responsibility of safeguarding our wildlife resources.

  • We must address issues impacting the health and well-being of native wildlife species.

  • Sometimes domestic animals can affect the health and well-being of native species.

  • Domestic cats may become feral or free-ranging cats when not kept indoors.

  • Feral and free-ranging cats prey upon both common and rare species of native wildlife in Florida, including rare species listed as threatened or endangered by state and federal governments.

  • Although cats may not be the only factor contributing to low numbers of native wildlife, predation by cats is common and can be especially detrimental to wildlife populations that are small or restricted in their distribution.

What this policy will NOT do:

  • The FWC will NOT initiate a campaign to eradicate outdoor cats.

  • The FWC will NOT act against home owners for letting their cats outdoors, although we will recommend against it.

  • The FWC will NOT be patrolling the streets looking for feral and free-ranging cats.

  • The feral and free-ranging cat policy will have little, if any, impact in urban and suburban areas, except where serious threats to imperiled species exist.
    In those cases we will work with local interests to find solutions.

How will the Commission implement this policy?

  • The primary focus of FWC efforts will be on lessening the adverse impacts of feral and free-ranging cats on rare wildlife on Commission-owned or -managed
    lands.

  • The FWC will provide technical advice, policy support and partnerships to land-management agencies to lessen the impacts of cats where they pose a significant threat to local wildlife populations on public conservation lands. Otherwise, the FWC will leave control of nuisance or feral cats and issues of local public safety and welfare to local governments.

  • A principal component of this effort will include a public-awareness campaign designed to address the problem of abandoned cats.


What about Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs?

  • After reviewing comments received on our draft policy, we modified the policy to remove reference to trap-neuter-release programs as an ineffective technique to reduce feral cat numbers.

  • In places where a TNR colony is not having a noticeable effect on wildlife, the cats will most likely be left alone unless the local government has an existing ordinance prohibiting cat colonies. While the FWC does not endorse TNR, it is primarily concerned with cat colonies that are having a direct impact on wildlife. In other situations, management of cat colony issues will be left up to local governments.

  • The FWC does not support or endorse the use of TNR programs on Commission-managed lands because our primary purpose is to manage for the well-being of
    wildlife.

What happens to the cats that must be removed to protect wildlife?

  • If cat colonies are shown to have an impact on a species' numbers or the impacted species is an endangered, threatened or species of special concern or if the cats are found to be living on public conservation lands, they will most likely be removed. We will contact local animal control authorities, animal shelters or humane rescue groups to trap and remove the cats as humanely as possible. We will make every effort to work with rescue groups interested in rehabilitating the cats for adoption to loving homes. Ideally, healthy cats will be rehabilitated and placed in new homes. Most likely sick cats will be euthanized unless the rescue groups choose to provide veterinary care.

  • In areas where removal of cat colonies is necessary, we will make every effort to alert homeowners to determine if anyone owns individual cats.

Definitions:


Endangered - a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


Feral - an animal that has escaped from domestication or has been abandoned to the wild and has become wild, and the offspring of such animals.

Public conservation land - land managed by local, state, or federal governments for the conservation of natural resources, including wildlife, to ensure future generations can enjoy those resources.

Threatened - a species that is facing a very high risk of extinction (state definition) or a species likely to become endangered in the foreseeable  future (federal definition).

Issue Assessment: Impacts of Feral and Free-ranging Domestic Cats on   Wildlife in Florida. (Adobe PDF 318KB)

FWC's Policy on Feral and Free-Ranging Cats  Adobe PDF




FWC Facts:
Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets or navigation channels.

Learn More at AskFWC