Feral cats now declared pests in WA

An adult bilby in bush land at night
The bilby is one of many Western Australian species at-risk from feral cats. Image courtesy of Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The State Government has strengthened measures to protect native Western Australian wildlife from feral cats by declaring them a pest animal under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 (BAM Act).

The declaration supports native wildlife management programs, like those conducted by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, within State reserves and other areas of high conservation.

It also allows local conservation groups and other organisations to receive funding to carry out control and management programs to effectively and humanely manage feral cats.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) administers the BAM Act and prepared the legislative amendments needed for feral cats to be declared pest animals.

Management and control of feral cats is undertaken by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Some of the recognised control methods for feral cats include exclusion fencing, baiting, trapping using cage traps, and shooting. All control methods must be humane, and comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2002.

Feral cats are those that are living and reproducing in the wild. They are not socialised and survive on their own in the wild by hunting.

Feral cats are a major threat to WA’s unique biodiversity and native fauna. In Western Australian, there are presently 36 mammals, 22 birds and 11 reptile species vulnerable to predation by feral cats.

Australia-wide, the pest cats have played a major role in the extinction of at least 27 mammal species.

Predation by feral cats is recognised as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

At-risk wildlife in Western Australia include the western ground parrot, Gilbert’s potoroo, northern quoll, western quoll or chuditch, numbat, quokka, and bilby.

While feral cats are the same species as domestic cats, they are extremely different in how and where they live. Only feral cats will be targeted by programs under the pest animal declaration, not stray or domestic cats, and mainly in reserves and areas that are away from urban areas.

It is important that domestic pet cat owners comply with the Cat Act 2011, which requires all pet cats be sterilised, microchipped, and registered by the time they’re six months old, and any requirements and curfews imposed by the local government. 

For more information about feral cats, visit the Centre for Invasive Species’ PestSmart website or the Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy.