Cat Colonies: Trap, Neuter & Release

Cat colonies are groups of cats that have either been abandoned or born in the wild. Colony cats are generally labelled by residents and councils as ‘feral’, and are commonly blamed for killing native species and transmitting disease to humans.

Many councils around Australia practise ‘trap and kill’ programs to reduce colony cat numbers. However, studies have shown that the “trap and kill” method is ineffective in controlling cat colonies. Killing colony cats only creates a vacancy in the area that is desirable to new, un-de-sexed cats. This is due to the availability of food and shelter that supported the original colony, entices the new cats into the area, creating a never-ending problem cycle.

The only effective and humane solution to managing cat colonies is a trap, de-sex and release program.

The Issues
Our Solution
The stigma that results in these cruel, ineffective kill programs is a result of two common myths about cat colonies, and these cats’ independence from humans.

Myth #1: Cat Colonies Decimate Native Species

Cats are widely blamed for the loss of native species, particularly in Australia. In reality, colony cats generally eat mice, rats, rabbits and garbage, and are commonly being fed by humans. The majority of native species loss can be attributed to:
  • urban and pastoral sprawl that destroys natural habitat
  • drought, fire and other acts of nature
  • soil erosion
  • chemical (pesticide) pollution of animals’ natural habitat

Myth #2: Cat Colonies Spread Disease to Humans

Colony cats are often thought to carry diseases that are harmful to humans. The truth, however, is that few diseases are transmitted this way. Most cat diseases only affect other cats, just as human illnesses mostly affect other humans. You are more likely to pick up a disease from gardening, public transport or from a co-worker, than a cat.

The Human Desire to Domesticate

Colony cats are self-reliant. They do not want to be cuddled or live indoors, do not seek to form attachments with humans, and do not have the same needs as companion animals. Unfortunately, humans see cats as ‘pets’ and colony cats’ independence often works against them, generating hostility when they don’t behave the way humans think they should.


Over 200 years of colonisation Australians have shot, trapped and poisoned trillions of animals. Our dichotomic attitude toward animals splits into those that appeal to our sense of nurturing and… all the rest. Those we eat and wear we call “stock” as, seemingly, this terminology denotes they are “things”, which justifies us doing whatever we wish, without taking into account their capacity for pain, suffering and pleasure. For the same reason we call selected other species, including wild cats, “feral” in order to vindicate anything we do to them. “Pet” or “pest” – semantics dictate our attitude to animals.

It has been shown time and again that Desex and Return programs are the only effective way of keeping down cat numbers. It has been proven in the United States, the U.K., Italy, Kenya, Greece, Tunisia, South Africa, Israel and parts of Australia to be effective, responsible and humane. It has been illegal to kill a healthy cat or dog in Italy for over a decade now.

These are some of the advantages:

  • the cats are healthier, resulting in less anti-social behaviour such as spraying, fighting and excessive noise
  • no new cats will be born into the colony, thus controlling the population
  • un-desexed cats are no longer attracted to the colony, so no new kittens are born to replace those who die. Likewise, colony cats no longer seek to mate with domestic cats
  • councils around the world changing from a trap-and-kill to a desex-and-return program have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs and saved hundreds of thousands of lives