Humane cage trapping of cats
Cats are valued members of many families across Victoria but cats which wander or are unowned can cause a nuisance.
In Victoria, under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (DA Act), property owners and occupiers may seize or trap cats:
- when they trespass on their properties
- or if the Council has made an Order in relation to a cat curfew or a no cat zone under the DA Act.
If a cat has been on your property more than once without your permission, you may legally seize it while it is on your property by containing the cat in your house, or a box, or by trapping the cat. When trapping a cat, you have a responsibly to treat the cat humanely.
Many Councils offer a cat trap hire service to their residents and traps can be purchased or hired from animal welfare organisations and businesses.
Confinement traps are permitted to be sold, set and used only under specified conditions. The sale, setting and use of all animal traps is regulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (POCTA) Act 1986 and POCTA Regulations 2019. Failure to properly use or monitor a cat trap or treat a trapped cat humanely can result in penalties.
Equipment and baits
Any method used to trap a cat must be humane. Confinement (cage) traps are considered a humane and acceptable method. Confinement traps are usually rectangular wire cages operated by the cat touching a metal plate on the floor of the trap which triggers a drop down or hinged door to close.
Under the POCTA Regulations 2019, confinement traps can only be used if they are designed in such a way that they will not cause unreasonable pain and suffering to a trapped animal. The trap must not grip or strike any part of the animal's body and must not contain hooks or protruding parts or other design features that may injure an animal.
Hook operated confinement traps must not be used for trapping cats, as the 'hook' used to hold the bait can often injure a cat that has been caught.
The term 'bait' is meant as the lure or food used to get the cat to enter the trap. Oily, fish-based baits are considered best for cat trapping. Baits containing meat on the bone are not appropriate as they can injure the cat if ingested.
Bait used for trapping in urban areas must not contain poison. Use of poisoned baits is regulated under the POCTA Act and can only be used in limited circumstances by specified persons.
It is illegal to use or set leg hold traps or any kind of snare, noose or kill trap for cats except in limited circumstances with the approval of the Minister for Agriculture.
Preparation and planning
You are legally required to inspect the trap every 24 hours and ensure that cats are not left in the trap for longer than 24 hours. Do not set the trap if you are not going to be at the property for more than 24 hours.
To reduce stress for trapped animals, do not set the trap on hot days, rain or extreme weather.
Ensure you contact your Council to determine if they offer a collection service for trapped cats or how to access your Council pound if a cat is caught.
When undertaking a trapping process the following steps are recommended:
- Start with a feeding program – offer food over two or three nights in the area where you intend to set the trap to ensure the cat is willing to take the food.
- Free-feed the trap – lock or wire open the trap and place the food inside the trap for two or three nights, so the cat becomes familiar with entering the trap and loses its wariness of an unfamiliar object.
- Set the trap — place the food you have been using during the free-feed program in the end of the trap and set the plate to operate the trap when a cat enters. The trap must be set and used in a way that minimises harm to the trapped animal:
- Only set the trap when you are at the property to ensure you can monitor it and transport a trapped cat as soon as possible.
- Do not place traps on top of roofs, embankments or on slippery surfaces.
- Do not place traps in direct sunlight.
- Do not place traps in an area where pets or other animals can have access to or harass a trapped cat.
- Monitor the trap:
- all cats are likely to become anxious when they are caught in a trap, whether they are owned or not, and even if it is for a short time.
- Ensure you are either home while the trap is set or able to regularly check the trap during the day.
- At night, check the trap prior to going to sleep and again first thing in the morning.
What to do once you have trapped a cat
Once a cat has been trapped or contained you must deliver the cat, as soon as reasonably possible, to a Council Authorised Officer (also known as a Ranger, Animal Management Officer or Local Laws Officer), Council Pound or Council contracted animal shelter. If you live in an unincorporated area contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In between catching the cat and handing it over to Council, you must treat the cat humanely. To reduce stress, cover the trap with a blanket or something similar. Leave the ends exposed for ventilation or remove the trap to a sheltered area where people, pets or other animals cannot harass the cat. Offer clean, cool water, especially on hot days.
Do not release the cat in the wild or euthanise (‘put down’) the cat yourself. It is an offence to abandon a cat under the DA Act and any feral cats must be taken to the local council.
If the cat is injured, inform Council of the injury immediately, or take the cat to a veterinary practitioner. Council pounds and animal shelters have access to veterinarians to treat injured cats.
Transporting trapped cats in private vehicles
- Organise to transport the cat directly to the Council pound or Council contracted animal shelter.
- Transport the trapped cat in a well ventilated or air-conditioned area such as the rear seat of a sedan or the cargo area of a utility. Reduce stress during transport by covering the trap and do not transport a trapped cat with other pets.
- Trapped cats must not be transported in the boot of a sedan car.
- Take care not to slide the cat trap on the back seat or floor of the cargo area as the trapped cat's paws may get caught through the mesh in the floor of the trap.
- Secure the cat trap to prevent it from sliding around during transport. In a sedan, you can anchor the trap using a seat belt in the back seat.
- Cover the car surfaces (especially upholstery) under and near the cage to protect from urine and faeces.
- After you remove the trap and cat from the vehicle, clean the area with a non-phenol-based disinfectant. Disinfecting the cargo area can reduce the chance of disease transfer.
Result of trapping a cat
Once a cat is handed over to Council, an Authorised Officer must assess the cat for identification, injuries, temperament and diseases to determine the appropriate action to take. If injured, the cat will be taken to a veterinary clinic for assessment and treatment.
Identified cats, and unidentified tame, healthy cats will be impounded for a minimum of 8 days to give the owner an opportunity to claim the cat. Council must contact the owner of identified cats to advise them that their cat has been impounded and where it can be collected.
If the cat has been trapped as a result of a complaint of trespassing on private property, Council must issue a Notice of Objection to the cat owner. This will advise the cat owner of the address the cat is not permitted to enter. If the cat does enter this property again, penalties can apply to the cat owner.
If the owner fails to collect the cat, the cat can be rehomed or humanely destroyed by Council after 8 days.
Unidentified cats that are wild, uncontrollable or diseased
Council may humanely destroy wild, uncontrollable or diseased cats immediately as they would not be suitable for rehoming. This is in the best interest of the cat's welfare and the welfare of other cats at the Council pound.
Accidental trapping of other animals
There is a chance that while setting a trap to catch a cat, you may catch another animal such as a possum or bird. If this occurs, release the animal immediately unless it is injured, in which case you will need to seek veterinary advice before releasing the animal.
If a declared pest animal (rabbit or fox) is trapped it should be humanely destroyed by a suitably skilled person, as soon as reasonably possible. To humanely destroy means causing the death of an animal by a means that results in immediate loss of consciousness and then death without recovering consciousness.
Contact your Council for advice.
Penalties for illegal use of cat traps
Under the POCTA Regulation 2019, the maximum penalties for the illegal use or sale of traps are:
- in the case of a natural person, a fine of up to 240 penalty units or imprisonment for two years, and
- in the case of a body corporate, 1,200 penalty units.
One penalty unit is $165.22 as at 1 July 2019. The value of a penalty unit is updated on 1 July each year.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019 and the Domestic Animals Act 1994 are available on the Victorian legislation website.