Feral cats

A feral cat lives in the wild, is not stray or owned and has none of its needs provided for by humans.

feral cat snow2Feral cats are different to stray cats. Neither are owned, but strays have varying interactions and dependence on humans while feral cats are wild. Feral cats are widespread in New Zealand. They live in a wide variety of habitats, including coastal areas, farmland, forests, riverbeds, sub-alpine environments and on islands. Feral cats have a major impact on New Zealand’s native and non-native species. The basis of their diet alters with the habitat they live in. They feed on rabbits, birds and bird eggs, rats, hares, bats, lizards, mice, wētā and other insects.

Feral cats have a major impact on New Zealand’s native and non-native species. 

Methods of control 


Best practice guidelines for the use of PredaSTOP for feral cat control


For welfare performance of animal traps go to https://www.bionet.nz/control/pests-under-management/performance-traps/

Feral cats are naturally cautious and can be difficult to trap. Capture traps usually capture animals live and can be divided into two broad categories, leghold traps and cage traps. Both types of capture traps are in common use for management of feral and stray cats in New Zealand. The Animal Welfare Act 1999 requires that traps be checked daily within 12 hours of sunrise. Leg-hold traps have further restrictions under the Animal Welfare Order 2007 - no person may use a leg-hold trap within 150 metres of any dwellinghouse without the express permission of the occupier or in any area where there is a probable risk of catching an animal companion. For more information on restrictions please go to the Traps and Devices page on MPIs website

Leg hold traps - Restricted traps should not be used (Animal Welfare (leg-hold traps) Order 2007). Either No. 1 unpadded jaw or 1.5 soft catch traps coil spring traps are suitable. A length of elastic ‘bungy’ cord may be incorporated into the anchor chain to act as a shock absorber to reduce the likelihood of the animal dislocating or fracturing its leg when caught.

Cage traps - Cage traps are generally made of wire mesh and have a trigger device that closes the entrance of the trap when activated by the entry of a cat. Cats are notably cautious about entering enclosed spaces, therefore a trap size suitable for cats should be selected. 

Kill traps are also available for feral cats that have based NAWAC's humaneness guidelines and can be found here. The Sentinel Possum Kill Trap is a strong and portable possum and feral cat kill trap.

It is important that captured cats are correctly identified as feral. You can do this by assessing their behaviour, physical form and the presence or lack of a collar. For detailed information on telling feral cats from stray cats and programmes for managing strays please read the National Cat Management Strategy.

Wire your traps open for a couple of nights so the cat gets used to entering it, then set it to catch. Bait the traps with fish, fresh meat or cat food. Once trapped, a feral cat must be disposed of humanely as a requirement of the Animal Welfare Act. For more information refer to part 7 of the Leghold Trap Guidance in the Library. Legal Requirement: all 'live capture' traps must be checked daily.

For more information on what might work in your circumstance check with your local regional council. 

For more specific information on controlling feral cats check out 'Feral cats and stray cats' in the Library. 

Legal requirements 

For a list of legal requirements check out the legal requirements page


The information on this website is intended to provide information about pests and pest management in New Zealand. We've made every effort to make sure that the information set out in this website is accurate. If you have an update to the information listed here please contact us.

Photo credit: Colin Bishop, Department of Conservation