How to care for your cat

A kitten sitting on the pavement.

Rules surrounding stray cats and cat ownership

Cats are beautiful, intelligent, and amazing creatures. Cats will continue to provided invaluable companionship and comfort to many of us, as they have done for centuries. Cat owners also have a responsibility to their cat, their community, and our globally unique Australian environment.

Responsible cat ownership includes effective containment, housing, feeding, control, health care and breeding. Cat owners need to be aware of the problems which can occur if their pet cat/s are allowed to roam or wander outside their property. Curfews and containment by-laws for domestic cats are increasingly more common across local government areas. Council encourages all cat owners to keep their cat/s safe at home and contained within their property boundaries at all times.

The following reports support the recommendation to keep contained within property boundaries:

Council especially encourages containment of cats from dawn to dusk, as recommended by the Cat Protection Society of NSW and WIRES.

  • Ensure that your cat is microchipped and registered. Put a collar and tag on your cat.
  • De-sex your cat at an early age. You will not have the worry about unwanted kittens and it reduces the chances of having a non de-sexed male hanging around marking his territory and yowling at inconvenient hours. De-sexing male cats at an early age will reduce involvement in cat fights and the tendency of your cat to wander looking for a female.
  • Keep your cat/s within your property at all times. Do not allow your cat to roam.
  • Ask your adjoining neighbours if your cat/s causes any nuisance or problems.
  • Ensure your cat/s wears both a collar and a bell.
  • Keep your cat/s healthy and happy, and avoid nuisance problems caused by boredom.
  • Clean up after your pet cat/s.
  • Make sure you really want a cat and are prepared to care for it before acquiring one.

Uncontained cats

In 2020, the report of the federal inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia, found that: “Cat containment was strongly supported by inquiry participants”. Uncontained pet cats are at high risk of injury, and may contribute to the feral cat population. Feral cats are identified by Council’s Biodiversity Management Strategy 2015-2035 (Revised 2nd Edition) as a “well-established pest animal”. In Australia, an estimated 300 million animals are killed each year by uncontained pet cats. There are many more pet cats (~3.88M) in Australia than feral cats (~2.7M).

Many people do not like the presence of an uncontained cat for a range of reasons. The cat may be noisy, may defecate in their yard, may attack their pets, damage property, kill wildlife or spread diseases such as Toxoplasmosis. An uncontained cat is also at high risk of being a ‘nuisance’ cat. Council may issue an order in relation to a nuisance cat. Furthermore, every individual will have a different view as to what constitutes a ‘nuisance’ cat. Under the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 a cat is a ‘nuisance’ if it:

  • Makes noise that persistently occurs or continues to such a degree that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premise.
  • Repeatedly damages anything outside the property on which it is ordinarily kept.

You may also seek a Noise Abatement Order, independent of Council.

Council's process for seized cats

Cats are prohibited in the following places:

(a)  Food preparation/consumption areas (meaning any public place, or part of a public place, that is within 10 metres of any apparatus provided in that public place or part for the preparation of food for human consumption or for the consumption of food by humans).
(b)  Wildlife protection areas (meaning any public place or any part of a public place set apart by the local authority for the protection of wildlife and in which the local authority ordered that cats are prohibited for the purposes of the protection of wildlife and in which, or near the boundaries of which, there are conspicuously exhibited by the local authority at reasonable intervals notices to the effect that cats are prohibited in or on that public place).

Any person (including an authorised officer) may seize a cat that is in a place in which cats are prohibited under this section for the cat’s own protection. Section 32 of the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 also allows that: "Any person may lawfully seize a cat if that action is reasonable and necessary for the protection of any person or animal (other than vermin) from injury or death."

However, any seizure of a cat must be consistent with animal welfare laws such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. Cats just generally roaming cannot be seized. If you do have issues with a cat, Council recommends you firstly discuss your concerns with the cat’s owner. In most cases, cat owners will want to do the right thing and be a responsible cat owner.

If you must seize a cat, follow Council's procedures for seized cats:

  • Firstly, make every effort to safely, respectfully, and promptly reunite the seized or lost cat with its owner.
  • Where the owner cannot be identified, surrender the cat to a veterinary provider. 
  • These veterinary services will scan the cat for a microchip, in order to reunite the cat with its owner.
  • Where the owner cannot be identified by the vet, the vet with surrender the cat to either:

a. An animal welfare agency or shelter, for the purpose of care, or
b. A Lismore City Council Ranger (02) 6625 0500 for temporary housing at Council’s animal pound.

  • Owners retrieving their cat from Council’s pound are subject to per-day housing fees, and the compulsory costs of registration and microchipping (which are increased for a cat not de-sexed) before the cat can be claimed.
  • Every effort is made to rehome or make the cat available for adoption. All cats are vet checked for signs of illness and temperament, but rarely where due to poor health or failed temperament assessment, an unclaimed cat may be humanely euthanised.