The Legality of Feeding Feral Cats: What You Need to Know

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Feral cats are hard to tame and typically keep away from humans. However, when someone comes to offer them food, these creatures quickly come out and take their share. Before intervening to help a cat in need, most people wouldn’t consider if their actions were lawful.

Although with little scientific data, numerous illnesses, including fleas, roundworms, rabies, ringworms, and ticks, have been linked to feral cats. In addition to hurting the environment and posing health risks, feeding wild cats carries the risk of criminal prosecution for the person who does so.

Find out more about the legal consequences of feeding feral cats.

Is Feeding a Feral Cat Legal?

Laws governing feral cats can be ambiguous and confusing. Many county or municipal laws that address those who look after outdoor cat colonies may not even mention feral cats. There is also no agreement on this legislation. For individuals who do feed wild cats, one municipality may make a special exemption to its feeding ban. Nevertheless, a nearby municipality may outright forbid it.

Ownership and Feeding Feral Cats

Feral cats live outside among their human neighbors and are not, in the conventional sense, owned by anybody. Legal issues might arise when you feed these cats regularly because the law frequently fails to distinguish between feral and domestic cat populations. Some states consider feral cats as companion animals. So, a person who is recognized as the cat’s owner because they feed them runs the risk of being accused of abandoning the animal by leaving it outside.

In most cases, state laws that address the concerns regarding feeding feral cats give local governments the freedom to implement their solutions. But as a result of this strategy, the legislation regarding feral cats frequently varies greatly, even within the same state. Courts and juries might not be inclined to give feral cat keepers rights or obligations when there is no state or municipal legislation on the subject.

Why Do Laws Prevent the Feeding of Feral Cats?

Feeding feral cats is considered an act of charity, and many people do it voluntarily. However, several states and counties prevent the feeding of these cats. Some of them put restrictions on feeding the cats, and others outright ban it. The reasons they offer for their decision include the following.

1. They Spread Diseases

It is one of the main reasons they provide to prevent feeding feral cats. They associated these cats with several communicable diseases such as rabies, fleas, roundworms, ringworm, and ticks. According to the reasoning, feeding them can inadvertently spread these to humans through contact. However, most of these diseases do not have a direct relation with feral cats, according to scientific surveys. Tick prevention kits like Advantage II can be used to avoid such situations.

2. They Cause Damage to the Property

Feral cats have a habit of marking their territory by urinating on buildings and other structures. This can leave a stench on the property. Moreover, the cats may invade these places often for food and shelter and may also leave their droppings, causing more damage. Feeding them can encourage such behavior even more.

3. They Cause a Nuisance

Feral cats fighting for territory or mates can be a nuisance for local people and businesses. If a person in the community feeds the cats, it will raise their population. This will lead to more nuisance and trouble due to these cats in the community.

4. Their Population Grows Extensively

Since the feral cat population is already on the rise, feeding them can further boost their growth. Although several programs have been initiated to control the population, feeding can hinder the efforts, according to anti-feral cat groups.

5. They Render Negative Impacts

Feral cats can negatively impact the environment, wildlife, and public health. Moreover, they affect the local animal population, leading to the extinction of several species. To avoid such impacts, communities have implemented the prevention of feeding feral cats.

All these reasons can be justified with the right feral cat rehabilitation programs. Regular feeding of feral cats can reduce these issues to a great extent. Laws should be made to incorporate and assign duties to feed these creatures and save their lives.


The idea is that, despite the good intentions behind feeding stray cats, the unforeseen effects are far more negative than the acts of compassion. Therefore, it is essential to learn the local laws governing the feeding of feral cats to avoid any legal complications.

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