Responsible cat ownership
The South Australian Dog and Cat Management Act has been designed to help manage stray and nuisance cats, while providing legal protection for cats and cat owners. Identification separates owned from stray cats.
By law, an identified cat is owned and is therefore legally protected. Your cat can be identified by either: a collar bearing the owner's address OR phone number; or a microchip inserted under the cat's skin by a vet, with an "M" tattooed in the ear. If an identified cat is trapped, it must be released immediately. If an unidentified cat is trapped, it may be released or taken to an authorised person within 12 hours. That person will be able to release it, impound it, give it away, sell it, or euthanase it. The legal protection of cats does not extend to national parks and reserves. If any cat is found in a national park, designated sanctuary or Crown lands, or more than one kilometre from any place genuinely used as a residence, then legally it can be destroyed regardless of whether or not it is identified.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have a cat. What do I need to do?
The law does NOT require you to identify your cat if it stays on your property. But if it is not wearing identification when it is off your property it can be trapped and removed as an unowned cat. TO KEEP YOUR CAT SAFE, IDENTIFY IT.
Do I need to register my cat?
No. Under this legislation there is no compulsory registration, no compulsory desexing, and no limit to the number of cats per household. However individual councils may enact additional by-laws.
How do I get rid of unwanted cats?
If a cat is identified, you may not remove it. However, you may ask the Council about ways of discouraging cats, or talk to the owner about the problem. If a cat is not identified, it may be trapped and delivered to an authorised person within twelve hours. No trap can be placed without the permission of the landholder. Ask your council about guidelines for trapping cats.
How does this legislation help native wildlife?
Feral cats cause much damage to native wildlife. Any cat found in a national or state park or reserve can legally be destroyed, and unowned cats can be removed from anywhere with the permission of the landholder.
Education programs undertaken by state and local government in consultation with community groups will encourage people to keep their cats inside at night.
What about animal welfare?
All cats, whether owned or unowned, must be treated in a humane manner in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
What do I do with my cat while I am away?
When planning your holidays, make plans for your pets at the same time. There are many excellent commercial boarding establishments which can be found in the Yellow Pages phone book listed under "Cats - Boarding" and "Dogs - Boarding".
Boarding facilities book out early during busy times, so during the school holiday periods you will need to book well in advance. Some people make regular annual bookings. Boarding catteries usually have fairly small pens for the cats but these make the cat feel more secure than larger spaces. Your cat will need to have a current vaccination certificate.
You may prefer to leave your cat at home and use a home feeding service to visit and feed your cat daily. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend someone in your area who provides this service. Ensure that the cat has a safe sleeping area and that it is identified with a collar bearing a contact address or phone number (eg your vet's). If you are going to have a neighbour feed the cats while you are away, ask someone reliable who will check on the cat every day. Make sure you leave the name and phone number of your veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian and authorise the carer to seek treatment for your cat during your absence.
Regardless of how your cat is cared for, make sure it is wearing a collar and identification tag bearing a contact address or phone number.
What do I do if my cat goes missing?
Under the South Australian Dog and Cat Management Act, a cat must be identified to be legally owned. Identification can be either a collar bearing your address or telephone number, or a microchip implant and an "M" tattooed in the ear. An identified cat will obviously be much easier to find.
If your cat goes missing, first check under the bed, in cupboards, in drawers, behind appliances, up the chimney, in walls, ceilings, throughout the house. Then check outside, under the house, under bushes, inside sheds, and so on. Ask your neighbours if they have seen the cat, and also ask if you may check under their house and outbuildings. It is preferable that you do the checking, as your cat may hide from strangers.
Phone veterinarians in your suburb and neighbouring suburbs and ask if the cat has been brought into the surgery, and if you can place a notice in their surgery describing the cat. Leave a full description just in case your cat has lost its collar (microchips cannot be lost).
Phone your Council Offices and neighbouring Council Offices and ask if they have any knowledge of the cat, and, in the unlikely event of your cat having met with a fatal accident, ask them to check whether they have recovered a body matching your cat's description.
Place notices in prominent positions around your area - delis are often happy to oblige. Local children are usually happy to help with sightings of a lost animal. A notice should also be sent to your local mail sorting office as mail deliverers will often notice a strange animal at an address.
Check with all animal welfare organisations - even those not in your immediate area. Ask whether they have received any trapped cats from your area. Visit the shelters and ask to see the cats held there as it is difficult for the staff to identify your cat from many others with similar colour and markings. Revisit the shelters every few days. Place notices in "Lost and Found" columns of daily and local newspapers.
Do not be too precise in describing your cat's markings in notices or advertisements - for example "tabby and white" male cat is preferable to "tabby male cat with white blaze on nose and three white feet". You will be able to differentiate between a genuine caller and nuisance callers who claim to have your cat by asking them for a more detailed description of the cat they claim to have found.
Do not give up too quickly - many cats are found after as long as one month after advertising.
For information on Council's responsibility for management of dogs and cats, please refer to section 26 of the Dog and Cat Management Act under the Legislation page on the Dog and Cat Management Board website.