Cat colonies

The issues for colony cats
Our solution
How you can help


Groups of free-living cats are called ‘colonies’. These cats are either born in the wild or abandoned, and live in groups of up to 100. Colony cats are generally maligned by residents and councils as ‘feral’, and blamed for everything from killing native species to transmitting disease to humans. Many councils around Australia have ‘trap and kill’ programs for colony cats.

Studies have shown the trap and kill method is ineffective in controlling cat colonies. Local, un-desexed cats will move into any area where cats have been removed, to take over the land and food resources that supported the previous cat colony.

The only effective – and humane – solution to managing cat colonies is a trap, desex and release program.

The issues for colony cats

The myths about cat colonies, combined with these cats’ independence from humans, help create the stigma that results in ineffective, cruel kill programs.

Myth #1: cat colonies decimate native species

Cats are widely blamed for the loss of native species, particularly in Australia. In fact, colony cats generally eat mice, rats, rabbits and garbage – not to mention being fed by humans. The majority of native species loss can be attributed to:

  • urban and pastoral sprawl that destroys natural habitat
  • drought, fire and other acts of nature
  • soil erosion
  • chemical (pesticide) pollution of animals’ natural habitat

Myth #2: cat colonies spread disease to humans

Colony cats are often thought to carry diseases that are harmful to humans. The truth, however, is that few diseases are transmitted this way. Most cat diseases only affect other cats, just as human illnesses mostly affect other humans. You are more likely to pick up a disease from gardening, on public transport or from a co-worker, than a cat.

The human desire to domesticate

Colony cats are self-reliant. They do not want to be cuddled or live indoors, do not seek to form attachments with humans and they do not have the same needs as companion animals. Unfortunately, humans see cats as ‘pets’. Colony cats’ independence often works against them, generating hostility when they don’t behave the way humans think they should.

Trap-and-kill programs

Councils, animal welfare groups and pest control businesses around Australia frequently employ a ‘trap-and-kill’ program for cat colonies. Healthy cats are rounded up and euthanised for no reason other than they live in a colony. However, there is extensive evidence that this method doesn’t work to reduce colony numbers.

There is high competition for the food and shelter that sustained the previous cat colony, and new, un-desexed cats will move into any territory where cats have been removed. Killing colony cats only leaves a vacancy that will be immediately filled by other cats, creating a never-ending cycle.

Our solution

The only viable solution for managing cat colonies is a desex-and-return program, where cats are caught, desexed and returned to their colony. There are many advantages:

  • the cats are healthier, resulting in less anti-social behaviour such as spraying, fighting and excessive noise
  • no new cats will be born into the colony, thus controlling the population
  • un-desexed cats are no longer attracted to the colony, so no new kittens are born to replace those who die. Likewise, colony cats no longer seek to mate with domestic cats
  • councils around the world changing from a trap-and-kill to a desex-and-return program have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs and saved hundreds of thousands of lives

How you can help

  • if you live in an area where there is a colony, lobby your local council and residents to implement a desex-and-return program
  • become a member of Animal Liberation NSW and help fund the fight for a state-wide desex-and-return program
  • contact the National Desexing Network for information on low-cost neutering around Australia
  • do not make the location of existing cat colonies public, as negligent cat ‘owners’ may dump unwanted, un-desexed cats in the area, which will hamper efforts to manage the population.

Freedom for birds

The issues for birds in cages
Our solution
How you can help


Many people buy parrots, cockatoos and galahs because they ‘speak’, and are therefore entertaining. The birds then spend the rest of their lives in a cage, repeating meaningless phrases for the amusement of their ‘owners’.

These birds can live up to 100 years – that’s a long time to be locked up in small cage, often in solitude, with no room to carry out their natural behaviours, such as flying.

There is currently no adequate legislation addressing the needs of birds in captivity. Animal Liberation’s campaign, Freedom for Birds, aims to free the birds from their cages.

The issues for birds in cages

Nearly all cockatoos and large parrots sold in shops were trapped in the wild. This sudden captivity in a cage, for the pleasure and convenience of humans, can cause stress and disease for the birds. In contrast to their life of freedom and companionship with the flock, caged birds suffer lives of boredom, inactivity, loneliness, sexual frustration and dependence.

Lack of movement and adequate exercise

Flight is an innate biological function for birds, yet a standard cockatoo cage does not even allow a bird to fully stretch out their wings, let alone fly. Birds that normally fly vast distances in the wild are confined in small spaces and denied exercise.

Lack of social interaction with other birds

In the wild, most cockatoos and parrots live in groups, carrying out their daily activities in pairs, small family groups or flocks. Pair bonded birds usually remain together their entire lives. In captivity, however, these naturally social birds are isolated, generally in solitary confinement. They are deprived of companionship, the ability to form relationships with their own kind and the opportunity to carry out natural reproductive functions.

Lack of adequate food and nutrition

Wild birds eat a variety of foods, including insects and plants. For example, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo has been observed eating over 55 species of plants, including seeds, roots, fruits, berries and flowers. In captivity, birds are generally fed a commercial mix containing only a few different seeds.

Lack of natural hygiene

In the wild, changes in sunshine, rain and temperature are essential for maintaining birds’ health and hygiene. Captive birds may never experience these natural cycles. In addition, they are frequently subjected to dirty perches, cages and water troughs.

Lack of adequate protection

Wild birds protect themselves from predators and unsuitable environments by flying away, joining their flock or hiding among vegetation. In a cage a bird is completely helpless, dependant and at the mercy of their ‘owner’ for protection.

Our solution

Birds, who live up to 100 years, should not be forced to survive in a cramped cage for human pleasure. Animal Liberation is campaigning to outlaw the sale of wild birds from shops and markets.

How you can help

  • never buy and a wild bird to keep in captivity
  • encourage your local shops and markets to stop selling wild birds such as cockatoos, parrots, corellas and galahs. If you see birds being sold, make a written complaint
  • become a member of Animal Liberation NSW and help fund the fight against the commodification of wild birds
  • lobby your state and federal MPs to introduce legislation that outlaws these practices.

Tethering Dogs - Information

Tethering is the practice of chaining, tying, fastening or restraining a dog to a ground stake or a stationary object, such as a tree or doghouse. Tethering your dog can lead to serious physical and psychological harm.

Pet shops, puppy farms and pounds

The issues for animals bred and sold for profit
Our solution
How you can help


Each year around 200,000 healthy companion animals are killed in pounds and shelters around Australia, while the demand for purpose-bred kittens, puppies and other animals continues to rise. This is because:

  • there is high demand for certain breeds
  • consumers want cute, baby animals like kittens and puppies, instead of adult animals
  • there is a lack of understanding about the conditions breeding animals face
  • people are not aware of the variety of breeds, temperaments and ages of animals looking to be re-homed in shelters.

Pounds and shelters see an influx of baby animals particularly in the weeks and months after Christmas. Animals are purchased on impulse and given as gifts, without consideration of the responsibilities that come with having a companion animal.

Shelters end up euthanizing healthy animals due to lack of space and homes willing to take in abandoned animals.

The issues for animals bred and sold for profit

Animal Liberation staff have gone undercover in pet shops, visited puppy farms and breeders, and helped media outlets expose dodgy practices in the Australian companion animal industry. Find out about the issues we uncovered:

  • Watch the video or read the transcript of the tail end , an episode of SBS Insight that explores why we are killing so many companion animals in Australia. The episode features Animal Liberation’s Jacqueline Dalziell, as well as representatives from animal shelters and the companion animal industry.
  • Read the pet shop diaries, featuring three exposes of the companion animal industry by employees and informants, who reveal the horrors of what goes on behind the cute puppies in the window.
  • Read the transcript of Channel 7’s Today Tonight exposé of pet shops , resulting from the three-month undercover work of Puppy Farm Project Manager, Jacqueline Dalziell.
  • Jacqueline was also featured on ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing episode on the Australian pet industry .

Our solution

Animal Liberation wants to see animals adopted from shelters, rather than purchased as commodities from companion animal shops, puppy farms and backyard breeders.

The solution is for puppy farms and breeders to be outlawed, for companion animal shops to be banned from selling animals and for shelters to adopt a no-kill policy. De-sexing of companion animals should be mandatory to prevent the killing of healthy animals that results from over-breeding.

How you can help

  • never buy an animal from a companion animal shop or breeder
  • adopt an abandoned animal from a shelter, and encourage family and friends to do the same
  • become a member of Animal Liberation NSW and help fund the fight against the commodification of companion animals
  • lobby your state and federal MPs to introduce legislation that outlaws these practices
  • encourage your local animal shelter to adopt a no-kill policy.