Feral Cats and Cat Licensing

Where do all the feral cats come from?

What damage do feral cats do?

Is licensing the answer to overpopulation?

Updated Pierce County, Washington cat licensing fees.

Feral cats by definition are the descendants of stray cats who gave birth in the wild. Where did all the stray cats come from? Some are lost family pets, while others were set loose by owners, who did not want them any more. I have read that the number of feral cats in America ranges from 30 million to as many as 80 million cats. In America feral cats are responsible for the death of an estimated 20 billion mammals. Bird lovers are dismayed as many bird species are being killed off by outdoor cats. The estimated death toll for birds here is 4 billion birds. (statistics from Alley Cat Allies) Australia is having an ecological disaster due to the many feral cats preying upon native birds and mammals.

One solution is T.N.R. or “Trap and Release.” Feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and then returned to the wild. The success of this effort is controversial. Statistics are suspect, and can be manipulated. Common sense tells us that in small feral colonies, TNR will reduce populations. In large feral populations, TNR would be akin to emptying the ocean with a bucket. In either case, the cats are still outside in the wild, preying on small animals and birds.

Cat licensing throughout the United States could theoretically increase the number of “lost” cats returned to their owners. This would not help the problem of owners turning their unwanted cats loose in the wild.



I got Marigold from a local animal shelter. She was a stray cat picked up in Tacoma. She was extremely friendly. She was either a “lost” pet, or released by her owner.

Opie and her new friend

Opie and her new friend

Opie was a kitten born of two feral Maine Coon cats in the neighborhood. Zeke was also born of the same two Maine Coon cats in a later litter. I did not particularly want to take them in myself, as I had four cats already, but I did anyway. Today I am glad of it. Marigold, Opie, and Zeke are now my cat family, as the others passed away.



Cat licensing is different everywhere you live. Cats do not need licenses in many places. Here in Pierce County, Washington, every dog or cat must have, and display a pet license tag. It does not matter if the pet never goes outside. Micro-chipping is not required. Having a microchip number in the county computer data base is good, because animals lose their collars. It increases the chance the pet will be returned to you.

Here in the county, you can have no more than 5 cats, or dogs, or combined dogs and cats, without a home inspection. When I lived within the city limits, you could have 6. When I moved, I was illegal as I had six cats. I was a lawbreaker for a while, until one finally died. Since they stayed indoors, I did not think the one unlicensed cat was very important. But. . . .

The penalty for having an unlicensed dog or cat is $256 (€ 188) per animal.

My next door neighbor has two indoor cats. They are not licensed. His neighbor has four indoor cats. They are not licensed. I have three licensed cats. In three houses, there area total of nine indoor cats, and only my three are licensed. As you can see from my example, unlicensed cats are more common than licensed cats, in spite of penalties.


Fees paid go towards operating the county animal shelters.
A neutered cat fee is $12 (€9) per year.

An unneutered cat fee is $55 (€40) per year. Owning an unneutered cat is permitted.

Old Age Pensioner or disabled person cat fee $5 per year for neutered cat.

Old Age Pensioner or disabled person cat fee $30 per year for unneutered cat.

Replacing a tag when the collar gets lost = $5.

Kitten up to 6 months of age = $6. After that, you would pay the adult cat fee.

What if you want 6 cats or more? You must apply for a “cattery” license which cost $150 (€110) total for all. A person from “animal control” will come to your house and inspect it to ensure it meets clean and humane standards. Then, you will be issued your yearly license.

Microchipping your cat is not mandatory. My cats are microchipped as well. Collars come off.

No matter where you live, I am sure you have seen news stories about people hoarding 200 cats inside their house. The house is filthy and the animals sick and dying. That is something that needs to be prevented.

Washington passed a law that all cats must have rabies shots. You get a metal tag from your veterinarian plus a signed certificate when your cat gets a new shot. I do not add the rabies tag to my cats’ collars. If they ran free outside, I probably would add them.

Zeke is the only cat that does not wear his license. He is terrible with cat collars. I have tried many different kinds, but he gets them off, or tears them up. I am always on the lookout for a new one to try on him.