The City of Sydney wants families to adopt feral cats in an attempt to reduce the number of strays on inner-city streets.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the planned cull has upset residents, pet rescue organisations and voluntary groups.
The City's program, launched last week, has already seen 40 kittens adopted to new homes over the past four months.
"The City’s approach has proven an effective way to reduce the number of feral cats in our area without resorting to killing,” Moore said in a statement.
The question as to whether families would be willing to adopt feral cats into their homes has been raised, but Kristina Vesk, CEO of Cat Protection Society NSW, told The Huffington Post Australia the program is actually looking to re-home unowned cats as opposed to feral.
“The name of the program is not what I would have chosen," she said.
"By definition 'feral' cats have no dependency on people. Urban stray and homeless cats are very dependent on people, even if that simply means going through garbage bins to find food and seeking shelter under buildings.
“In many people's minds "feral" means vicious and nasty but that is actually not the definition. Feral has become (inaccurate) shorthand to describe all unowned cats.”
According to the City of Sydney, feral cats and kittens are spreading diseases to house cats and feral cats are a threat to local wildlife.
However, they maintain the animals will be suitable for the family home, which Vesk agreed with.
“As long as you get the kittens young enough, they will be very easily socialised to people. It can take a bit longer if the kittens are older but even adult cats, in most cases, with the right environment and interventions, can learn to be comfortable around people,” Vesk told HuffPost Australia.
"Many do live in colonies and generally they're shy of people, not vicious. It needs to be remembered that when a cat puffs up and hisses, this is a defensive action - it's meant to look scary because the cat wants you to go away.
"It does not necessarily mean the cat is planning to attack.”
The cats and kittens will be caught and desexed in costs subsidised by the local government.
“When there is a focus on trying to capture and desex cats from a particular population of stray cats, you can eventually get to a point where that population is no longer growing and any 'new' cats in the population are quickly identified,” Vesk added.
The program aims to remove 320 cats from Sydney streets by the end of the year.
"Cats have been the domestic companions of people for some 10,000 years and we owe them a duty of care. Every cat deserves a loving and responsible home,” Vesk said.Suggest a correction