Free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) impact biodiversity through predation, disturbance, competition, disease and hybridisation. Scientific knowledge regarding these impacts has recently increased. This article interprets the European Union (EU) Birds and Habitats Directives (Nature Directives) in light of this knowledge. The outcome indicates that various obligations in the Directives, particularly concerning Natura 2000 sites and the generic protection of birds and other species, have significant implications for the management of free-ranging domestic cats. Regarding (unowned) stray and feral cats, these must be removed or controlled when they pose a threat to protected species and/or sites. Regarding (owned) pet and farm cats, the Nature Directives require EU Member States to ensure that letting cats roam free outdoors is forbidden and effectively prevented. Current practice across the EU does not yet conform to these requirements. Whereas the article identifies and assesses various factors that may explain this compliance gap, legally valid justifications appear absent.