MPs in the lower house of parliament rejected a motion to outlaw the cat hunt by a vote of 105 to 59.
The majority agreed that it would be ineffective to revise the law to ban the practice and to put in alternative measures, such as sterilization.
Hunting cats that are no longer domesticated is “too cruel and unworthy for a modern country”, Luc Barthassat, a Christian Democrat MP from Geneva argued in support of the ban, ATS reported.
Barthassat said numerous cats are wounded and mutilated from missed gun shots.
He said a campaign for sterilization of the animals would be more effective to counteract their proliferation.
However, these arguments failed to sway those opposed.
“Sterilization is very difficult to put in place and would be very costly,” Environment MInister Doris Leuthard she is quoted as saying by ATS.
A federal law would also impinge on the sovereignty of the cantons, Leuthard said.
Two years ago animal support groups, including SOS Cats, filed a petition with parliament signed by 13,000 citizens calling for an end to the cat hunt.
At the time, supporters of the petition argued that the hunt is dangerous to the public at large, in addition to being cruel and ineffective.
In some cantons it is permitted to hunt cats as close as 200 metres to dwellings.
Scientists from the federal environment office say the hunt is useful, noting that domestic cats have no place in natural forests and mountain regions.
The office says there around 1.5 million stray cats in Switzerland.
A British study estimates that an average cat kills 15 birds a year.
Applied to Switzerland, that would mean that around 15 million birds are killed annually by cats, Martin Baumann, a government biologist told Le Matin last year.
Other officials note that some species of lizards have completely disappeared from parts of Switzerland because they have been preyed on by cats.