Australians are being urged to keep their cats inside to stop them from killing billions of native animals each year – as a national crackdown on the pets edges closer.
Research released last year found every single feral cat slaughters more than 740 local wildlife creatures each year. Nationwide, three million mammals, two million reptiles and a million marsupials are dying every day from feral and pet cat attacks.
Authorities in Bendigo in Victoria and the Adelaide Hills in South Australia have already either banned owners from letting their cats roam or brought in night curfews.
Cat Protection CEO Kristina Vesk said owners had a responsibility to protect local wildlife by keeping their cats indoors.
Australians are being urged to keep their cats inside to stop them from killing billions of native animals each year (file image)
‘We have some lovely green spots and parkland and we need to keep that safe for wildlife,’ she told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
‘It’s not hard to keep a cat indoors. When they’re in foster care they spend all their time indoors – the key to having a happy and healthy indoor cat is providing them with lots of enrichment. ‘
The feline expert encouraged owners to install indoor climbing spaces and window boxes to keep their cats feeling fulfilled.
‘Cats can’t take all the blame [for declining wildlife] but what owners can do is play their part in protecting the environment – it’s based on being a good neighbor, ‘she said.
Canberra already has plans to make all new cats indoors-only from mid-2022 or their owners could face $ 1600 fines, while Bendigo residents must now always keep their cats within their property or pay $ 120 to reclaim it from wardens.
Cats in the Adelaide Hills are banned from being outside from 8pm to 7am, while Western Australian cats in Fremantle will be banned from public areas.
Authorities in Bendigo in Victoria and the Adelaide Hills in South Australia have already either banned owners from letting their cats roam or brought in night curfews (file image)
The new rules still need to be signed off by WA state parliament, but if passed, it will see cats banned from roads, verges and footpaths unless on a lead.
Cat owners already face $ 200 fines if their cats stray into council bushland, and could now be extended into all council land.
The rules bring cats into line with dogs and will effectively see them housebound, with some believing it will be the catalyst for national restrictions.
‘I think like dogs, cats will soon be inside,’ Fremantle councilor Adin Lang told ABC.
‘Our future generations will look back and say to us, “You guys let cats roam around Australia, eating all our wildlife all these years?”
Cat breeder Pamela Lanigan (pictured) of Cats United WA blames stray cats or neighborhood cats, looked after by several homes in one street, for most wildlife attacks
Catios (pictured) are massive backyard enclosures for cats, to give them some freedom and keep them engaged with places to run, explore and hide
‘This is about protecting our wildlife and it’s also about helping to keep people’s cats safe from cat fights or getting hit by cars.
‘What this will mean is if rangers see cats on the footpaths or see cats on the roads a fine could be issued to the owner, much like a fine is issued to a dog owner whose dog is off-lead.’
Research using GPS trackers has discovered even domestic cats travel far beyond previously realized on hunting expeditions around their local area.
‘Pet cat owners are not always as aware of their pet’s movements as they think they are,’ said Australian National University Professor Sarah Legge, who co-wrote Cats in Australia: Companion and Killer.
HOW TO STOP YOUR CAT FROM KILLING
Keep your cat indoors.
‘You will find that cats that are contained within the house are a lot gentler, they’re a lot calmer because they are not getting into fights with other cats,’ said WA Wildlife Hospital operations manager Dean Huxley.
‘Cats do adjust very well. Once people see that their cats are happier and healthier, they’re going to start to make that change. ‘
Build a ‘catio’
Catios are massive backyard enclosures for cats, to give them some freedom and keep them engaged with places to run, explore and hide.
Teach your cat to walk on a leash
Some cats love to wear a harness with a leash and walk with their owner, or sit on their shoulder. Others prefer to be pushed around in an adapted sealed-in pram that allows them to look out while still safe from dogs or from running away.
‘There’s a lot of variation across pet cats and how much wildlife they kill – some cats don’t kill wildlife, but then other cats kill a very large number of wildlife.
‘But for pets, the management options are very different – you’re not going to go and lay poison baits around suburbs and carry out shooting programs.’
The proposals have been largely welcomed by many cat owners and breeders who want to see more focus on responsible pet ownership.
Cat breeder Pamela Lanigan of Cats United WA blames stray cats or neighborhood cats, looked after by several homes in one street, for most wildlife attacks.
But she still believes councils and many owners could do more to protect native animals and their own pets with de-sexing subsidies for people on low incomes.
Fremantle councilor Adin Lang (pictured) believes it’s only a matter of time before all cats are kept indoors
Ms Lanigan also backs a controversial trap-neuter-release program for feral cats which sees council catch feral cats and de-sex them before returning them to the wild.
‘They can’t reproduce anymore, but they will stop other cats from coming into that environment, and that’s something that’s done a lot in America,’ she said.
Councilor Lang added: ‘If we can bring in the laws as one measure but also bring in other incentives to try and help people, then I think that will absolutely help.’