‘Preserve your cat indoors’: why conservationists are pushing for pet containment in Australia

Conservation teams are calling for state governments to implement measures to comprise pet cats, that are estimated to kill 323m native animals in Australia every year.

It comes after the surroundings minister, Tanya Plibersek, final week unveiled a draft nationwide plan to deal with feral cats. Plibersek acknowledged that whereas feral cats have been the primary menace to native wildlife, “home cats should be correctly managed as nicely”.

The federal government’s feral cat plan has acquainted echoes in a threatened species technique unveiled in 2015 by the then surroundings minister beneath the Coalition, Greg Hunt. On the time, the federal government set a goal to cull 2m feral cats by 2020, a determine researchers later described as being based mostly on a “shaky scientific basis”.

Conservation teams together with the Nature Conservation Council and Invasive Species Council on Monday referred to as for the New South Wales authorities to amend state laws that forestalls native councils from implementing cat containment insurance policies.

What’s the issue with pet cats?

Home cats have impacts on native wildlife in two methods, says Prof Sarah Legge of the Australian Nationwide College. “One is that they hunt themselves. They hunt at a decrease fee than a feral cat, however as a result of pet cats dwell at actually excessive density in cities and suburbs, the predation toll per sq. kilometre is definitely a lot increased than it’s out within the bush.”

Her analysis has discovered that pet cats kill as much as 50 instances extra animals per sq. kilometre in city areas than feral cats kill in pure environments.

“The opposite pathway is that if we’ve numerous pet cats that aren’t desexed, then there’s a danger that undesirable litters maintain contributing to the feral cat inhabitants,” Legge says.

Modelling Legge has achieved for the Invasive Species Council means that roaming pet cats kill 546m animals per 12 months in Australia, of which 323m are native.

“Most pet house owners don’t assume their cat is the issue, however the proof is that just about all roaming pet cats hunt and kill our native wildlife,” says Jack Gough, advocacy supervisor on the Invasive Species Council.

An estimated 71% of all pet cats in Australia are capable of roam – of this determine, 78% of roaming cats hunt. Most animals – an estimated 85% – killed by pet cats are usually not introduced residence.

“For each lifeless lizard or chicken you discover in your doorstep, one other 4 have been not noted within the bush,” Gough says.

What measures are in place to cease pet cats from killing native wildlife?

Dr Brad Smith, the appearing chief govt of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, says: “In Victoria, about half of the native councils have carried out cat containment, whereas the ACT has launched territory-wide cat containment.

“When legislated, this has led to a dramatic discount within the variety of native birds, reptiles and marsupials which might be killed every night time by pet cats.”

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In Victoria, at least 38 local governments have implemented either dusk-to-dawn or 24-hour cat containment policies. In Queensland, 74 out of 77 councils have 24/7 containment rules in place.

“The pillars of responsible cat ownership are registration, identification, a cap on the numbers of cats you can keep in the house, desexing and containment,” Legge says. “There is no consistency on any of those five measures across the states and jurisdictions – they all do different things.

“Local governments are responsible for pet cat management, but what they can do is constrained by what’s in their state legislation. In the case of NSW and Western Australia, the state legislation doesn’t allow local governments to put in place cat containment laws in specific areas.”

What more should be done to address the issue?

“We support cat containment across the country, as one of the most effective measures to protect Australian wildlife,” Smith says.

Cat containment is beneficial for both native wildlife and cat health, Gough says. “Cats that are kept at home have lower vet bills, don’t get run over, don’t get injured at the same rate, and live for up to 10 years longer than free-roaming cats. And they don’t go out and kill our birds, mammals, frogs and reptiles.”

The Nature Conservation Council and Invasive Species Council, as well as Birdlife Australia, Wires and the Australian Wildlife Society, are calling on the NSW government to amend the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998, to enable local councils to enforce anti-roaming laws for pet cats.

In WA, provisions under Cat Act 2011 do not allow for enforced containment. Legge says improving regulatory pathways in both states is an important measure.

She says it’s a matter of “how we support local governments to get these laws in place, how they’re resourced to police the laws, how we encourage the public to go along with it”.

“Solving the feral cat problem is really difficult … solving the pet cat problem – technically [is] very easy. Preserve your cat indoors – drawback solved.”

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