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Canberra’s cats facing containment

By Steven Bailey - 14 October 2014 94

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Feline freedoms in Canberra could be curtailed if a new report is adopted by the ACT Government. Penned by an academic, Kathy Eyles, from the ANU’s Fenner School and an ACT Government environmental planner, the report is being considered by Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury. The report recommends that cats should be permanently prohibited from the alfresco lifestyle, effectively ‘containing’ them forever… and ever.

The report is in response to the devastating impacts cats can have on the environment, and with most of Canberra’s suburbs being within roaming distance of a high density of little native faunae, the environmental impacts can be quite catastrophic.

As it is presently illegal to allow your little moggies to roam in new ACT suburbs, many cat owners have curbed their critters to the cosy confines of the indoor chesterfield or outdoor cages.

On a more serious note, the news comes as feral cats have recently ripped through the last bilby population in Australia in Queensland’s Astrebla Downs National Park.

Growing up in the country, I was quite used to humanely shooting feral cats. The carnage they would cause to beautiful native birds was awful, and they pretty much wiped out the antechinus population – a spritely and determined little marsupial known for mating itself to an exhausted death.

Although the situation may be different here in Canberra, the development does prompt some moral questions for our community to consider. Does the Government have a right to dictate that all cats should remain indoors, and if it does; is it ethical to own a cat at all?

What’s Your opinion?


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94 Responses to
Canberra’s cats facing containment
Maya123 2:28 pm 14 Oct 14
Steven Bailey 1:37 pm 14 Oct 14

bd84 said :

Cats are pests, and should be treated as such when outside.

Do you think roaming cats should be destroyed without informing the owner?

Steven Bailey 1:32 pm 14 Oct 14

Southmouth said :

I have a cat which is kept inside. He knows no other life. I took the decision to prevent him wandering as I like to see parrots and pardalotes in the garden.

Making cats born from now, required to meet the new rules would be the way to go.

I must say though that in my travels I see many many more foxes than feral cats. In Victoria they have re introduced the bounty on foxes due to their plundering of our native furry critters.

Actually, yes Southmouth, I agree. I’ve seen many more foxes too!

Antagonist 1:26 pm 14 Oct 14

Maya123 said :

Re locking cats up, I think it is akin to being imprisoned. Some cats might like to live inside. Fine. But for the others it is cruel. A better solution might be to place a future limit on the number of cats per household.

There is already a limit of three cats per household, unless you have a licence. Keeping a cat confined is not cruel, and is not the same as keeping a cat indoors, although a cat kept indoors will do just fine if you provide them with stimulation (boxes, toys etc). It is called responsible ownership.

Maya123 said :

Has anyone actually got the statistics of wildlife loss from (well cared for and fed) domestic cats versus wildlife loss from feral cats (perhaps include here also not properly cared for and fed domestic cats) and foxes. Domestic cats are blamed for a lot, but are they really as bad as they are made out to be, or just more visible than feral cats and foxes, and an easier target? Researched wildlife loss would be interesting.

We don’t need the statistics. The only difference between a domestic cat and feral cat is that one has an owner, while the other does not. Otherwise there is zero difference.

Maya123 1:20 pm 14 Oct 14

Zan said :

I am sick of cats using my backyard as a toilet

I hear that argument used, but even though I have had a large vegetable garden,several cats living in neighbouring houses who like to visit me daily, I have NEVER had a problem with cats using my garden as a toilet. Yes, they did use it, but it was never a problem. Come on, most cats dig a hole and bury it. How is this a problem? It breaks down as fertiliser. I did have a tenant though who had a BIG problem with this, but she had other compulsive problems too, such as counting footsteps, cleaning up about others as they cooked etc. But she liked the cats; it was just their toilet habits that got her frantic.

HiddenDragon 12:54 pm 14 Oct 14

“Referring to the possible prohibition, Rattenbury said, ‘I think if we were to go down that path there would need to be a long lead-in time’…..”

In other words, talk about it in a fairly general way, but don’t make any firm decisions until after the next election, because an actual ban might be the last straw for some of the less rusted-on Labor/Green voters in this town.

(Not a cat owner, but happy enough to see neighbours’ moggies exploring my garden).

switch 12:46 pm 14 Oct 14

The dog catchers in this town are to become cat catchers now? I can just see that happening.

The Number One destroyer of native wildlife in Australia is habitat destruction, by us, by coming here in the first place. Maybe those who thought this unworkable proposition up should look at removing themselves from the environment.

Zan 12:31 pm 14 Oct 14

Looking forward to it. I am sick of cats using my backyard as a toilet as they manage to crawl under the gate and climb the wooden fence.

Re foxes: they have done a study where most foxes were killed and found that cats took over. Foxes kept the cat population down in the area where the study was done. Can’t remember where I saw that, on a science show on ABC or Landline.

Raging Tempest 12:14 pm 14 Oct 14

Our two have been indoors cats as long as we’ve had them. Originally we had a free standing enclosure and walked them around the yard on leads (yes, we’re ‘those’ people) and put an enclosure onto the new place when we moved in. They still get to sleep in the sun, eat grass and chase insects (and the one tiny bird that got in through the mesh) and don’t seem distressed at all. Well, except when we are out gardening and the stripy cat tries to convince us that he should be out with us.
They get used to it pretty quickly.

Holden Caulfield 11:10 am 14 Oct 14

I have no problems with protecting native wildlife.

I wonder though, what is the impact on our fauna caused by urban development, roads and other infrastructure in comparison to the impact caused by domestic and/or feral cats?

Maya123 11:03 am 14 Oct 14

I haven’t had a cat for a few years now, but in the past I have had cats and the interest in hunting has varied from cat to cat. I have had some cats that could have been considered ecological disasters, but my last cat never showed much interest in hunting, so individual cat’s hunting instinct varies. My last cat would lie out in the sun and ignore birds hopping not far from him, except to lift up his head occasionally and meow at them. If anyone thinks he was lazy he wasn’t, as he was a fighter and being a big cat (just under 7kgs and slim) one of the ‘top’ local cats. He chased other cats out of my yard, making it a safer place for birds. And the birds seemed to know this, ignoring my cat and walking around the ground scarily close to him. I never found feathers as evidence that he took them secretly either. Funnily, that cat was not interested in toys as a kitten either, but be liked to play fight with another kitten. Maybe that was a sign he would grow up a fighter, but not a hunter. I have read the argument that there are cats with low hunting instinct and they are the cats that should be breed from.
One of the greatest danger to local birds in my garden came when that cat died. Another cat was sitting in my back garden and a bird landed close to it. The bird was lucky to escape. My guess is that bird had come to consider my yard safe, even with a cat there. This time though it was the wrong cat.

Re locking cats up, I think it is akin to being imprisoned. Some cats might like to live inside. Fine. But for the others it is cruel. A better solution might be to place a future limit on the number of cats per household.

Has anyone actually got the statistics of wildlife loss from (well cared for and fed) domestic cats versus wildlife loss from feral cats (perhaps include here also not properly cared for and fed domestic cats) and foxes. Domestic cats are blamed for a lot, but are they really as bad as they are made out to be, or just more visible than feral cats and foxes, and an easier target? Researched wildlife loss would be interesting.

Matt Watts 10:58 am 14 Oct 14

Would this mean I could have my once-a-year fireworks back?

Antagonist 10:44 am 14 Oct 14

I have no problem with cats themselves, but I do think all cats should be kept indoors and owners given a hefty fine if their moggy is let loose to wreak havoc on the environment. That should be the case for all suburbs in Canberra.

As for a ‘long lead in time’ on introducing permanent confinement? 12 months is more than enough time for cat owners to get themselves ready. If a cat owner cannot afford to make the necessary adjustments within 12 months, then they cannot afford to take proper and responsible care of the cat in the first place. Responsible dog owners do not let their dogs roam the neighbourhood. Responsible cat owners should do exactly the same.

bd84 10:22 am 14 Oct 14

Cats are pests, and should be treated as such when outside. Other pets are not allowed to roam the streets freely and I don’t see why cats should be allowed to, particular when they are a major threat to wildlife.

But if they changed the laws, the government would actually need to enforce the laws, which I suspect will be put in the too hard basket given they don’t currently do that in the existing containment suburbs.

Southmouth 10:06 am 14 Oct 14

I have a cat which is kept inside. He knows no other life. I took the decision to prevent him wandering as I like to see parrots and pardalotes in the garden.

Making cats born from now, required to meet the new rules would be the way to go.

I must say though that in my travels I see many many more foxes than feral cats. In Victoria they have re introduced the bounty on foxes due to their plundering of our native furry critters.

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