7 October 2022

Is it time to ban all cats in Canberra?

| Ross Solly
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Thunder the cat playing in her tunnel – far away from vulnerable wildlife. Photo: Leticia Avelar.

Many years ago, I launched a campaign to make it illegal to dress pets in clothing. It was based on no research at all and came about simply because I believe seeing dogs dressed in clothes was ridiculous.

The campaign, which was poorly funded and basically consisted of me launching a few ill-conceived rants after having next to no sleep, failed dismally, judging by the number of pets I still see wandering around Canberra wearing jumpers, scarves and, Lord help us, hats.

My campaign also managed to annoy many dog owners, who branded me cruel. To my great regret, very few dogs spoke up in support of what I was trying to achieve, although I really believe if they could speak, they would almost certainly have voiced their disapproval at having to wear berets in public.

So at significant risk to my standing among pet owners, I want to float another proposition – banning cats (pause for sound of uproar from the owners of the estimated 56,000 cats in the ACT). My love of cats extends only to the two-legged footballing variety.

This week’s announcement by the Federal Government that it would halt Australia’s extinction crisis serves as a powerful reminder of how badly we have done as a country protecting our wildlife. Australia has lost the most mammals of any continent, with 39 species disappearing since colonisation.

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Banning cats alone won’t solve all the problems, but it will be a positive step. Whether cat lovers like it or not, cats are killers. They stalk and kill birds, mammals, insects and reptiles. Recent surveys of wildlife in the ACT make alarming reading, and unless something is done very soon, many species will be gone forever.

Research carried out by the ACT Conservation Council reveals that roaming pet cats kill more than 67 species of prey, including native birds, reptiles and frogs. One estimate puts the number of animals killed each year by pet cats at between 380,000 and 630,000.

In July, the ACT introduced new laws which mandate that all newborn cats have to be contained indoors or in people’s backyards, 24 hours a day. In 17 ACT suburbs, the rules apply to all cats.

But in the rest of the ACT, the laws will not apply to cats born before 1 July. This means for the next decade at least, cats will be able to roam wild across most of Canberra. Many endangered species in our neighbourhoods don’t have that long.

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Of course, I know my plan will probably never see the light of day because cat owners are very good at lobbying and at claiming their cat would never kill a possum or a lorikeet or a corroboree tree frog (fun fact – given half the chance, they would kill all three of the above in a heartbeat).

In 2018, the small New Zealand village of Omaui announced it would ban all domestic cats. Cat owners were told they would have to neuter, microchip and register their pets, and they could not be replaced when the cats died.

It was a cry for help from village leaders worried cats were destroying local wildlife. But less than one year later, the plan was dead, scuppered by cat owners who were outraged their pets were set to have their freedoms severely curtailed.

I’m a fair man, so I’m willing to accept the Omaui proposal as a compromise. I know people are very attached to their feline friends, so I’m not so heartless to advocate ripping them away.

At the very least, make them wear a bell. A loud bell. But that should only be the first step.

Go the Cats. The Geelong Cats …

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Thanks for the tip… I was wondering how to get rid of the feral possum that keeps urinating around our place, infecting everything and making the place stink… I’m not a cat person, but you just convinced me to get one because it will be far better company than a feral possum (at least cats bury their waste).

Get rid of cats (I’ve had two during my life so I’m a reformed cat owner) & to be fair, get rid of the worst human criminals as well. Murderers, rapists etc. would make good fish food to help endangered fish species.

Ban all cats which are allowed outside and make sure the owners are penalised if they did not do enough to stop them escaping.

Steve Vojtek5:07 pm 11 Oct 22

Stop car bus end train this is the biggest killer and greens bullshit

Thats completely ridiculous. The indoor requirement will be plenty to reduce the numbers of native species being hunted. There are far bigger causes for animal and ecosystem destruction anyways, cats really arent the big issue. Banning all cats is simply short sighted.

I know this comment is tongue-in-cheek, but I agree in principle. I often see the feathered remains of unfortunate birds when I walk my dog. I don’t believe you can ban cats altogether. I have friends who love their cats and I believe they are very therapeutic. I do think they should be confined to the house and garden, but that may be too expensive for some people or difficult if you are renting. Maybe the government could encourage people in some way. I think that releasing any feral cat is defeating the purpose. Just imagine how many native birds or animals it will kill in its lifetime.

Wow, this topic has got people stirring. My solution is not to ban cats, because they are proved to have health benefits for humans. Just have all cats mandated to be indoors, Then any cat outside can be taken care of by authorities.

Suzanne Huria2:40 am 10 Oct 22

Clearing the bush and building houses ect that’s what’s killing the wildlife. If you’re that concerned stop building

I’m curious where you shop, work, eat and rest – apparently not in any buildings.

James Thomassi7:38 pm 09 Oct 22

I hope you aren’t considering a career in journalism of any kind, because this is possibly the worst article I have ever– and I mean in my entire life –EVER read. It’s a terrible opinion and a terrible article written by somebody who, despite claiming to not be heartless, has already expressed a personal hatred of cats. There are, without exaggeration, hundreds of possible ideas to protect native wildlife that would not only be more effective, but less ridiculous as well.

I’d just be embarrassed if I were the person who wrote this. Like, really embarrassed. I dunno how you wrote the headline with a straight face tbh. I’m not gonna use any horrible insults, but I’m hoping I’m conveying my very low opinion of your point of view.

Michael Collins8:09 am 11 Oct 22

You’re a bit late, it’s Ross Solly.

You haven’t read very much James, have you?

Bob Dobalina6:35 pm 09 Oct 22

All these comments that if you ban all cats then you have to ban all dogs lol. Dogs don’t kill millions of endangered species every year. The point of this opinion piece is that cats do. They killed 2 billion wild animals last year and Australia’s federal parliament released a report that confirmed that cats were the primary drivers of mammal extinctions in the country. The report asserted that Australia leads the world with 34 such species wiped out and a further 74 land mammal species under threat. Thanks mainly to cats…

How about be ban Greenies,, they are the same as Rats,

How about we ban Humans, Cats have Rights, they are, allowed to live,

I agree 100%. Cats should be BANNED from the entire ACT.

let’s not do that, why don’t we look at other avenues, dogs are allowed why not cats

Disagree. However, they should be kept contained inside people’s homes so they can’t attack wildlife, but can still kill mice, rats or snakes that come inside.

Now that the ACT government insists that renters can have pets, our apartment complex is full of animals that we can’t control, because their owners ignore the rules and the ACT rental tribunal doesn’t act to control them. We are losing birds and lizards that used to be safe in our gardens, because previously we didn’t allow pets. Now we can’t stop them.

Time the ACT government stopped doing things that harm our environment. If they care about our wildlife, they’ll have rangers collecting wandering cats instead of making laws that will never be enforced.

Stafford Cooper3:45 pm 09 Oct 22

The simple solutions are often the best! That said, cat folk will put their interests above those of native fauna, and governments/councils won’t have the courage to make tough decisions even if they have the potential to be game changers in preserving our dwindling number of unique species in Australia.

We are already banning culture to appease the easily offended. Why the call to just ban cats?
Why don’t we also force dog owners to remark their dogs?
Correction, why don’t we just ban dogs? They crap everywhere, dig holes and annoy me.
Why don’t we cull all Magpies, to prevent spring swooping?
Why don’t we ban cows, sheep and poultry? The vegan activists would then have to get a job!
Why don’t get serious and ban humans? Aren’t 9 billion of us the real problem? Maybe we could start by sacrificing the first male born child or every family? Sorry, that would be the first binary or non-binary child born to a binary or non-binary parent.

Clever Interrobang6:18 pm 09 Oct 22

Whataboutery is not an argument.

Bob Dobalina6:38 pm 09 Oct 22

Australia has a good track record with genocide, cats should be an easy cull. Australia’s federal parliament released a report that confirmed that cats were the primary drivers of mammal extinctions in the country. The report asserted that Australia leads the world with 34 such species wiped out and a further 74 land mammal species under threat. Caused mainly by cats.

Humans are a far bigger problem then cats. We are like termites; spreading, spreading…eating into the environment.

Can’t we ban dogs as well – they’re everywhere and much noisier

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