Stats on cat attacks leads to containment in all Canberra suburbs

Michael Weaver 1 June 2021 29
Three people and a cat at the RSPCA in Canberra

Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel, RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Roberston and Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti with Venus the cat at the RSPCA headquarters in Weston. Photo: Michael Weaver.

Cat owners will have to register their cats and cat containment will be introduced in all Canberra suburbs as part of a 10-year plan to provide a lifeline to native wildlife and encourage more responsible ownership of felines in the capital.

Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel said the plan also gives cats an extra lease on life after consultation on the ACT Cat Plan revealed the catastrophic injuries and illnesses cats suffer when they roam free.

Eight strategies will be rolled out over the next 10 years to encourage cat owners to be more responsible, prioritising cat registration and cat containment in all Canberra suburbs from 1 July 2022.

Cat owners will be required to pay a one-off $57 fee when they first register a newly acquired cat and they will then need to update their details annually at no cost. There will be no charge for existing cat owners to register their current cat. Cats will also have to be microchipped in the same way dogs are.

Cats owned before 1 July 2022 are exempt from compulsory containment if their owners do not already live in a cat containment suburb.

Michelle Roberston with a cat at the RSPCA in Canberra

RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Roberston and Venus at the RSPCA headquarters in Weston. Photo: Michael Weaver.

RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Roberston said the stats on cats that stray from their confines are confronting. The RSPCA took in more than 45,000 cats across Australia last financial year.

“In the ACT, we took in just over 3000 animals and 1465 of them were cats,” Ms Robertson said.

“Of those cats, nearly 68 per cent were stray, which are unowned cats just walking around. Of those stray cats, 80 per cent weren’t microchipped, while 65 per cent weren’t desexed.

“Microchipping, desexing and cat containment are real issues that we see in the shelter here, and we’re very glad these issues are being addressed in the ACT Cat Plan.”


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RSPCA veterinarian Dr Eloise Bright is the owner of two cats. One lost an eye and another lost a leg after accidents while roaming free.

“They are now kept inside to protect their remaining body parts,” she said, adding cat containment does not prevent cats from using their instincts to hunt.

“You can make sure they are happy inside by putting their food into balls where they have to hunt for it indoors, which satisfies that natural instinct.

“It’s amazing how cats can adapt to living in suburban homes, and many people are unaware of how far their cats go at night. Studies using GPS trackers on cats have found they’ve roamed up to 200 hectares in one night.”

Part of the colony of street cats at Fyswick

Street cats at Fyshwick. Photo: Canberra Street Cat Alliance.

Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said Canberra’s free-roaming but owned cats are estimated to prey on 61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000 native frogs each year.

Mr Steel said the plan involved significant consultation with cat owners, environmental groups and the broader community over many years.

“It recognises how important the wellbeing of pet cats is to their owners while acknowledging the responsibility we all share to protect Canberra’s native animals and environment,” Mr Steel said.

“Outside of declared suburbs, cat containment will only apply to new cats because we understand that existing cats and their owners may not be prepared or used to containment. The grandfathering approach strikes the right balance and allows a fair and gradual transition.”


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ACT Conservation Council executive director Helen Oakey welcomed the plan but said it fell short in providing better protection for native wildlife and may cause confusion as to which cats would be subject to containment.

“For too many years, we have known about the havoc that roaming cats play as a result of hunting native animals in Canberra’s precious nature reserves,” Ms Oakey said.

“Sadly, it will also mean that the impact of cats on native animals is likely to continue for more than a decade as already-owned cats age. Setting a date by which all cats across Canberra should be contained would have been preferable.”

ACT Domestic Animal Services rangers will also provide advice and warnings to pet owners found roaming.

Penalties will be introduced as part of the forthcoming legislation and are anticipated to reflect current fines for breaches of animal management laws. The maximum penalty for a breach of cat containment is 10 penalty units or $1600.

You can read the ACT Cat Plan 2021–31 and the community consultation report on the ACT Government’s YourSay website.


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29 Responses to Stats on cat attacks leads to containment in all Canberra suburbs
Rossco Downunder Rossco Downunder 2:03 pm 05 Jun 21

Does anyone know how to stop this happening? Who do we write to?

IMHO the most significant part here is; “Of those cats, nearly 68 per cent were stray, which are unowned cats just walking around. Of those stray cats, 80 per cent weren’t microchipped, while 65 per cent weren’t desexed.”

…aren’t these cats doing the hunting? BECAUSE NO-ONE IS FEEDING THEM.

This should not proceed to making the owners of the owned cats having to waste a small fortune on cat containment, kitty litter and RODENT POISON without some believable study that it is justified.

My house has 7 neighbors 3 of whom have chickens – that are messy eaters and that means rodents.

In protecting our owned cats it is US who go to Kennards to hire a cat trap and remove the stray cats and foxes from the neighborhood. I’ve caught 3 myself.

THIS MEASURE COULD BACKFIRE for the birds/mammals as it will allow well-fed, owned cats territories to be occupied by stray cats and foxes. It will see us all putting rodent bait out in larger quantities and that may kill many of these prized birds, mammals and frogs (It’s often poisoned grain).

I’d really like to see some science behind this that doesn’t sound like lazy bunkum. I once called ACT Animal Services to remove the MANY stray cats from the drain near Woden Hellenic – 20 or so – I was told they only do dogs because cats don’t attack humans. There were plenty of bird carcasses around that drain.

City fringe cat containment is much of what’s necessary.

ACT Animal Services having a blitz on foxes and stray cats might do a whole lot more for the birds and animals this is SUPPOSED TO protect. This is LAZY LAZY ACT GOVT!!!

Graham Cooke Graham Cooke 5:11 pm 03 Jun 21

So, the Government has rolled out its tame experts to talk about the injuries that cats are supposed to suffer when they roam free. They had to do this because the evidence of attacks on native wildlife in the inner suburbs was flimsy, requiring another excuse to be manufactured. I can find plenty of specialist cat vets who will testify that confinement hurts cats mentally, but of course this is a Greens pursued measure and they are not interested in counter-arguments.

Acton Acton 4:28 pm 29 May 21

Fewer cats = more mice. And don’t we have a mouse plague somewhere?
“Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said Canberra’s free-roaming but owned cats are estimated to prey on 61,000 native birds, 2,000 native mammals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6,000 native frogs each year.”
Only the gullible would trust dubious, unsubstantiated, self-serving statistics concocted by the Greens.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 2:59 pm 29 May 21

Only new pets. But it worries me that cat haters will bait our old cat in her own yard.

    Jo Simon Jo Simon 4:18 pm 29 May 21

    Robyn Holder that does concern me too - I have an older cat (15) who doesn't go far but some people might think should be locked up - she wouldnt cope shut up. My other two cats are fulltime indoor cats.

Josh Ongley Josh Ongley 2:48 pm 29 May 21

You’ve still got 15 to 20 years of real cats

Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 10:21 am 29 May 21

Not good for their Mental Health!

    Alana Morrissey-Smith Alana Morrissey-Smith 3:12 pm 29 May 21

    Margaret Lay Why not? I have a cat that lives inside (has his whole life) and I my previous cat transitioned to being an inside cat at 13 years of age. They have access to outside via a fully inclosed cat run, they have cat grass, toys, we interact with them - when they aren't sleeping 18 hours a day. 😊 The male cat plays with our dogs when they are inside and he torments them during the day by sunning himself in windows.

    Corey Karl Corey Karl 3:25 pm 29 May 21

    Margaret Lay which part, the part where they are out hunting and killing wildlife ??? What about the mental health of those animals ???

    Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 4:00 pm 29 May 21

    Alana Morrissey-Smith No, my cats are 9 & 10 years old & use to going into there courtyard & immediate area. Socialise with people & people love them. To suddenly lock them up 24/7 would be extremely cruel & a detriment to their mental health.

    Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 4:00 pm 29 May 21

    Corey Karl all creatures great & small.

    Alana Morrissey-Smith Alana Morrissey-Smith 4:39 pm 29 May 21

    Margaret Why don't you cat proof your courtyards? There are so many options.

Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 10:21 am 29 May 21

Why are people laughing & smiling in this photo?

Phwoa Phwoa 9:55 am 29 May 21

DAS can’t even address nuisance dogs from barking, and they know where they live.

Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 9:06 am 29 May 21

Except cats owned before July 1 2022 are exempt from containment unless they already live in a car containment suburb. I’m sick of the number of cats that roam my neighbourhood

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 9:57 am 29 May 21

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Public policy is not for you specifically.

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 10:30 am 29 May 21

    Kytie Mclign not suggesting it was. Cats kill wildlife

    Sez Mum Sez Mum 10:51 am 29 May 21

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason We are sick of them too. We live right next to a "cat containment area" and the cats are always roaming. It's a bit of a bandaid - it's not being policed. I've found countless dead native birds and three very small, baby possums dead out the front of our place. Walk around the neighbourhood and there are many many birds dead from cat attacks. Cats do not belong here!

    Owen Harris Owen Harris 5:20 pm 29 May 21

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason so cat people will buy up big before the new laws

Rowan Hurrell Rowan Hurrell 8:27 am 29 May 21

About time

Stuart Roesler Stuart Roesler 1:41 am 29 May 21

Get the cats to cut down the rabbits round the lake...

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 3:00 pm 29 May 21

    Stuart Roesler two of our cats have been rabbit catchers and very good mouse catchers.

Alexis Nerrida Alexis Nerrida 7:16 pm 28 May 21

Julia Bocking register the cats!

Catherine Ford Catherine Ford 7:06 pm 28 May 21

Great initiative for native fauna and cat safety 🐱🐈

Tod Davis Tod Davis 6:10 pm 28 May 21

Not sure how they are going to police the fact that existing animals are exempt

    Claire Cat Claire Cat 6:54 pm 28 May 21

    Tod Davis the microchip will have a registration date on it that will alert them to this 🙂

    Simon Robbie Simon Robbie 9:22 pm 28 May 21

    Claire Cat I think he means when trapping cats that are out, it's not like they can check until they are in a trap, or caught.

    Giles Tranter Giles Tranter 7:16 am 29 May 21

    Guess their owner shouldn't have let them roam wild in the first place 🤷🏾‍♂️

    Sara Reid Sara Reid 5:16 pm 30 May 21

    Giles Tranter Some cats are escape artists, and find ways to get out. It's the same with dogs that get out of yards. Not necessarily the intent of the owner.

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