These cats aren’t feral, says the Street Cat Alliance, just misunderstood

Michael Weaver 6 December 2020 128
A colony of cats at Fyshwick

A colony of cats at Fyshwick being looked after by the Canberra Street Cat Alliance. Photo: Supplied.

A mega colony of 47 cats roam an industrial area of Fyshwick they call home. The street cats are in reasonably good health, have food and shelter and apparently help keep the rodent population in nearby buildings under control.

The Fyshwick colony is one of many roaming the streets of Canberra’s industrial estates, food outlets, drains and rubbish tips, but a group of volunteers who keep a close eye on their feline friends say there is a lot of misinformation about Canberra’s street cats.

“If people would look at the other side of how these cats live, then they could understand that these cats aren’t actually feral. They are homeless,” president of the Canberra Street Cat Alliance Vanessa Parton tells Region Media.

“They’re not feral and there’s a distinct difference between a feral cat and a community stray. Our colony carers feed these cats and can pick them up and do a basic health check. The cats are generally scared of people but our carers have the same relationship with them as a normal pet owner.”

There are about 30 active carers in the Canberra Street Cat Alliance, which is but one of many groups that dedicates itself to various aspects of caring for Canberra’s wildlife.

The street cats will be taken into foster care if they are sick or need ongoing treatment once a veterinarian has checked them. In the last financial year, 173 cats were adopted or re-homed, six deceased and 73 were provided with veterinary assistance before being returned to their home location, the alliance says. *

Part of the colony of street cats at Fyshwick.

Part of the colony of street cats at Fyshwick. Photo: Supplied.

Vanessa said the issue of Canberra’s street cats also needs to be better understood and that a Draft ACT Cat Plan from April 2019 needs more work to address the growing population of street cats.

Canberra Street Cat Alliance volunteers had their busiest month in November picking up 69 new cats – more than two a day. They have assisted more than 320 cats this year at a cost of between $150-200 per cat to provide litter, flea or worm treatment, desexing, vaccinations and a premium food mix.

“There are about 15 colonies that we monitor around Canberra,” Vanessa says. “Some are only three to four cats, but the mega colony at Fyshwick has 47 at last count and the health of the colony there is fantastic.”

She says their program involves trapping, neutering or spaying (desexing), and returning the cat to its home, a program known as TNR.

While there is debate over returning the street cats against euthanising them or rehoming them, Vanessa says they return the cats because they are territorial, so removing them from their home only allows another colony of cats to take over.

“These community cats are like an extended family group. They’re feeding on rodents or from bins with food scraps.

“The misinformation is in relation to the amount of wildlife they kill because when they have a food source, they live happily with the birds and other wildlife,” Vanessa says.

However, research has shown that cats have already contributed to the extinction of more than 20 Australian mammals. In Canberra, it is estimated by the ACT Government that roaming cats kill 61,000 native birds, 2000 native animals, 30,000 native reptiles and 6000 native frogs each year.

READ ALSO: Puppy love continues after COVID-19 surge, says RSPCA

CEO of RSPCA ACT Michelle Robertson said the issue with street cats is massive and it is unknown how many homeless cats there are in Canberra. Michelle said they work with the ACT Street Cat Alliance and other welfare groups, but more work needs to be done to understand to address the issue.

“We have 150 cats in foster care at the moment, but our preference is never to release a cat back into its environment. We will always try to socialise the cat where possible and find a suitable home,” Michelle said.

“We would prefer to talk about the importance of desexing your cat and providing a suitable area where it is contained.”

CEO of RSPCA ACT Michelle Robertson

CEO of RSPCA ACT Michelle Robertson with one of the many cats in their care. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Vanessa says it has been an incredibly busy year, but the self-funded Street Cat Alliance has received lots of donations to keep it going. They also have an important message for cat owners in Canberra.

“Please desex your cat,” Vanessa says. “We will often find a colony of female cats so if we aren’t able to care for them and desex them, they would soon populate and the problem would only grow.

“Don’t abandon your cat or go for that free cat off Gumtree. Look at cat containment measures if they go outdoors. It’s a big issue here in Canberra but we know we can learn to live with these street cats and build trust with them.”

*Edited to clarify that the Street Cat Alliance runs adoption and re-homing programs in addition to their community care program.

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128 Responses to These cats aren’t feral, says the Street Cat Alliance, just misunderstood
Emma Lou Emma Lou 10:10 pm 08 Dec 20

Rocío MP get adopting! Taco needs a mate

Jodie Dehelean Jodie Dehelean 8:30 am 08 Dec 20

native animals .........

Cat Lumsden Cat Lumsden 1:04 am 08 Dec 20

The are not feral, they are ABANDONED. Poor bloody things. It's the feral people who left them there that should be destroyed. Grrrr 🤬

rationalobserver rationalobserver 8:29 pm 07 Dec 20

How is the keeping and encouraging of feral cats to eat rats any different to greyhound owners using live rabbits to train the dogs to run?

Arleen Stark Arleen Stark 7:40 pm 07 Dec 20

No they are feral and should be destroyed!

ssek ssek 3:40 pm 07 Dec 20

No, they are feral cats, and they are killing native wildlife. These people catching them, taking them to vets and letting them free again should be charged. The local council should be eradicating them.

This is about as bright as the fools trying to domesticate foxes and wondering why they kept escaping to go kill more wildlife.

They are an introduced, feral pest. Calling them anything else is a lie.

Rebecca Hobson Rebecca Hobson 3:17 pm 07 Dec 20

My 'feral ' Canberra Street Cat Alliance cat. Yep, she certainly looks feral and dangerous to me! Seriously people, do your research. TNR is a very successful program as is the Streets to Sheets program. The volunteers of the CSCA are the current day superheroes.

    Sarah Ahmed Sarah Ahmed 6:21 am 08 Dec 20

    Rebecca Hobson this is my feral CSCA cat!!

    Rebecca Hobson Rebecca Hobson 7:55 am 08 Dec 20

    Sarah Ahmed oh yes, they're both totally feral!! Hi Lilly! Gosh she's grown.

    Sarah Ahmed Sarah Ahmed 7:56 am 08 Dec 20

    Rebecca Hobson know her!! Do you have her sister? Tabitha?

    Rebecca Hobson Rebecca Hobson 7:59 am 08 Dec 20

    Sarah Ahmed no, I'm ex Y staff and the CSCA paperwork person. I remember putting her transfer through.

Jen Jaensch Jen Jaensch 1:20 pm 07 Dec 20

I guess a lot of this also comes back to irresponsible pet owners 😡

Nadia Waugh Nadia Waugh 11:55 am 07 Dec 20

Fantastic to hear that they are loved and cared for ..... thanks to the awesome humans who do this ♥️♥️♥️♥️

Peter Rowlands Peter Rowlands 8:06 am 07 Dec 20

Simple no dog or cat should be wandering the street unattended. Cat especially as they kill native birds on a regular basis. All areas should be cat containment areas

Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 2:21 am 07 Dec 20

No thanks, whilst I like cats a great deal, I also like birds and marsupials. What a *thoroughly* inappropriate stance.

Scott Birnbaum Scott Birnbaum 1:14 am 07 Dec 20

RiotAct should probably read RiotCat. My nephew and his wife have cats and keep them inside where they belong rather than outside where they decimate indigenous bird populations. The only stray cats I’ve noticed in Century Village in Boca Raton are Florida Lynx, aka Bobcats and they help manage the stray/feral cat population by eating them. That might help explain why this place is crawling with birds. How many ducks, geese, pelicans, hawks, herons of all sorts and kingfishers (alas, no Kukabura birds) are in your back yard? I watched an Egyptian Goose out back grab an invasive 5’ long Mexican Iguana by the neck, shake it like a canine predator killing prey then spit it out on the ground. I warned my nephew that if he brings his cats to visit, they have to stay inside so they don’t get eaten by the local animals. Feral cats have to go. If you love them so much in Canberra, just let’s us know if you want them. We have a surplus of a few hundred million in the US.

    Gen Ryan Gen Ryan 10:33 am 08 Dec 20

    I think that as a US resident you might have missed almost the entire point of this article. Canberra has a strong cat containment policy across all new development in the city.

    Scott Birnbaum Scott Birnbaum 1:31 am 09 Dec 20

    Dave Ryan I wasn’t commenting about the article so much as replying to people who seem to love stray cats, crediting them with keeping the rat population at bay.

Jason Philps Jason Philps 9:59 pm 06 Dec 20

Let ‘em be. They’re not causing harm, indeed providing a service. Need a few on the hill for the rats there😂

    Scott Birnbaum Scott Birnbaum 1:18 am 07 Dec 20

    Jason Philps Here in Florida, you would be hard pressed to find rats. The only time I’ve seen them is when they are being brutally killed by Great Blue Herons, lucky enough to catch them before anything else (they are the favorite food of possums) gets them.

Jesse Field Jesse Field 8:39 pm 06 Dec 20

How can people be so against stray cats, and at the same time be so dismissive of a self funded organisation who is actively trying to decrease the number of strays on the street... while government organisations make no effort at all...

People confuse me man

Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 6:51 pm 06 Dec 20

All Creatures Great & Small!

    Kit Huang Kit Huang 8:20 am 11 Dec 20

    Exactly! Love the TNR program. It's the most humane way while there are irresponsible owners out there refusing to neuter their pets or abandoning them so cruelly.

Bryce Jarvis Bryce Jarvis 4:34 pm 06 Dec 20

Well don't worry about them. I mean after they wipe out all our native species at least we will have a feral population of cats to help take care of our eco system.

Bede Mcfadden Bede Mcfadden 4:05 pm 06 Dec 20

Cats don't have to live out bush to be feral

Gail Langendorf Gail Langendorf 3:43 pm 06 Dec 20

Suzanna Schiefer what's going on with stray cats here...

Amelia Ponds Amelia Ponds 3:43 pm 06 Dec 20

We adopted our cat from Canberra street cat alliance, he came from a feral cat colony here in canberra. He is super sweet and we've had him for going on 2 yrs now.

Cal Herman Walker Cal Herman Walker 2:44 pm 06 Dec 20

Just changing definitions are we? Or is this a your truth my truth kind of thing?

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