11 March 2021

'Your cat won't be coming back, ever!': claws out in cat debate

| Dominic Giannini
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Two homeless cats

Two homeless kittens taken off the streets in December. Photo: Canberra Street Cat Alliance Facebook.

Canberra’s love/hate relationship with cats has intensified, with reports of a dramatic increase in the number of threats against pets and their owners as the ACT Government pushes ahead with its draft cat plan.

Almost 20 suburbs around Canberra have already been declared cat containment areas to protect local wildlife, with residents in those areas required to keep their cats on their premises at all times or risk a $1500 fine.

A cat containment area can be declared where felines pose a serious threat to local wildlife species, but residents outside these suburbs have reported receiving letters threatening their pets.

The debate over the impact of cats on the environment appears to have polarised the community.

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One O’Connor resident – a suburb not on the containment list – this week received a letter warning her to “keep your cat contained”.

“If your cat comes onto my property again, it won’t be coming back, ever!” the anonymous letter said.

“This isn’t something you should ignore – do so at your own peril.”

An O’Conner resident received this threatening letter over her pet cat. Photo: Supplied.

The woman said she was told by Animal Control Services that there were “an awful lot” of these types of threats going around.

“The RSPCA inspector called me and confirmed there has been a massive increase in threats like this across Canberra,” she said.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, most of the neighbours have cats as well.

“The note is gutlessly anonymous.”

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ACT Policing has urged the public to report any threatening behaviour by calling police on 131 444 or visiting the nearest police station in person.

“Maintain copies of any threatening material both physical and digital (emails, voicemails, screenshots and social media messages) as this will assist police,” a spokesperson said.

“Try to handle physical evidence as little as possible in case forensic analysis is required.”

The containment laws have led Wright resident Emerson Riley to start a change.org petition to allow cat owners to walk their pets on a leash in these areas, saying that “with apartment living, this [law] doesn’t give cats a chance to enjoy the outdoors”.

More than 1500 people have signed the petition.

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The petition resulted in City Services Minister Chris Steel visiting Ms Riley and admitting cats not being able to be walked on leashes was an unintended consequence of changes to the Domestic Animals Act.

A spokesperson for the ACT Government said it was considering changes to the Domestic Animals Act later in the year, following the finalisation of the Cat Plan.

“The current wording of the Domestic Animals Act may be interpreted that cats cannot be walked on a lead in containment suburbs, which was not the intention,” the spokesperson said.

“The ACT Government will consider amendments to the Act to clarify that cats may be walked on a lead and harness in all suburbs, including containment suburbs.

“Any potential changes to relevant legislation will be made in the interests of animal welfare and environmental protection grounds.”

Visit City Services for more information on the Government’s containment policy.

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Max Machination10:25 pm 15 Mar 21

Keeping cats contained is cruel. Cats have not been domesticated like dogs have been, they are more or less wild animals who domesticated themselves (kinda like us humans actually). Keeping cats inside creates intense stress and anxiety for them in the long run. I love cats but if I lived near wildlife I wouldn’t keep them as pets in the first place because of the risk they pose & if a containment rule were introduced where I live, I’d move somewhere else. People need to practise responsible ownership. Too many animals suffer because of what our selfishness.

Finally Relented10:04 am 13 Mar 21

Yes to cat containment. I am sick of other people’s cat weeing and crapping in my back yard,yielding at my window at night. Dog owners need to keep their animals contained. So should cat owners.

Joshua Crouthamel1:51 pm 12 Mar 21

Keep your cat contained. It is that simple. Regardless of suburb containment laws, think about how dogs must be kept on lead unless in an off-lead area. Be a responsible pet owner. Take some responsibility. The RSPCA has an entire site dedicated to this messaging. https://safeandhappycats.com.au/

Even in non containment suburbs owners are obliged to ensure their pet is not a nuisance to others. I would suggest the only way to ensure that happens to is contain the cat.

Moggies are welcome in my yard, anytime, just wander over, for a pat and a purr.

Same here. They are welcome on my property. I miss seeing cats about. The cat laws have brought out the cruel cat haters and made them feel justified for their behaviour. Like the cowardly psychopath in the letter. This is one reason I no longer have a cat, and I miss that a lot.

(I do make a proviso there though. I think the number of cats on each property needs to be limited and cats should be desexed.)

There is nothing wrong with the note. This is only one side of the story. How do we know if the cat owner hasn’t been a nuisance for a long time?

It would be an exceptional cat to have been such a huge nuisance to have warranted that note. I am a gardener, but even when I lived in an area where up to ten different cats (at least) must have regularly visited, no cat was ever that bad to want to make me write that letter. Most of the cats were welcome and I enjoyed their company.

Just because cats didn’t bother you doesn’t mean other people should have to tolerate a feral pest on their property. I bet the people complaining that their cat should be allowed to roam free would be unimpressed to find a neighbours dog in their yard.

Dogs can be dangerous and threatening and don’t bury their waste. Plus their poos are often sizable. That’s the difference. Having said that though, a neighbour’s dog often comes into my garden. Initially it used to worry me, but when I found no dog poos deposited and it didn’t seem to do any damage to my garden, I started to ignore it. That’s different than many years ago when a pack of about six large, roaming dogs kept appearing and using my front lawn for their poos regularly. I also wouldn’t feel safe be out there when the pack appeared. A few cats don’t make me feel unsafe like that.

If you let your dog roam the neighbourhood or jump into the neighbour’s backyard, they get sized and taken to the pound. It should be exactly the same for cats. They’re a bigger pest.

Keep your cat contained, it’s not rocket surgery. Guarantee this person would call the rangers in a heartbeat if an off leash dog ran up and licked her.

How hard is it for people to understand that others don’t want their mangy cat crapping all through their gardens? Keep your pets on your own property. It’s not a big ask. I can’t let my dogs roam free, and have no problem with that.

That being said, it would take an idiot to fine somebody walking their cat on a lead.

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