Can Australia get rid of its vicious cats?

Juniper, an eight-year-old ginger cat, may appear sweet and fluffy, but looks can be deceiving.

She was a proficient hunter, according to her owner, retired Australian farmer Hugh Fathers.

“I never saw all of her kills, so I don’t know how prolific she was.”

Cats are an issue in Australia. Its population of slightly more than eight million domestic and feral cats is expected to exterminate billions of native animals every year, many of which are endangered.

According to Mr. Fathers, Juniper enjoyed hunting birds, rats, and even red-bellied black snakes.

“Under the bed is a great place to locate them, where she occasionally used to park them. I was never happy about it, but I had to realize that she was a cat and it’s just part of what cats do.”

Advocates contend that Australia has to control its roving felines since that is “part of what cats are” in the country.

According to research from the Endangered Species Recovery Centre, an average domestic cat like Juniper in New South Wales will kill more than 180 native animals each year.

She is even more ferocious than her wild cat kin, who range in number from two to six million and each kill roughly 790 wild creatures annually.

Two billion mammals, birds, and reptiles make up the total toll, which is close to the projected number of animals killed, hurt, or relocated as a result of the 2019–20 Black Summer wildfire disaster.

Hugh Fathers’ 8-year-old ginger cat Juniper PICTURE SOURCE,HUGH FATHERS
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Even leading a domesticated life couldn’t curb Juniper’s appetite for prey.
Experts debated options at a recent two-day “cat symposium” in Perth, where they described the scope of the cat epidemic.

Cats were “the principal contribution,” according to Prof. Sarah Legge of the Australian National University, to the demise of two-thirds of the 33 Australian mammal species since colonization.

“It is a very high rate of extinction. None else in the world is that similar to that. They still contribute to the decrease of mammals today, “She spoke to the BBC.

Eight species, such as islands or gated regions on the mainland, can only exist today in cat-free environments.

All around Australia, there are minor cat laws like microchipping and registration. Yet approximately one-third of municipalities have implemented cat-free zones, cat curfews, or containment laws due to concerns about the effects of roaming cats.

However, limits differ greatly, and neither Western Australia nor New South Wales, the state with the highest population, have any containment legislation (NSW).

While many Australians already recognize the need to lessen the negative effects of cats, Prof. Legge believes that a standardized strategy would be very beneficial.

Several towns would also prefer to tighten regulations, but they are unable to do so because the major domestic animal legislation are decided at the state level.

“It’s very perplexing if you have a pet cat because there are so many different rules depending on where you live. The following step would be to work toward harmonizing all of these regulations to make it simpler for local governments to implement cat containment.”

One of the only local governments in the state to declare some suburbs near critical wildlife places cat-free is Tweed Shire Council in northern New South Wales.

Despite the fact that such blanket bans are quite effective, Pam Gray, the director of the pest management program, claims that the council is powerless to take additional action, which the cats themselves also require.

“Unfortunately, the principal piece of legislation we have to control cats is the NSW Companion Animals Act. There are various (local) limitations that could be implemented. Yet putting them into practice is incredibly difficult.

“Similar degrees of legislation governing cats as we presently do for companion dogs or horses would be beneficial. It has to remain on your land.”

A wire-enclosed outdoor deck area keeps cats from escaping. Image source: ABC News
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Many owners choose a “catio” as their preferred form of enclosure.
Over 30% of cat owners in Australia already confine their animals, either indoors or in specially designed cat enclosures, frequently referred to as “catios”.

Director of the Invasive Species Council James Trezise believes that promoting responsible ownership through awareness-building is the key to reducing cats’ destructive tendencies.

“Many people respond, “Oh, my cat doesn’t predate on animals,” as an example. That’s understandable given that they only bring back 15% of any killed animals.

Many of the negative effects of pet cats roaming freely are “out of sight, out of mind.”

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) provided one potential national future model the previous year.

All cats born after July 1st must now be registered, and cat containment suburbs have been expanded around Canberra.

Current feral cats were allowed to continue wandering freely “to ensure a fair and progressive transition,” ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said in an interview with the Canberra Times.

According to Prof. Legge, local species can rebound in “spectacular fashion” now that the cats have retreated.

“Body parts (burrowing bettongs), stick-nest rats, western barred bandicoots, banded and rufous hare-wallabies… population growth that is highly noticeable.”

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