The catastrophic damage that is rendered by domestic cats allowed to roam freely around the suburbs and in the bush is appalling with the words of Anne Matheson, echoing the sentiments of many letters to the editors of newspapers over the years. While there are those who defend the rights of cat owners to let them roam, the overwhelming scientific evidence is that cats contained on their owners premises, and restrained when out, are better off for all concerned.
Cats numbers are on the rise, especially in the bush, where they don’t belong, while native wildlife is on the decline, with some species on the brink of extinction. The number one culprit is feral cats and roaming domestic cats – in the latter case, that are feeding the number of ferals when domestic cats owners abandon their cats in irresponsible ways by dumping them in the bush.
Under the heading: Minister’s cat curfew a vital step to saving native species (SMH, September 7, 2023) Anne writes:
I described myself as a “cat person” until I volunteered for WIRES and witnessed the terrible slow painful death from cat bites (“Plibersek wages war on cats as 48 species join risk list”, September 7). Rescued animals need antibiotics within a few hours to prevent septicaemia – blood poisoning. It was a race to collect the animal and get it to a vet, then came the waiting and hoping. Some volunteers refused to take cat attacks as the outcome was usually heartbreaking. Cats can make wonderful companions but they kill native animals at night. Legislation is the only way to stop the backyard carnage. Hats off to Tanya Plibersek. Anne Matheson, Gordon
Click on the link to read the other letters to the editor.
The issue around roaming domestic cats is not limited to any geographical region. While the primary concern for MHCS is Munibung Hill and surround bushland areas, the problem stretches right across the country, as this story indicates: Feral cat strategy welcomed as regional WA towns experience ‘explosion’ in numbers, by Rosemary Murphy and Andrew Collins (ABC Pilbara, Fri 8 Sep 2023).
Carnarvon resident Narelle Kenny regularly heads out to the areas she describes as hotspots and sets pedal trigger traps to capture feral cats.
“Each suburb ends up with a hotspot, and it’s not particular people that are creating that hotspot, it’s usually a zone where they’ve got shelter,” she said.
“The last big run was like 60 [feral cats] out of two different properties.
.. The federal government has released a draft feral cat action plan;
.. Feral cat numbers have surged in the Carnarvon region;
.. Local rangers captured 27 feral cats in two months.
The extent of the problem is highlighted by this report from the southern town of Esperance: WA government urged to reform law to stop pet cats wandering, as millions pledged to kill ferals, by Emily JB Smith and Teri Campbell (ABC Esperance, Fri 30 Jun 2023).
Esperance’s Darren Darch says pygmy possums are among the animals at risk from cats. (ABC Esperance: Emily Smith)
This report demonstrates that the issue is gaining traction and for a change, is not being ignored by the commercial media networks: Australian government declares ‘war’ on feral cats, by Adam Vidler. (Nine, Sep 7, 2023). Adam writes:
Feral cats have played a role in two thirds of mammal extinctions over the past 200 years and currently threaten over 200 nationally listed threatened species, including the greater bilby, numbat, and Gilbert’s potoroo.
Recent global research found that cats were the most destructive invasive alien species in Australia by far, with Flinders University estimating they caused about $19 billion of damage each year.
As well as killing native animals themselves, feral cats also compete with native predators for food and can carry deadly diseases.