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Are cat curfews the way of the future?

The Mannigham Council, northeast of Melbourne, will be the latest to apply a 24 hour curfew to domestic cats when new rules come into force in April 2024.

The trend in recent years to restrict cat freedom is mainly driven by :

  • a desire to protect native birds and small animals from cat predation
  • neighbour complaints such as noise, damage to property and fouling of gardens and play areas
  • concerns for the health of free-roaming cats which have a shorter lifespan and greater exposure to disease.

The 2022 report, Australian Government response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy report: Tackling the feral cat pandemic also provided a new impetus to the control of domestic cats. It reported that they were a significant contributor to wildlife loss and recommended curfew and containment programs.(1)

Action from local governments have been mixed. While micro-chipping is almost universal and registration is common, regulations to contain cats within household boundaries apply in only about one-quarter of councils.

State governments have also failed to pass legislation that supports the adoption of curfews. While some States are keen to get on, others, notably Queensland, are badly lagging.

When it applies its 24 hour curfew, Manningham will join, for example, the ACT, Adelaide Hills Council (SA), Knox City Council (VIC), Bruny Island (TAS) and Kangaroo Island (SA).

About one-third of owners already contain their cats full time but resistance by other cats owners can be strong.  Cats have traditionally been an easy option for pet ownership, sometimes just feed and forget. The extra thought and expense required to contain cats and then provide the necessary stimulation and exercise to keep them healthy can be a major change.

The Manningham Council will be attempting to bring the community along with it.

“We will be focused on community awareness and education on the benefits of cat confinement prior to and during the amnesty period before moving towards compliance and enforcement” said Manningham Mayor, Councillor Carli Lange.

As well as an extended amnesty and review period, the Council is engaging in an extensive information campaign and providing web resources for cat owners facing the transition.

Hopefully we can look to to a future where care for our cats can live alongside our care for native animals.

If you’d like to read more, check out The management of cats by local governments in Australia: summary of national survey results

(1) CSIRO research reports that, on average, each roaming, hunting pet cat in Australia kills 40 native reptiles, 38 native birds and 32 native mammals per year.

Are cat curfews the way of the future? Read More »

Is your next cat a stay-at-home cat?

Many cat owners choose to contain their cat within their house or yard.

They understand that contained cats live, on average, about one third longer with road accidents, falls from high places, entrapment and accidental poisoning causing many injuries or deaths.  Cats can range widely and territorial disputes among felines are common, leading to injuries including abscesses that require treatment by a vet.

Legal restrictions on cats’ roaming

But in a growing number of locations in Australia, cat owners may no longer have the option to let their cats roam freely.

Since the publication of the Commonwealth Government’s Report of the inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia, local governments are increasingly restricting the freedom of domestic cats to roam. In Canberra now it can cost you $1,600 to retrieve a cat caught off your property at any time and similar regimes are in place in local government areas from Hobart to Adelaide and, soon to be, in Western Australia.

In addition to 24 hour curfews, many other councils are instituting penalties for cats caught off-property during nighttime hours.

Driving this is the large number of native animals that are killed by free-ranging cats. Predation by cats is responsible for the loss of 1.6 billion native animals every year. Feral cats are reportedly responsible for some 1.4 billion of this number. The Commonwealth report estimated that about one million animals were killed by Australia’s 3.8 million pet cats each day.

But local councils are also responding to problems raised by ratepayers like damage to property, noise and the fouling of private gardens and children’s play-spaces.

The health upside

But these compulsory curfews may have health benefits for contained cats and their owners.

Roaming cats spread diseases. Some of these, like fleas or ringworm, are unpleasant but only inconvenient. In other cases cats may being home diseases that are harmful to other cats in the household or even, like cat-scratch disease and toxoplasmosis, dangerous to humans.

A different way of being

In the face of this trend many of us will have to adapt to a different way of being with our cats.

Cats born and raised in a closed environment seem to accept it happily enough. Cat owners have used great ingenuity in adapting their particular back yards and other places to give cats a space in which to get stimulation and exercise. But contained kitties also may require extra time and effort on the part of the owner to engage and provide entertainment and diversion.

The perception of cats as a ’feed and forget’ pet is less true now than ever.

As the legal and social pressures to contain pet cats continue to grow, we will explore the implications and issues for you and your cat in future posts.

May you both enjoy a healthy and happy 2023!

Is your next cat a stay-at-home cat? Read More »