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.