Curfews Could be Used in Australia’s War on Feral Cats

Curfews Could be Used in Australia’s War on Feral Cats
A feral cat sitting on a sandbag barricade Cyprus' capital, Nicosia, on Feb. 17, 2017. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP via Getty Images)
Jessie Zhang
9/8/2023
Updated:
9/8/2023
0:00

The Australian government will deploy a range of measures in its war against feral cats.

Felines have contributed to the deaths of millions of native species including including reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said native animals had little chance of survival if action was delayed.

“We are declaring war on feral cats. And today, we are setting up our battle plan to win that war,” Ms. Plibersek stated on Sep. 7.
Feral cats are the same species as domestic cats, however, they live and reproduce in the wild and survive by hunting or scavenging.

The $60 million (US$38 million) action plan will incorporate innovative technology, such as the Felixer cat grooming trap. This humane and automated tool employs AI technology to identify and spray feral cats with toxic gels. As the cat grooms itself, it licks and ingests the poison, and then dies.

Additionally, the government intends to expand cat-free islands and havens through legislation to halt the spread of this “walking, stalking, ruthless killer.”

Ecology Professor Sarah Legge, who contributed to the draft plan, warned that without serious measures, iconic native wildlife like bilbies, numbats, and night parrots could disappear forever.

A bilby in the Bilby Enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia on April 20, 2014. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
A bilby in the Bilby Enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia on April 20, 2014. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
“The environmental toll from cats cannot be understated. They are responsible for the deaths of an estimated two billion native mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs every year and have driven over 25 of our native species to extinction,” Legge said in a release.
“Cats are one of the main reasons Australia is the mammal extinction capital of the world,” Ms. Plibersek added.

Cat Curfews

The Australian government is also considering cat curfews for pet cats and evaluating whether councils should have increased authority to enforce such curfews.

“Most cat owners are very responsible, they keep their cats indoors, but people who are letting their cats wander at night get little gifts on the doorstep quite often, and that’s a real threat to our native animals,” Ms. Plibersek told 2GB radio.

“We really would like people to keep the cats inside, particularly at night. So we’re consulting on where the council should be given more powers to do that.”

When asked whether she is ready to face backlash from cat owners with this move, Ms. Plibersek, who has two dogs, argued that between curfews and poisoning cats, curfew were the lesser evil.

“There’s nothing humane about the six animals that are being killed by the average cat every night in Australia,” she noted.

Feral cat with sugar glider in Barry Brook, Tasmania. (Courtesy of Invasive Species Council.)
Feral cat with sugar glider in Barry Brook, Tasmania. (Courtesy of Invasive Species Council.)

“Think about how efficient those cats are at hunting a bird, bat, mouse, or frog. Feral cats have played a role in two-thirds of mammal extinctions in Australia.”

While the new plan is under development, the government is swiftly taking action to combat the impact of feral cats, investing in programs including $4 million to eradicate feral cats from Christmas Island and dedicating $2.273 million towards the French Island feral cat eradication program.

Further, the government is finding safer and more effective methods to reduce feral cat populations, including a $400,000 investment in feral cat bait for use in northern Australia that poses no harm to native animals.

Cat Coalition

However, states and territory governments have yet to unite on their feral cat policies, said Jack Gough, policy analyst and advocacy manager for the Invasive Species Council, which dampens progress.

“In Victoria for example, the ban on the use of baiting to control feral cats is putting wildlife at risk and undermining the plan to eradicate cats on French Island to protect endangered bandicoots and shore birds,” Mr. Gough said.

Furthermore, the states of New South Wales and Western Australia “have an archaic situation where local governments cannot implement basic cat curfew laws for pet cats due to outdated state laws.”

“I want to see a feral cat-free Australia. If we are serious about protecting our precious threatened species, then we have to tackle one of their biggest killers,” Ms. Plibersek said.

“If we don’t act now, our native animals don’t stand a chance.”

Jessie Zhang is a reporter based in Sydney, Australia, covering news on health and science.
twitter
Related Topics