Cats have evolved as predators, and hunting is a natural instinct for them. Unfortunately, in Australia, our unique native wildlife has not been able to adapt to introduced predation by cats. As a result, large numbers of birds, mammals and reptiles are killed or injured by cats. This could see extinction for several species.
While the desire to hunt is not as strong in some breeds of cats (such as the Persian), almost all cats have an instinct to hunt and kill wildlife – even well fed domestic pets. Studies have estimated that the average pet cat kills at least 25 native animals every year. Wildlife that are not killed immediately by an attack almost certainly die within 36 hours from shock or infection from bacteria in cats’ mouths. Cats also carry Toxoplasmosis, a disease that can spread to entire populations of native animals, with devastating effects.
How Cat Lovers Can Protect Wildlife
You can be a cat lover, and protect native wildlife at the same time!
It is possible to place reflective disks and a bell on the cat’s collar. However, bells do not stop the cat hunting wildlife, and will only give animals sufficient warning to escape an attack in one out of three cases.
By far the best approach, and the only sure way to prevent predation, is simply to keep cats indoors or in a cat enclosure on your property.
If you must let your cat outside please remember the most important time to confine your cat is at night. Cats are most active between dusk and dawn, which coincides with the activity period of many native animals.
There are many other good reasons to confine your cat at night too – around 80% of accidents involving cats occur at night. Cats allowed to roam can be killed or injured through car accidents and fights with other animals. They may contract fatal diseases such as Feline AIDS, or be more likely to require veterinary attention for fleas, ticks, worms, abscesses, cuts, diarrhoea and other illnesses. They may also get lost, or join an unowned cat colony.
For these reasons, cats kept inside generally live a lot longer than cats that are not confined. The wildlife and cat safety benefits are even greater in the case of cats that are kept inside or in an enclosure both day and night.
If you would like more information, ask your Council to send you a comprehensive information sheet on cat confinement that outlines:
- The various options for confining cats (e.g. different types of enclosures);
- How to meet your cat’s needs and keep it happy and contented when confined;
- How to train a cat to accept partial or permanent confinement;
- How to train cats to walk on a harness and leash.