Imagine a world without cats. Should they be ‘phased out’?

Susanna Freymark

Cats kill. It’s natural for them to hunt.

Feral cats are already a serious threat to wildlife but should domestic cats be allowed to roam freely outside?

While no state in Australia has a mandatory cat curfew, the RSPCA NSW is running a Keeping Cats Safe at Home project across 11 councils including Kyogle Council to promote keeping cats contained.

The project received a $2.5 million grant from the State Government through its Environmental Trust.

Feral cats are the same species as domestic cats but they live and reproduce in the wild and survive by hunting or scavenging.

According to the Federal Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, feral cats threaten the survival of more than 100 native species in Australia. They are a major cause of decline for many land-based endangered animals such as the bilby, bandicoot, bettong and numbat.

A woman in Casino, who asked not to be named, has three cats by accident – they were all rescued.

“I do love cats but hadn’t intended to get any because I also love birds and wildlife and my garden is full of both,” she said.

She has a radical solution.

“I think cats should be phased out in this country.

“Stop pet shops from selling them and stop backyard breeders.

“We do not need cats and the only way we have got a hope of addressing the feral cat and wildlife extinction problem is to not be producing more cats.”

Cat owners are not going to like this suggestion. Most owners keep their cats inside at night and many keep them contained all the time and use outside cages to give their pet some fresh air without them being a threat to birds, small mammals and reptiles.

Cat owner Simone Simpson said the evidence was clear.

“Keep your cats inside, provide them with an outdoor run. Win for cats and win for wildlife. Anything less is irresponsible cat ownership.”

More than half of cat owners are doing this. RSPCA reported 60% of cats in NSW were already living safe at home.

Tony Leggo’s cat cage. Photo: Contributed

Here’s what local cat owners had to say:

I have owned cats. They really do need to be kept away from wildlife so I suggest a cat pen/outside cage. I have seen people add a doggy door to a wall and have the cage attached by a small, enclosed walkway. The cats can go out daily and enjoy being outdoors while keeping birds, possums  safe from them. Just add a kitty litter tray and it’s all good. –Jan McGennisken

I have a cat and he is permanently indoors. I used to take him outdoors on a harness which is a great method. –Allison Duffy

I have five ragdolls and they are all inside, they are all happy. I don’t have to worry about them been run over or some things fighting with them. –Debbie Lee

Our 15 year old cat has always been an inside cat with supervised visits outside since she was eight weeks old. We’ve never had to worry about her hunting or getting run over. She has plenty of toys to keep her stimulated, and dogs to ‘hunt’. She’s happy, healthy and extremely spoilt and her servants (us) never need to worry about her safety. –Meagan Dobbie

All cats will hunt at any time given the chance. Keep your cats inside or in an enclosure to protect our native animals. –Hatz Despina

Only one place for cats – totally contained indoors with outside enclosed run or window box. I have seven and only one was an indoor cat from birth (and feral). Within three weeks they go from outdoor moggy to couch potato. –Cheryl Stephan

I just wish people would take some ownership, cause on my street it’s fight night almost every night on my back patio. And I don’t even own cats. –Amanda Barton

Our cat is an inside cat but she loves going for a walk on a leash every afternoon. –Janessa Allan

Our two cats are inside unless outside with us during the day when we are outside. We have ensured they can’t get under or over our fence. This is so they are not roaming and killing animals or annoying neighbours but also so I know they are safe as roads and that are so dangerous. I couldn’t live with myself if they got run over. –Jade N Geoff Stevens

I have an enclosure for my cats but I still have to keep an eye out – critters still get in there with them! Mine roamed free during daylight hours in Sydney but it is too dangerous here. –Joanne G Sutton

I think the curfew hours are stupid. I’m a responsible cat owner whose cats are in the majority of the night, but both my cats are going to literally tear the house apart and wake everyone up if they can’t go out at 5am. –Alicia Mison

I’ve got a cat net on my balcony she had free rain of the balcony she loves it . –Debbie Dolman-Glen

Whilst this won’t be a popular response, cats are responsible for so much destruction of native wildlife and should not be outside purely from an environmental and wildlife perspective. I love cats and have two of my own but would encourage you to chat to wildlife protection agencies to get the statistics on the carnage cats have done to our native wildlife. Sarah Beaman

I am a cat owner. I hate when people leave their cats out at night. You can run a cat and exercise it like a dog. Dawn and dusk are no nos for cats. I do let mine outside but usually supervised.-Marion Conrow

I have two cats, have always had cats as pets since I was a child, and unless they are on a harness and leash or in an enclosure, cats do NOT belong outside, period. Australian wildlife and ecosystems are too endangered and fragile. – Snowdonia Booth

We have a cat who is an inside cat and is allowed outside in her enclosure so she can safely observe nature. – Tony Leggo

I have videos of my cats sharing their food with butcher birds except one who is rather afraid of the birds. Mine are out or in it is their choice as I live rural and well off the road so I don’t have the risk of them being killed. –Katrina Sundstrom

Helen Small keeps her cats in a purpose-built catio.

“I also have a six foot Colourbond fence to keep my fur babies in my yard. This was a decision made after losing cats to a well travelled country road. It now means they are still safe even if they escape from the house. And I have cat flaps installed so they can still get back inside in case they do find themselves outside.

I also have enough Oz-Pet (local Woodburn company) environmentally friendly litter trays (1 for each cat plus 1 for the house) so they don’t have to go outside to toilet.

There are a number of different cat enclosures and cat runs on the market to satisfy differing requirements.

Too many people still remember how animals were treated last century and consider that the norm. Times and animal welfare attitudes have changed.

Too many animals allowed to roam these days don’t even have microchips to ensure they get back to their human guardians in case they become lost or injured … or even sadly killed (despite it now being a legal requirement.) The floods made it quite evident how useful it was to allow microchipped animals to be reunited with their distraught family.

This is what has been done so far with the Keeping Cats Safe at Home project:

● 200 heat and motion detection cameras have been deployed for a cat and wildlife ecology research project

● A social science research project has surveyed 9,000 people about cats in the community.

● Five targeted free cat desexing programs have been launched with our council partners and volunteer branches that have already desexed and microchipped 126 cats.

Read more about the RSPCA’s project.

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