Care about your cat? Then keep him or her indoors.
That’s the message being sent by a growing number of municipalities implementing “cat curfews” and other legislation intended to keep cats safe indoors.
Wollondilly Shire, near Sydney, is currently considering a night-time cat curfew. In Victoria’s Yarra Ranges, cats must be kept on their guardians’ property 24 hours a day. Western Australia requires all cats to be desexed and microchipped, and South Australia is implementing a similar law.
Such laws are good for both cats and wildlife.
Free-roaming cats are exposed to many dangers, including contagious diseases, speeding cars, poisons, and attacks by dogs, wildlife, and cruel people. Think your cat just hangs out in and around your yard? Think again. A recent University of South Australia study that tracked more than 400 cats found that most of them travelled more than their owners thought – on average, the length of a football field – and even farther at night.
The many hazards cats face on their outdoor excursions take a heavy toll: the average life span of an “outdoor cat” is just 2 to 5 years, compared with an average of 12 to 15 years for cats who live indoors.
Cats, who are not native to Australia, also pose a serious threat to native wildlife, including endangered mammals, reptiles, and birds. Most cat guardians are in denial about how many animals their cats kill.
One study found that owners see only about 23 per cent of the animals their cats catch. Another in the US estimated that free-roaming cats kill billons of wild animals and birds every year, by far the largest human-caused toll on birds. Cats are the most deadly invasive species in the world, responsible or partly responsible for the extinction of 63 species to date.
“If you want to have a pet cat, keep [him or her] indoors because they are hunters. They are beautiful, they are cute and fluffy but they will kill something”, says ecologist Chantel Benbow.
The best way for cats to enjoy the great outdoors is from the safety of a window or screened porch or from a securely fenced, escape-proof enclosure. If your cat is more adventurous, consider taking him or her for walks with a harness and leash or in a “kitty stroller”.