Do we need a cat curfew to save our local wildlife?
CLAWS came out when we asked if Byron Shire should impose a cat curfew to safe our local wildlife.
One Byron local sent Byron Shire News a picture of a moggy with a native bush rat in its mouth near the Sunrise Estate in Byron this week which prompted us to ask on social media:
"In Byron Shire we live in an environment chockers with native wildlife. Do we need a curfew here to save our wildlife?”
The 184 who have so far responded are overwhelmingly in favour of cat curfews not only for the safety of wildlife buts also for the wellbeing of cats themselves.
Not all domestic cats kill wildlife but here in Byron Shire nestled in between the coast and the hinterland domestic cats can play havoc.
A new book, Cats in Australia: Companion and Killer spells out the damage done by our feline friends.
Feral cats out in the bush slaughter an alarming 740 animals per year while domestic cats kill about 75 animals annually.
The cold hard fact is that cats kill more than 3 million mammals, 2 million reptiles and 1 million birds every day and have been responsible for around 20 of our mammal extinctions over the last 200 years.
Mount Barker Council in South Australia has just announced it will be cracking down by passing laws restricting the number of cats allowed per propoerty and enforcing an 8pm - 7am curfew on cats.
There will be penalties for owners who do not comply and they are looking at covert surveillance of suspected nuisance cats.
So how do you keep a cat under curfew?
One local vet agreed to speak to us on the condition of anonymity, such is the passion aroused by questions of cat curfews, gave us some practical tips for keeping your cat indoors.
"If you intend keeping your cat indoors its best to do that from a very early age,” the vet said.
"Aside from protecting wildlife, it keeps the cats safe. We get a huge number of cats hit by cars, bitten by snakes and attacked by dogs and it can be very expensive for owners.
"Cats are also more territorial than dogs so it is best to keep just one cat indoors, as there will always be one pining to get out and find their own territory.
The vet recommended plenty of stimulation for indoor cats such as toys and for owners to play with their cats.
"Aside from a large enclosed outdoor run owners could rig up an enclosed cage on a winddow or even a platform near a window so the cats can see outside.
The vet also said there was no evidence that feeding your cat large amounts of red meat would stop them hunting, nor would de-sexing.
Here in Byron Shire the council's Pest Animal Management plan for dealing with feral cats includes a number of tequniques being trialled to control feral cat numbers
But the plan recognises that domestic cats often stray over to the dark side to kill the same way feral cats do noting "there is an absence of strong measures to prevent recruitment (to the feral cat population) from the pet and stray population.”
Domestic cats instead are subject to the Companion Animals Act that states a cat must have identification that enables a local authority to ascertain the name of the cat and the address or telephone number of the owner.