Cats Gone Wild

Protecting Native Species from Your Pet

Your furry, feline friend is a natural born killer. Anyone who has seen their cat in “hunting mode” can testify to the absolute skill in catching even the speediest of prey. While fascinating to observe, the cat’s prowess as a hunter poses serious problems for Australia’s native birds, mammals and amphibians.

In a recent report by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), it was estimated that a minimum of 75 million native animals are killed daily by cats. Feral cats – domestic cats gone wild – take approximately 5-30 native species each night.

These often include rare mammals, such as bilbies and numbats.

But domestic cats living in the city, too, are unrelenting in their pursuit of unique Australian fauna.

Former Annandale resident Mia von Kolpakow recounts her cat’s habit of dragging in the local Striped Marsh Frogs.

“The frogs would make this horrible high pitched noise and my dad would run downstairs and rescue them, and put them in a plastic container with water,” she said.

“We would take them down to the local wetlands.”

Domestic cats have also been known to deposit gifts of once superb – now dead – Fairy Wrens on the doorsteps of their teary-eyed owners.

Most of Australia’s wildlife is found nowhere else in the world, making its conservation even more important. Sadly, however, our extinction rates are extraordinarily high, with thirty native mammals already become extinct since European settlement, and thousands more listed as being at risk of extinction.

The Leichhardt area alone contains over 80 species of native animals – birds, reptiles, frogs, mammals and fish – including an endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoots.

Cats are one of the main threats to these species, and it is our responsibility to ensure they are kept under control. There are easy steps that you can take to minimise your cat’s harmful impact on the environment.

All cats should be registered, desexed and microchipped. This prevents your cat from escaping and becoming a bushranger.

Consider an outdoor enclosure to contain your cat. Otherwise, keep your cat indoors, at least between dusk and dawn, when many native animals are most active.

Cats should also have a collar with two bells attached to alert wildlife – although, many bird enthusiasts maintain that cat bells do not work. A recent study found an interesting alternative to the bell – putting a brightly coloured, scrunchie-like collar on your cat.  Birds were able to detect feline predators from further away, due to the vibrant neckwear, which reduced the amount of native wildlife killed by more than half.

Or perhaps your current cat should simply be your last.

Words by Lucia Moon