Cats make wonderful pets and bring pleasure, health benefits and company to many people. A 2013 survey of Kingborough residents found that 24 per cent of households have cats, with the vast majority owning one or two cats.
Unfortunately cats are also very effective hunters and they represent a significant threat to many Australian native animals.
At least 627,100 native animals are killed in the Kingborough municipality each year from domestic cats alone. Because pet cats live at much higher densities than feral cats, their predation rate (per km2) in residential areas is 28–52 times larger than predation rates by feral cats in natural environments.
Diseases are spread by cats, not only to native animals, but also to livestock and humans. Toxoplasmosis is fatal to a number of Australian herbivores, including, bandicoots, wombats, possums and wallabies.
The cat-borne diseases toxoplasmosis and sarcocystis are a costly problem for Tasmanian livestock producers. Toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriages in sheep, goats and pigs, while sarcocystis creates cysts in the muscle tissue of lamb, making it unsuitable for sale.
Cats also create significant nuisance in the community. These include the smell of cat urine (e.g. on doorsteps or garden furniture) from local cats ‘marking’ their territory and the presence of cat faeces (and the associated health risks) in people’s gardens. Sadly encounters with cats can leave a pet dead or with serious injuries and infections and create a lot of stress for other people’s animals. Roaming cats may also be noisy at night when fighting over territory or when seeking a mate.
With careful management it is possible to better protect and enjoy our pet cats, our environment and our native wildlife.