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 sheep, 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. Learn more about responsible pet cat ownership.
Council is working on a number of projects across Kingborough as below. Each project has a number of initiatives for the community to become involved in, and to consider how we can all better manage cats.
Bruny Island Cat Management
This collaborative project is working to manage the impacts of feral, stray and domestic cats on the island. This is also providing a model for future cat management in other parts of our municipality. Find out more about Cats on Bruny Island.
Cat Tracker Project
The national Cat Tracker Project has provided wonderful insights into the roaming behaviour of pet cats. The project tracked over 400 domestic cats to learn about their behavior and where and how far they roam. The results challenge the common held belief that “my cat doesn’t roam” and helps cat owners make more informed decisions about their cats’ safety.
Information on the Cat Tracker Project and a day in the life of a local cat Tic-Tac: Cat Tracker Project.
Information about the national Cat Tracker project: Discovery Circle website.
Inside with Cats
An audio-visual project that demonstrates the benefits and practicalities of cat containment. Meet our cats, along with their humans, who are embracing life at home. Please share these stories with others and post your own cat containment stories on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #InsideWithCats and tag us in @KingboroughTas. See the Inside with Cats stories.
Feral and stray cats
In the past 200 years Australia has recorded the highest number of mammal species that have suffered major decline or extinction due to invasive predators. The red fox and feral cat have been the most damaging. Globally, cats are listed as one of four invasive species (along with rodents, dogs and pigs) that threaten the greatest numbers of endangered vertebrates.
A feral cat is a cat that lives, feeds and breeds without any input from humans. Feral cats may never see humans during their lives and they are very wary of human contact. Feral cats in Australia are descended from pet cats whose ancestors were released, lost or escaped from their owners. A feral cat is different to a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or wandered from its home, or that has been dumped by its owner(s). Stray cats usually rely on humans for food at least to some extent, even if it is by scavenging from around human settlement and they have at least some tolerance of human presence.
Under some circumstances a stray cat, or more usually its descendants, may become truly feral. Stray cats may of course become pet cats again if they find suitable homes but it is extremely rare for a truly feral cat to ever become a pet.
In 2008 the Tasmanian government estimated that there were 150,000 stray and feral cats in Tasmania. To survive each of these will kill hundreds of native animals each year and the vast majority will be carriers of toxoplasmosis.
The decline of the Tasmanian Devil due to the devil facial tumour disease has led to both an increase in feral cats numbers in Tasmania and the amount of time feral cats are active at night. This further increases the threat to our unique wildlife.
It is estimated that every day feral, stray and domestic cats across Australia kill tens of millions of native animals, including one million native birds.
What to do if you see a feral cat
Please help us to record feral cat sightings so that we can get a better understanding of the distribution and numbers of feral cats.
The best way to do this is to record sightings on the FeralScan App on your smart phone when and where you see them. The App automatically records the location, adds them to a central database and maps the sightings so that everyone can view them.
What do other people think?
A sample of Kingborough residents were randomly surveyed in 2013 about their attitudes towards cat ownership. Of the 406 respondents: 92% supported compulsory micro-chipping of cats; 89% supported limiting the number of cats per household; 85% supported compulsory de-sexing of cats; 82% supported annual cat registration; 79% supported keeping cats confined to the owner’s property between dusk and dawn; 75% supported cat free developments in wildlife sensitive areas; and 84% supported a ‘trap and return’ policy for roaming domestic cats.
More and more Tasmanians are choosing to stop their cats from roaming by keeping them within the house and yard. A 2016 survey by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust was completed by 1580 people – 63.5 % were cat owners, 31.4% were non-cat owners and 5.3% were thinking about getting a cat. The results include:
- Of the cat owners, 48% said they contain their cat/s all the time, 34% contain their cats at night only and only 19% said they never contained their cats.
- 62% of all respondents supported compulsory 24hr containment of cats to the owner’s property, 23% did not support compulsory containment and 15% were unsure.
- For non-cat owners: 92.1 % supported compulsory confinement, 3.9 % did not support it and 4.1 % were unsure. For cat owners: 46% supported compulsory confinement, 33% did not support it and 21.0 % were unsure.
Interestingly, research indicates that the views and behaviours of family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours influence cat-owners’ intentions and behaviours. So don’t underestimate your power when you role model responsible pet cat ownership, or take time to offer support and share your experience. This may well be the greatest contribution you can make in your community on this issue.