Another nail in the coffin of free-roaming domestic cats?

NEWS AND ANALYSIS: if you read the online news media on the subject of cats as I have over more than a decade you have to notice a very gradual trend towards domestic cat confinement to protect wildlife. Attitudes are changing. There’s no doubt about this trend which has been accelerated by the public’s increased sensitivity to pollution of the environment and climate change. The damage that the domestic cat does to wildlife is simply an adjunct to the greater damage that humans do to the planet. Perhaps also humans find it too hard to change their ways and therefore have to pass the buck to another species to convince themselves that they’re doing something about the environment.

Domestic cats generally love free-roaming but are oblivious to the dangers, often human created. The photo is in the public domain.

The Netherlands

That’s the introduction and the news today is that the Netherlands appear to be planning a trial to force cat owners to keep their cats inside which may lead the way, and I’m guessing here, to a nationwide change in the relationship between cat owners and their pets to the point where Dutch cats are kept inside or resticted in some way going forward. Althoug this sort of change takes a long time. I wouldn’t expect real change in under 15 years.

The Dutch news media report that Prof Chris Smit and law lecturer Arie Trouwborst have called for legal action concerning cat ownership in The Netherlands because of their impact on birds and reptiles and of course small mammals.

Prof Smit confirmed that plans are being made for a test case. He is looking for a suitable party (an NGO) to get the ball rolling. He cites the European Bird and Habitat Directives which oblige countries to do their best to protect wildlife. His argument is that allowing domestic cats to roam and kill wildlife is a breach of their obligations under these directives.

Directives

The EU Birds and Habitats Directives are an ambitious European initiative in wildlife conservation to protect Europe’s natural heritage. The objective is to stop the decline in biodiversity and to recover species’ populations and habitats to allow them a future going forward.

These directives are the cornerstone of European legislation on nature conservation. They enable all 28 member states to work together within the same legal framework. The birds directive was adopted in 1979 with the objective of protecting all wild birds and their habitats across the EU. The habitats directive was adopted 13 years later in 1992. This extends the conservation to about 1,000 threatened species of animals and plants regarded as “species of European importance”. The directive also protects about 230 rare habitat types. The EU wants to maintain and restore species and habitat to a “favourable conservation status”.

Comment

As I recall, this is the first time that a European country has discussed keeping cats inside. Australia and America lead the way. America has been confining domestic cats for quite a long time voluntarily. Quite a significant proportion of cat owners do it. Australia is trying to enact legislation to confine domestic cats on a state-by-state basis or restrict cat ownership in various ways such as curfews. Countries like the UK are very far from taking this stance against domestic cats freeroaming. It will be many years before a UK government considers enacting legislation to confine domestic cats. Freeroaming cats are deeply ingrained in the cultural heritage of Great Britain it seems. It is the Anglo Saxon way. Britain is doing badly on wildlife conservation. For instance all the UK’s rivers and lakes fail the pollution tests for chemical pollution and 84% do meet the government’s target for good ecological status (The Times).

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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