Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, recently declared war on feral cats. I thought that Australia had been at war with feral cats for a very long time so this statement came as a surprise to me. They’ve been killing feral cats (and the occasional pet cat or dog) in Australia for many years as a “solution”. It is a kind Australian animal holocaust. It’s actually a reaction to previous human carelessness in allowing feral cats to exist in the first place.
Almost everything that Australia does to tackle the so-called “feral cat problem” is reactive and cruel. ACT is running proactive management of cats both domestic and feral side-by-side with a humanely reactive response namely TNR. That’s the better way forward. Conservationists hate TNR but they’ll have to accept it as the least bad reactive solution.
And it occurred to me that it’s never too late to take proactive steps to prevent the creation of feral cats. It is late because it appears to outsiders that all Australia has been doing for the last 20 years is killing feral cats. It’s a bloodbath and arguably ineffective. Australia won’t get to their goal of zero feral cats by simply killing them. They realise that now.
As a secondary matter, it doesn’t do the country any good to be cruel to animals on such a large scale. It’s bad publicity.
Plibersek hinted at some really good proactive steps and by the way she’s been watching a demonstration of TNR which I like. I hope that she considers it in parallel with proactivity which naturally must include restrictive measures on cat ownership. It is time to manage cat ownership.
There has to be a near hundred percent compliance with excellent domestic cat caregiving standards by all the residents of Australia to end the creation of more feral cats. And if all the residents of Australia don’t want to be excellent and responsible cat caregivers, it is up to the administrators of the 16 states and territories to impose standards upon their citizens.
And a report in The Sydney Morning Herald states that the federal government thinks that local councils should have more power to restrict cat numbers and ban the concept of indoor/outdoor cats and/or impose night-time curfews which means keeping cats indoors at night when they are most likely to hunt. The restrictions should run in parallel with education at a school classroom level on cat caregiving. The young can change attitudes.
These are restrictive measures. They are proactive measures. The way forward is to treat the existing feral cats humanely; stabilise and reduce their numbers over a long period of time (30 years) while in parallel, reduce to near-zero the creation of new feral cats. The shooting and poisoning of feral cats needs to stop.
There needs also to be an acceptance that Australians themselves are killing native mammals, marsupials, reptiles and birds through their commercial activities and expansion of human settlements. They are destroying wildlife habitat either directly or indirectly through activities which promote climate change. A little more humility from the governments of the various states and territories would be helpful because it would engender more humane and proactive approach to dealing with feral cats.
There are those with a more humane stance who find the concept of a “war” against feral cats to be provocative. It implies cruelty and it’s time to stop being cruel to cats because they are victims of human carelessness. They are not the villains.
The head of the Cat Protection Society rightly says that the concept of war against cats encourages cruelty towards cats. This has been going on for a very long time in Australia. The authorities have unwittingly or perhaps deliberately been indoctrinating their residents into believing that feral cats are the enemy to be exterminated. It is time to stop that attitude, think long term, think proactively and when reactive steps need to be taken, they should be conducted humanely.
One last suggestion would be this: keeping cats indoors full-time is acceptable provided the cats’ owners are mandated to enrich the environment in which the cats live. You can’t just close the doors on the cats and keep them captive in an entirely human environment which is sterile to the cats. If councils are going to impose a 24/7 lockdown on domestic cats, they should also write into any animal laws the requirement that cat owners take steps to ensure that their cats are mentally stimulated through a more suitable environment. I would suggest the odd spot check, unannounced, on homes through an inspection service, which would sharpen up the minds of cat owners!
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