Because of the supposed devastation carried out by domestic cats as they wander around the neighbourhood, an ‘expert’, Professor Sarah Legge from the Australian National University, has suggested that domestic cats should be kept inside the home all the time. This might take the form of keeping the cat inside the home itself or building an enclosure attached to the home. Either way it’s about cat confinement because they say, as they usually say, that pet cats in Australia kill 75 animals per cat per year which you have to add to the estimated devastation carried out by feral cats on native species on the Australian continent.
I’m not sure where they get their figures from but they claim, as reported on the Daily Mail website, that the average, well fed and well cared for domestic cat kills 75 creatures of various types annually. They say that they do this over a range of about four hectares around their homes. This appears to be quite a lot larger than the average home range of domestic cats in the UK.
The only way to protect wildlife is to keep cats indoors at all times. They argue that domestic cats are perfectly happy to be indoors provided you stimulate them with play et cetera.
The Australia researcher says that putting bells on cats or placing bibs on collars does not help protect wildlife in the long run.
The source of this information appears to be Professor Legge who has written a book called Cats in Australia: Companion and Killer. She claims that collectively, feral domestic cats kill more than 3 million mammals, 2 million reptiles and 1 million birds in Australia every day.
I’d like to see where this data comes from to be honest. I have consistently said that the Australian authorities don’t know the rate of killing by cats because they don’t know how many cats particularly feral cats are in Australia. In addition any estimate is based upon small-scale studies which are then extrapolated to cover the entire continent of Australia. This is a dodgy thing to do if you are looking for accuracy.
There are many advocates of keeping cats indoors at all times. Many live in Australia and particularly in America. Apparently one third of domestic cats in Australia are full-time indoor cats. It interesting that in the UK nobody is up in arms about domestic cats killing animals. In the UK about 99% of domestic cats are allowed to wander outside. It is an entirely different attitude and I am not sure where it comes from.
It is also interesting that in Australia there is constant pressure by commercial enterprises to damage the habitat of wild species. A classic example might be the government approved logging trial underway in Murray Valley National Park. This is arguably logging by stealth and it will damage the park and therefore it must damage the habitat of wildlife living in this reserve. It is contradictory of the authorities in Australia to on the one hand bleat on about domestic and feral cats killing wildlife while on the other hand allowing themselves the privilege of destroying wildlife by destroying their habitat. It’s inconsistent and hypocritical.
Prof Legge debunks the methods by which cat owners think that they protect wildlife from wandering domestic cats. There are various cat products which are intended to do this. There are coloured collars which scare birds away before cats can get at them. We know about bells which are also meant to scare birds off. There are also colourful large bibs which hang from domestic cat’s neck’s. I think this is meant to make the cats more visible to pray so that prey disappears before the cat arrives.
The professor says that these methods are not very effective. I’m not seen any studies or research on how effective or ineffective they are, by the way.
There are also suggestions about keeping cats inside at night as an alternative way to proceed. She says this is not a good idea because you end up replacing night prey such as mammals with day prey such as birds.
The professor agrees with TNR programs it seems to me because she believes that sterilising cats must keep the numbers down which therefore keeps down the hunting of prey by feral and domestic cats. However, TNR has not been supported by the local authorities and the federal government in Australia. They think it’s too ineffective and perhaps too difficult to manage but it would be a solution if they got to grips with it on a large scale. My biggest problem with the information that comes out of Australia about the predation of native species by cats is that it is contradictory and hypocritical as mentioned above.