Cat crackdown

Cats are good for your health, but are having a devastating impact on our wildlife.

A MELVILLE councillor pushing for stricter cat control laws would like to follow Cockburn’s lead and see them only allowed out on a leash.

Cr Karen Wheatland has put a new Melville cat strategy on the agenda for the February 16 council meeting, but says she hasn’t yet canvassed colleagues to see whether they’d support such drastic measures or whether Fremantle’s slightly tamer law banning moggies from sensitive bushland reserves was more likely to get approved.

Cr Wheatland said she was ready to go last year because of the growing recognition of the impact of domestic cats on wildlife, but plans to adopt a policy to coincide with updates to the state’s 2011 Cat Act fell through.

“Everything was delayed because of Covid, but I decided at the end of last year that this shouldn’t be held off any longer. We needed a cat strategy,” she said.

While her own cat is a confirmed homebody, Cr Wheatland says she’s had one that pined all night if left indoors, so she’s aware of the frustration some owners will face.

But she’s definitely pro-moggie, saying they offer great benefits to owners; in fact her plans to restrict their freedom would ensure owners got to enjoy them longer, as cars, fighting and disease rob straying cats of a few of their nine lives.

Studies have found cats can help ease the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, while the hertz frequency of a purr can be therapeutic.

Despite the positives, federal government-funded research published last year estimated that domestic cats killed around 230 million native animals, birds and reptiles every year.

Out of an estimated 3.9 million domestic cats in Australia, 71 per cent are permitted to go outside, resulting in nuisance behaviour such as fighting, waste caused from the marking of territory and disease transmission.

“This isn’t about targeting cats or the people that own them, it’s about protecting both cats and wildlife through raising awareness and education,” Cr Wheatland said.

She said an important part of the strategy would be educating cat owners about measures they could take to limit their cat’s behaviour, such as enclosures for the backyard.

The strategy follows both Fremantle and Cockburn councils who last year adopted similar cat management plans.

Cockburn’s Animal Management and Exercise Plan notably aims to confine cats to their owners’ property by 2025.  

Melville’s proposed strategy will also contain cat prohibited areas, controls on nuisance behaviour, limiting the number of cats at any one premise and the regulation of approved breeders. 

“Our councils are all part of the South West Group who have a strategy ready to go, but we can’t make new laws that are not in the current Cat Act,” said Cr Wheatland.

Western Australia’s Cat Act 2011 requires all domestic cats under six months old must be sterilised, microchipped and registered with the owner’s local council, but there is a lack of strategies in place to protect local fauna from domestic cats.”

By PIP WALLER

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