The Federal Government has “declared war” on feral cats in an attempt to limit their harm to Australia’s wildlife.
Feral cats are believed to kill billions of native animals every year.
The Government’s new action plan aims to target feral cats through measures like baiting, hunting, and ensuring responsible pet ownership practices.
Feral cats in Australia
Australia’s feral cat population is estimated to be between 1.4 and 6.3 million. They are found mostly in regional or rural areas.
Feral cats are thought to be responsible for the deaths of 2.6 billion native animals each year. They’re behind the decline of over 200 threatened species, including the endangered bilby and some species of bandicoot.
The action plan aims to help threatened animals recover their population numbers by stopping the spread of feral cats in Australia and managing their current populations.
Feral cat measures
The action plan includes direct measures to reduce feral cat numbers like hunting, shooting, and baiting.
It also suggests a number of indirect approaches, like building fences to exclude cats from native species habitats and possibly maintaining or re-establishing dingo populations.
Dingoes are a native predator to cats, but there are risks to other native animals if dingo populations grow too large.
The measures would also extend to pet owners, with local laws proposed as a way to enforce responsible cat ownership practices like registering and desexing your pet.
This would also include rules around containing the cat to the owner’s property, so it can’t hunt native species.
A cat ban on Australian islands has also been put forward to preserve locations with a ‘cat-free status’.
The RSCPA said they were “reviewing” the Government’s draft plans, and would submit feedback to the proposal after reviewing it in detail.
However, it voiced concerns with several parts of the plans. This included negative welfare impacts and the “demonising” of animals that can be pests.
They said any management of feral cats needs to be “justified, effective, and humane”.
The Government’s action plan is now open to public consultation.
It will accept feedback until December, before further steps will be taken.