How you can protect native wildlife from your pet cat
IT’S TRUE THAT domestic cats aren’t having the same impacts on Australia’s native wildlife as feral cats, but there are still plenty of ways that you can reduce any fatalities.
According to ornithologist John Woinarski, who recently completed a monumental study that found that cats kill more than a million Australian birds a day, responsible pet ownership is key.
“It’s great that people have pets because it gives them the opportunity to have empathy with animals. It makes us appreciate and understand their value. Keeping cats is fine but it needs to be done responsibly,” he tells Australian Geographic.
Keeping your pet occupied
John says that cats can lead satisfying lives when contained. But owners need to provide adequate stimulation,, whether that is through cat scratches, toys or play.
“Containment actually has many benefits for your cat: it reduces the likelihood that it will pick up disease, collide with a vehicle or abscond.
“It’s not a matter of secluding them; it’s about providing a rich environment in the home so they don’t need to go outdoors. It shouldn’t be seen as restricting their freedoms.”
Bells don’t work as well as you may think
Many products such as bells have been trialled for their potential to prevent wildlife deaths, but John says there’s very little evidence that they’re as effective as they’re made out to be.
Cat bibs, on the other hand, seem to be more effective in that they interfere with the timing and coordination a cat requires to catch its prey. However, John says that any such mechanisms aren’t as effective as containment.
Look after the health of your cat
“There are so many diseases that spread from cats to wildlife,” John says, the worst being a parasite known as Toxoplosmosis, which is only treatable through early detection and antibiotics.
Getting your cat vaccinated and regularly taking it for check ups is advised.
Desexing is also necessary. It will assure that you aren’t contributing to the enormous population of stray cats and unwanted kittens.
If you have a backyard that is often full of wildlife, it’s important to keep your pet cat inside.
“It is unlikely that nature will survive in its wonderful profusion if you allow yor pet cat to roam unchecked,” John says.
“Any cat that is allowed to run free day or night will kill native wildlife, hungry or not.”
If you regularly interact with the wildlife in your backyard it’s important to secure the areas they frequent.
“If you have bird baths you need to position them in a way that minimises the likelihood of cats killing birds that you’re attracting.
“You’re almost luring them into their deaths if you have a bird bath accessible to cats, so if you can’t find safe place, consider removing them.”
Love and care
Last but not least, stay committed.
John says that one of the most basic things to remember is that pet ownership is a big responsibility and will require a lot of love and care.
“If you’re taking on a household pet and not giving it attention, love and especially food it will misbehave.”