A cat-astrophe waiting to happen!!!

Words: Samantha Ward

Friend or foe?

When you look at your fluffy pet cat curled up beside you on the sofa, do you see a cute companion or a calculating killer?

Cute companion or calculating killer? Credit: Author’s own.

I’m going to assume the former, but now let me ask you this: Do you let your cat outside, even for five minutes a day? If so, unfortunately your feline friend could be the purr-fect example of an apex predator, at the top of the food chain, willing to kill any small creature, whether feathered, scaly, or furry, that may get in its way.

A game of cat and mouse.

Cats are generalist predators, meaning they have a varied diet, and feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. Furthermore, they do not eat everything they kill: often hunting for sport. A study back in 2013 found that only 28% of cat prey items were consumed.

Yes, this may be hugely beneficial if you have a mouse problem in your house…I know my tabby cat saved our larder of food from countless hungry rodents during her 24 long years of life! However, for a country that has such a high rate of endemism, it is extremely problematic for Australia’s wildlife. In addition to this, 30% of Australia’s endangered wildlife can be found in towns and cities, where the majority of domestic cats roam.

Cats are a threat to Australia’s wildlife. Credit: Author’s own.

Due to being raised in the UK the concept of keeping an indoor cat was a little alien to me. What if it gets bored? Will it be staring out of the window at all hours, desperate to be out?

The short answer is no, not if you, the cat owner provides them with entertainment.

Unlike in the UK, Australia’s wildlife has evolved for centuries without this introduced, unnatural predator. This is the same case in New Zealand, where numerous native bird populations have been almost obliterated due to predation by cats and other non-native predators.

New Zealand endemic birds are at risk from introduced predators. Credit: Author’s own.

A trail of destruction…

When left to roam outside domestic cats can leave behind a trail of destruction. Pet cats kill over 61,000,000 birds and 53,000,000 reptiles a year in Australia . No, my ‘0’ key did not get jammed… the numbers really are that staggeringly high!

Not only can it be devastating for the wildlife in your backyard if you allow your cat to roam outside, but it can also be a huge risk for your pet. In Australia almost ¾ of cat owners have lost a cat due to car accidents, fighting with other animals, or getting lost and not returning.

Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife

So, what can you do? Zoos Victoria teamed up with RSPCA Victoria to launch a campaign entitled ‘Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife’ that encourages and supports cat owners to keep their cats indoors. They have created an online ‘cat community’, which can be accessed by visiting http://www.safecat.org.au. This platform provides useful advice, exclusive discounts and cat hacks to keep your cat entertained indoors. Hacks that include using bubble wrap as cat bedding and providing your feline friend with a sprig or two of mint as a tasty treat!

An entertained cat is a happy cat. Credit: Author’s own.

So, if you’re a cat owner consider the benefits of keeping your beloved friend safe within the home. Or if you know someone who owns a cat, please pass on the message:

A safe cat = safe wildlife

It’s a win-win scenario and a good excuse to cuddle your cat, kick back with your kitten, or frolic with your feline! Indoors, of course…