'Keeping Cats Safe at Home' launched to protect native wildlife

CUTE BUT KILLER: On average a domestic cats kill 115 native prey animals each year. Photo: RSPCA
CUTE BUT KILLER: On average a domestic cats kill 115 native prey animals each year. Photo: RSPCA

Cats may be cute and cuddly at home, but to native wildlife they can be cruel killers.

To help protect the area's wildlife the Northern Beaches Council will take part in the new state government 'Keeping Cats Safe at Home' initiative.

Under the program, the RSPCA will engage with 10 councils across the state and provide education for communities on the importance of containing cats at home.

State Environment Minister Matt Kean announced the program over the weekend. He said easy year domestic cats in Australia kill an estimated 67 million native mammals, 83 million native reptiles and 80 million native birds.

"We all love living close to bushland and even though we love our pets, we know native species and domestic cats don't coexist well, so we need to make sure our native wildlife is protected," he said.

Marita Macrae from the Pittwater Natural Heritage Association said, in the northern beaches, small reptiles and mammals like bandicoots, bush rats and swamp rats are at risk of cat attacks. Native birds are also especially vulnerable.

"There's one particular bird that's very vulnerable called a spotted pardalote. It feeds right up in the top of trees, mostly eucalypts, but strangely enough it nests by digging a burrow on the ground, where they're very exposed to cats," she said.

Studies estimate each roaming pet cat in Australia kills 115 native prey animals each year. Ms Macrae said cats often go out at night without their owners realising and can travel long distances to hunt.

"They don't often need to eat, they're usually very well fed, but they just can't resist chasing things that move. It's how they are."

They just can't resist chasing things that move. It's how they are.

Marita Macrae

In 2019 a cat was the "prime suspect" in the death of two little penguins in Manly after cameras caught it prowling around the area.

RSPCA NSW CEO Steve Coleman said the program was designed to educate communities on responsible cat ownership so both feline friends and native wildlife can live "longer, happier, healthier lives."

"We are excited to be working with our council partners and communities closely over the next four years to initiate real change in the way people care for cats as companion animals," he said.

Ms Macrae said the Pittwater Natural Heritage Association is "very happy" the Northern Beaches council is on board with the RSPCA scheme and hopes it will keep both cats and native animals safer.

"We're very pleased that it's happening and it gives authority to what we would like done if the RSPCA and council and scientists are all saying the same thing," she said.

The other nine councils involved in the program are: Blue Mountains City Council, Byron Shire Council, Shoalhaven City Council, Campbelltown City Council, Tweed Shire and Kyogle Councils, City of Parramatta, Walgett Shire Council, Hornsby Shire Council and Weddin Shire Council.

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