CATS, BIRDS REPTILES SMALL MAMMALS –
A Disastrous Mix!
This is a topic that raises a lot of heat from the proponents for both sides but one thing is clear, cats and small mammals and reptiles do not mix. Ever since the arrival of the English in 1788, cats have proliferated throughout the landscape.
People valued cats to keep down pests such as rats and mice, and farmers deliberately underfed their cats so that they caught their own food to supplement, and cats were seldom neutered.
Now we are faced with the extinction of many of our small native birds and reptiles. Australia has the distinction of having the highest extinction rate of its endemic species compared with the rest of the world. There are other causes other than cats but I’m afraid cats play a very large part in the mass slaughter. Living in urban areas we can’t do much about the situation in the bush but we can help in our own back yards.
Cat owners are up in arms when any restriction is proposed to limit the free access of their pets to wander at will beyond their owner’s premises. The measures proposed by various authorities, such as keeping cats in at night, neutering or wearing bells, are frequently ignored and very ineffective. Midcoast Council has no rules other than the above suggestions.
Cat lovers have accused me of hating cats. This is not the case. I come from a family in England that always kept cats and we had two when I lived in London. Then on coming to live in central Sydney in the l980s, my young son wanted a cat so we had one; it was 14 years old when I came to live in Gloucester but within a year was dead due to age. However, living here in a small country town I would never again have a cat. My garden is alive with birds and skinks, butterflies and frogs.
I have studied birds and been involved in scientific programs that survey bird populations in various parts of this continent and seen at first hand what is happening. The introduced feral cat and fox are the two worst and most proficient killers of our native creatures and domestic cats still kill. We have to face the fact that cats cannot be allowed to wander freely and breeding must be limited to responsible groups. Councils need to take steps to encourage and support cat owners in properly caring for and limiting their pet cats’ movements. The present suggestion to keep them in at night does not work – cats hunt day and night, birds sleep at night and forage by day. Cats have never become domesticated like dogs and retain all the natural instincts of their species. Even when well fed they kill and often leave the subject of their skill on the owner’s doorstep.
If you are a cat owner, please keep your cat within your premises. Build it a cat run if you have a garden. Most cats kill, even lovely furry friendly (to us) cats, but to avoid losing the small birds that visit our gardens, bring delight to so many, and help reduce insects that bite us or destroy our veggies and flowers, we have to face the facts. Cats kill. Please keep your cat within your home.