OUR story about Perth ratepayer Adin Lang’s attempts to get the City moving on cat containment laws, and particularly local government minister John Carey’s letter in response that said stray moggies weren’t a big problem at Kings Park, certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. We couldn’t fit all the letters and submissions we received last week, but here’s a couple from big-hitters in the wildlife world.
ROZ ROBINSON is the CEO of Cat Haven, Perth’s most well-known cat shelter, which each years takes in around 7,000 homeless moggies.
THERE is currently a lot of dialogue concerning cat containment amongst various councils and I would like to add Cat Haven’s position to these discussions.
This position statement relates to domestic and unowned cats and does not cover such cats as feral cats, barn cats or colony cats as these are outside of Cat Haven’s jurisdiction.
Cat Haven is WA’s leading and only open admission cat shelter currently taking in around 7000 cats a year.
Cat Haven advocates for and espouses responsible cat ownership in the form of:
• De-sexing of all cats by no later than the age of four months to prevent the oversupply of cats;
• Cats kept indoors for the duration of their lives;
• Escape-proof cat enclosures being constructed adjacent to the family home;
• Free-standing cat enclosures placed outside, preferably on grass and taking into consideration weather conditions; and,
• Escape-proof fencing improvements (such as Oscillat) which prevents cats from escaping their own backyards.
If any of these methods are used, physical and psychological enrichment must be proved to ensure best welfare practices.
Roaming cats have a life of expectancy of 3 -5 years (compared with 15 years + for contained cats) and roaming usually occurs when cats are undesexed and are seeking mates. The risks to cats which wander include, but not limited to:
• Serious injury or death from motor vehicle accidents. In the event of serious injury, this may lead to owners electing to euthanise their cat due to financial constraints of vet work;
• Cat fights which can lead to costly abscess treatment by a vet, FIV and FELK. As above, this may lead to euthanasia or surrender to a shelter;
• Skin cancer on ears and nose of cats with white faces. White cats themselves are five times more prone to skin cancer than the general cat population. This leads to serious pain and costly treatment such as ear removal. In the case of cancer of the nose, there is little which can be done once the cancer has reached a certain stage;
• Trapping/baiting of cats by disgruntled neighbours or cat haters;
• Poisoning from plants toxic to cats found in gardens;
• Cats trapped in lethal traps; or,
• Mishaps such as getting into roof cavities of buildings or between houses and fences – where rescue is very difficult or near impossible.
Complaints from the public regarding wandering cats include:
• Defecating in children’s sand pits/gardens;
• Perceived/actual risk of toxoplasmosis;
• Waking sleeping dogs causing them to bark – it is believed one barking dog can affect 150 people within its vicinity;
• Distressing owned and contained cats by “hanging around” and thus leading to behaviour issues with the owned cat;
• Undesexed tom cats spraying on property including cars;
• Damage to property including cars;
• Endangering nocturnal wildlife; and,
• Cats fighting and disturbing people and babies sleep
Years ago it was common to see dogs wandering the streets without any restrictions.
Laws have changed, and now it is law that all dogs be contained to properties unless outside, in which case they must be on a leash.
There are some places where dogs can remain off-leash, such as dog specific beaches and parks, but still must always be under the control of the owner at all times.
Excessive barking dogs are a common complaint for neighbours and dog owners receive infringement notices for not picking up their dog’s faeces.
For years, cats have been allowed to wander, deemed “impossible” to stop from wandering and cruel to contain them. Especially from people who have had cats “all their lives”.
There is now a groundswell that the laws which are applied to dogs should be applied to cats.
Cat Haven believes that cat containment should happen at the youngest age possible.
We also believe it is possible to adapt an older cat into being an indoor only cat – but it will require more work and commitment on the part of the owner.
But contained cats need to be provided with stimulation and enrichment which can easily be done by owners.
Cats can be trained to walk on a leash and harness, which helps provide enrichment.
If council by-laws and/or the Cat Act are to be amended to include cat containment, then a grandfather clause needs to apply to ensure that no cats are surrendered to shelters or euthanised due to owners not being able to afford cat enclosures, enrichment tools etc. Nor should those owners of roaming cats be fined but re-educated as to the benefits of cat containment.
Cat Haven believes the best way to encourage cat containment is by constantly education cat owners on the many benefits of contained cats. As we move to higher and higher inner city and suburb housing, many cats are indoor-only cats.
This education needs to come from all stakeholders including state and local government and the veterinary profession.
As a cat welfare organisation, we believe that cat containment provides a safer and more secure for all cats.