There are calls for Far North Queensland councils to follow the lead of the Greater City of Bendigo and other southern councils to introduce a cat curfew to protect native animals. 

Key points:

  • Cats kill 3.2 million mammals and 1.2 million birds on average each day in Australia
  • Victorian, South Australian and ACT councils have or are introducing cat curfews
  • There are calls for Far North Queensland councils to implement a similar policy

Last week, councillors in the Victorian municipality unanimously voted for a cat curfew, meaning some owners would have to keep their pets inside 24 hours a day to stop them from going outside of their property.

A cat curfew was implemented in the Adelaide Hills district in July last year, banning owners from letting their cats outside between 8pm and 7am.

And the ACT is introducing city-wide containment for all new cats from the middle of next year.

FNQ Wildlife Rescue president Beau Peberdy said it was time that Far North Queensland councils took similar action.

“I think cat curfews and tougher laws should be introduced Australia-wide,” he said.

A cat holding a dead galah in its mouth.

Galahs are just one the many native species being killed by feral cats in Australia.(Supplied: Mark Marathon)

Mr Peberdy said the service saw birds, bandicoots, and possums critically injured or on death’s door every day.

“It doesn’t matter whether they are endangered or a species of least concern — we either need to euthanase them or in rare cases try and save them,” he said.

“That’s just one part of having cats outside in Australia. Cats can also pass on diseases just by urinating on the ground.

“Macropods may come along and eat where the cat has urinated and that can then pass on a disease to that animal.”

Moggies in lockdown

Another concern to wildlife rescue organisations was that not all cats came home.

“The far north has a large diversity of wildlife with things like possums, quolls, and smaller marsupials. So when cat owners let their feline outside they are causing significant damage, usually unbeknownst to the owner,” Mr Peberdy said.

He said he believed cat owners should be more responsible for their cat and keeping the animals indoors would be the best thing for Australia’s native wildlife.

“Local governments in Far North Queensland have turned a blind eye to this problem”, Mr Peberdy said.

“It’s time to start having these discussions and looking at a three to five-year plan for something like this to take effect.”

A cat is captured on a night vision camera with a bandicoot in its mouth.

A cat is captured on a night vision camera with a bandicoot in its mouth.(Supplied: Invasive Species Council)

According to the Australian government’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub there are 3.8 million pet cats in Australia, with 700,000 feral cats in urban areas and 1.4 million feral cats in the bush in dry conditions — 5.6 million after widespread rain.

Research from the hub found that every suburb that has a 24-hour curfew on cats will save around 200,000 native animals per year.

Safety for all concerned

Animal Rehoming Cairns and Tablelands founder Lorraine Doornebosch said she had found indoor-only homes for more than 1,000 cats.

“We have been practising indoor-only cat rehoming for the past nine years,” she said.

“We train our kittens and retrain older cats to be indoors only. I think it’s the only way to go for the future.

two cats sitting on a bid inside

Lorraine Doornebosch and others believe all cats should remain indoors to protect native wildlife.(Supplied: Animal Rehoming Cairns and Tablelands)

Ms Doornebosch said if cats remained indoors it was a win-win situation.

“We have never lost a bird to a cat on our property in nine years,” she said.

“Not only is it about the safety of native animals, it’s also about the safety of the cats.

“In Far North Queensland it’s extremely dangerous for cats as we have things like feline AIDS.

The ABC contacted to the Queensland Feline Association for comment and were directed to their code of ethics, which stated: “Cats must not roam free unless under controlled supervision, [for example] on harness”.

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Calls for cats to be indoor-only rise in Queensland’s north
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