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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Cats taking toll on Tweed fauna

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Domestic cats going feral are decimating native fauna in the tweed and across Australia, and Tweed Shire Council is looking at addressing the problem. Photo fixafriendclinic.org

Luis Feliu

Tweed shire councillors have been urged to look at minimising the impact of domestic, stray and feral cats which are decimating native fauna in the shire and across the state.

A report to be tabled at tonight’s Tweed Shire Council meeting outlines what can be done locally to address the problem,  which other councils with large rural areas around Australia are faced with, and recommends a workshop and a local cat management plan.

The report, which mayor Gary Bagnall called for last year, also gives a summary of current research on the interactions between cats (domestic, strays and feral) and native wildlife on the eastern seaboard, and some of the measures successfully employed by other Australian councils to reduce their impacts.

Tweed shire currently has cat bans at the Tweed Coast residential estates of Koala Beach and Black Rocks under local development control plans, as do several Victorian councils.

Other control measures include areas of Pottsville Waters where cats have to be confined to the owner’s property at all times (unless under the control of a leash).

There are also cat curfew (dawn to dusk) covenants on titles at Seabreeze estate and some sections of Casuarina estate.

But council staff say that ‘due to the multiple, different types of development controls for new estates these controls have been difficult to enforce’.

The report says that free-roaming or unconfined owned cats are also a source of neighbour aggravation and nuisance to Tweed Council, because of their excessive noise at night, defecating in neighbours gardens and attacking other pets.

‘Neighbour aggravation also arises where neighbourhood cats encroach into gardens intended to provide habitat for native wildlife,’ it said.

‘Since February 2011, there have been 345 complaints made to Tweed Shire Council about cats.’

The report also found that many natural areas in Tweed shire were fragmented, representing ‘island habitats’ in which native fauna, particularly threatened fauna, were subject to increased risk from cats.

A monitoring study in the Tweed recorded a pet cat roaming 1.5km from its home in an urban area into an important bushland area and killing native fauna.

The report says a number of measures have been successfully by councils across Australia to mitigate the impact of cats on native fauna, but that ‘foremost among these’ are measures to control ‘owned’ or pet cats.

The range of cat related by-laws and policies include dusk till dawn cat curfews, 24-hour cat curfews where cats must be confined to an owner’s properties at all times unless on a leash (such as on the Gold Coast and Logan City), restricting the number of cats permitted per household, mandatory de-sexing (registered breeders excluded), cat ‘no go’ zones and even a’ Last Cat’ policy on island communities, such as Bruny Island and Lord Howe Island, phasing out cats altogether.

Tweed Council loans cage traps to community members for trapping of cats on private property, and since June 2012, 67 cats have been caught and sent to council’s pound for assessment and re-homing. Gold Coast City Council lends soft jawed traps to rural areas and cage traps to urban areas for the control of roaming owned, stray and feral cats.

The report says the impacts of feral cats on native fauna across Australia are ‘well researched and clearly established’ and the animal had been listed as a Key Threatening Process under both Commonwealth and NSW legislation. A federal Threat Abatement Plan was developed for the control of feral cats in 2008.

‘Predation by cats has been implicated in the extinction of up to seven species of small mammals on the Australian mainland,’ the report said.

‘Whilst it is recognised that eradication of feral cats is unlikely to be achieved on the Australian mainland, properly coordinated and resourced control programs can achieve meaningful benefits for threatened fauna populations.’

A study undertaken in Canberra found that 75 per cent of owned cats hunt, and a total of 67 different species were predated.

‘Estimates based on this study indicate that owned cats in the Canberra urban environment hunt approximately 480,000 animals each year, including 20-27 per cent of the total number of native birds present,’ the report said.

‘A recent study (2013) employing the use of ‘KittyCam’ video cameras found that cats bring less than a quarter of their captures back to their place of residence.

‘This suggests that previous studies of cat predation that depended on data collected from ‘prey returns’, such as the Canberra study outlined above, may have vastly underestimated the total take of hunting from owned cats.’

Many cat owners, the report said, were unaware of the hunting behaviour of their owned cat, as many cats that are hunters do not bring home any ‘trophies’.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Where are the responsible pet owners! What TSC could do is to incorporate at the same time, to inject a microchip, and include a micro GPS tracking chip [see: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/05/crime-preventing-microchips%5D.
    This would be the cost to the owner of the pet, however it will help genuine pet owners retrieve their lost pet and at the same time, bring to notice of what their pet is doing during a day’s cyclic period and whose property they are encroaching upon.
    This could assist TSC in identifying what creatures are released into the wild and fine the pet owners for the release of their pet. TSC could also identify the locality of the ferral creature if chipped.
    What say you TSC?

    • I like it – good idea Roger – perhaps it can be suggested to the mayor of TSC – he seems pretty keen to address this problem.

  2. Animal rescue groups are contributing greatly to this CATastrophe. They are currently exercising an influence over Council animal control procedures/policies that are not in the public interest.

    Companion Animal law should be toughened to ensure that the emphasis is on public safety/environment and animal control/management. NOT care.

    Too many animals (cats and dogs) are being re-housed without a proper behavioural and breed assessment that should be focused on the interests of public safety/natural fauna.

    This problem will get worse if local councils hand control of their pound facilities and rehousing policies to animal rescue groups.

  3. This conversation is one we need quite urgently.

    Competing needs of the community and the natural environment need a voice.

    With education and understanding another’s point of view responsible cat owner, municipal authorities and environmentalists can explore common ground and a strategy that works for all parties.

    Absolutely no doubt the the cat is a superb animal with hunting instincts that are superior to many animals.

    They do not belong in the wild although they have entrenched themselves as a top predator.

    The suburban cat on the other hand is something we can all take responsibility for.

    Starting point is recognise that each point of view is legitimate even if it found to be ill informed. Education and dialogue gives us all an opportunity to change our position.

    power to the council for taking this problem on.

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