Australians support cat legislation

A new study has found Australians support the introduction of legislation to control cats more than people in some other countries.

The study’s authors surveyed people from countries including Australia, China, the UK and the USA to determine their views on the interactions of cats and wildlife.

They found 88 per cent of Australian non-owners supported the need for regulation and 62 per cent of cat owners agreed..

Study co-author Michael Calver said Australians were supportive of new regulations.

“Australian owners believe that their animals should be de-sexed, that they should be kept in at night, carry some ID, and even large numbers of owners believe there should be caps on the number of cats that can be owned per household,” Professor Calver said.

Professor Calver said Australians thought protection of native wildlife was important.

“The main difference with Australia is that people are very aware of the native biodiversity, of how unique it is and why it is important to conserve it,” he said.

“We are constantly bombarded by a variety of messages about the importance of our native biodiversity.

“A whole variety of messages through popular children’s jingles, through displays in museums, through contemporary art that all give the message that biodiversity is important, it’s vanishing and the way we look after our pets can have a significant influence on whether or not we manage to keep our biodiversity.”

Just 25 per cent of non-owners in the UK thought legislation was needed, while 12 per cent of owners thought cat predation was a serious problem.

City of Swan chief executive officer Mike Foley said the city had its own cat laws.

“The City of Swan’s community expressed concerns regarding cat management and as a result, the city introduced local laws relating to the keeping of cats in 2009″, he said.

“The introduction of state legislation in 2011 has been supported by the city and enhanced the local laws that the city already had in effect.”

Murdoch University lecturer Kate Bryant, who was a co-author of the study, said people in the UK may not receive enough information about the effect cats had on wildlife.

“In the UK, the threat of pet cats on say bird populations … wasn’t as strongly supported in the media and other information outlets to the public as it is in Australia,” she said.

Professor Calver said the focus of legislation was also different in Australia.

“In Australia…legislation is aimed at reducing nuisance and protecting wildlife,” Professor Calver said.

“Cat welfare is the driving force (for legislation) in North America and also concern about local wildlife (as a threat to the cat).

“When they’re (the people of China) thinking legislation they’re pretty much thinking of animal welfare and the way the animal is viewed, wildlife less of a concern.”

But owners were less in favour of keeping cats on their properties at all times.

Roaming cats are known to prey on native wildlife and past studies have shown that allowing cats to roam away from their homes also poses a risk to the cats.

“They stop short of wanting to keep them on their properties at all times,” Professor Calver said.

“In terms of protecting wildlife, keeping cats on the owner’s property, probably at all times, would be the best measure that could be taken,” he said

“Cats get hit by cars, they get injured in catfights, they ingest dangerous substances, they lick up strange liquids, they eat snail pellets and various nasty things happen as a result of roaming.”