Fremantle’s cat conundrum

Rianne, a Cat Haven employee, cuddles a stray kitten. Photo: Xander Sapsworth-Collis.

With more than 8,000 cats passing through Western Australia’s largest cat shelter each year, local governments are seeking to solve the state’s stray cat problem by making it illegal for cat owners to let their cats leave their property.

The City of Fremantle has helped to lead the push.

It has received public submissions on a proposed amendment to its Management Local Law, a change that would ban cats from sidewalks, roads, and carparks.

Fremantle resident Kelly Gilliland made a submission as she was concerned about the protection of Fremantle’s wildlife.

“Just this week when I was getting the mail my dog jumped up to look over the fence and I went to see what he was looking at, and a cat had a little lizard in its mouth,” she said.

Kelly Gilliland

“There’s a really bad feral cat problem in the reserve that’s just above here.”

‘Whitegum’ is a feral cat who was handed into Cat Haven by a Fremantle resident. Photo: Xander Sapsworth-Collis.

Fremantle councillor Adin Lang has been one of the biggest proponents of the amendment and has campaigned to change the Western Australian Cat Act to better protect the environment.

To manage stray cats, the city undertakes biannual cat trapping programs in areas covered under the current iteration of the law.

In 2021, the program caught six cats.

Mr Lang said there wasn’t a plan to run a trapping program outside of the area covered by the amendment.

He said the community helped to police the issue.

“What we know about other local laws is that the community is quite good at policing,” he said.

“The community will call out people that aren’t abiding.”

This will be welcome news to the staff and volunteers at Cat Haven, in Shenton Park, who receive 20 to 80 stray cats a day.

Cat Haven chief executive officer Roz Robinson said containment would be best achieved if all stakeholders on the issue – state government, local government, and the public – worked on a unified front.

Ms Robinson said successful containment could only be achieved if the public was educated on the benefits of containment and given time to adjust to the new laws.

The Haven said cat containment benefits cats which were more likely to suffer injury and had a shorter life expectancy when allowed to roam.

This was also a concern from Ms Gilliland who said she would feel terrible if she injured a cat.

“I would be absolutely mortified if I ran over somebody’s cat,” she said.

“I have already had one incident recently where a cat went screaming across the road in front of my car.”

Public submissions have closed and council is set to vote on the amendment.