Keeping your cat happy and safe
Where is your cat at the moment? Could it be attacking wildlife or crossing a road? Is it safe from dogs? Is it identified in case it gets lost?
You need to think seriously about these questions. Since 1996 all Victorian cat owners are required by law to register all cats aged six months and over with their local council each year.
|By keeping your cat confined to your property at all times, and indoors or in a special enclosure or cattery at and between dusk and dawn, you will help protect your cat and Victoria’s wildlife.
Cats are wonderful companions – they are affectionate and intelligent, and they enjoy your company. Yet in Melbourne alone, many thousands of cats end up in animal shelters each year. Few have identificaton and are therefore unable to be reclaimed by their owners. Most are humanely euthanased.
Cats not kept at home can be killed or injured - on roads, in fights through disease or by acts of cruelty. They can catch Feline AIDS from stray or feral cats. Wandering cats mate and produce unwanted litters, and are easily stolen. Why expose your cat to these dangers?
Cats are most active at night, and especially at dusk and dawn. This coincides with the activity periods of much of our Australian wildlife, placing native animals at risk. Pet cats kill an average of 25 native animals every year.
Keep cats and native animals apart - keep your cat confined
What am I required to do by law?Under the Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act 1996 all owned cats aged six months and over are required to be registered with the local council, to display the registration tag supplied and in some areas to be confined to the owners’ property for part or all of the day. Not all councils have the same by laws or orders regarding the confining of cats. You need to check your local regulations at the council offices.
How do I confine my cat?
- A-frame catteries provide for climbing and sunbathing at different heights. Connect the cattery to the house via a walkway from a window or cat-door
- Adapt an aviary for your cat
- Commercially built and designer catteries are available. For details contact the RSPCA, the Cat Protection Society or search the Yellow Pages
C - Enclose a section of your home
- Enclose a verandah with chicken wire or flywire
- Enclose the ‘dead end’ section of your garden between the garden and the fence
- Provide cat access via a window or cat-door
E - Build a low-cost enclosure or exclosure
- Build a floppy fence from small-gauge chicken wire and angle it in slightly towards the centre to enclose a section of your backyard
- Build it in reverse (ie - angle the wire outwards) to keep cats out of your wildlife haven
- Attach either small gauge chicken wire or aluminium flashing to the top of an existing fence and angle it into your property; or
- Attach ‘floppy’ chicken wire to the top of your fence
- Remember to secure any trees which may overhang the fence by either enclosing them with wire or erecting a ‘cat barrier’ at a suitable height up the tree.
Is it cruel to confine my cat?No - because suburban and rural environments pose too many risks to allow cats complete freedom.
The average life-span of a cat kept inside is 12 years, that of a cat allowed to roam at will is just three years
What are my cat’s needs when enclosed?Overnight - food, water, a litter tray and a warm, dry, draught-free sleeping area.
For longer periods - facilities for exercise, climbing, several resting places at various heights, and shelter from sun, wind, rain, cold and hot weather.
A scratching and climbing pole is a must - up to 2.5m tall, with 2-3 perches. Provide cat toys (available in good pet shops) and help your cat to exercise daily by encouraging it to play, run and jump. Install window perches for your cat to sunbathe on, or a cat-door for access to an enclosed area outside.
The RSPCA and Cat Protection Society can provide more advice on confining your cat.
Why desex both male and female cats?
- Desexed animals are less stressed by reproductive or territorial demands and make better pets.
- Desexing is better for your cat’s health
- Cats won’t wander or fight as much and are less noisy and smelly if desexed
- No more unwanted kittens
- Females suffer physical and nutritional exhaustion if continually breeding
- Uncontrolled breeding results in large numbers of unwanted cats joining the stray and feral populations. Most suffer through disease and injury, and many prey on native wildlife to survive.
Are some cat breeds better suited to indoors?Yes. Some breeds, like the Russian Blue, are happy being indoors at all times.
Your cat ownership group, local vet, RSPCA, Cat Protection Society, Lost Dogs Home and Western Cat Shelter or other animal welfare agency can help you choose the right cat for your circumstances.
How else can I protect wildlife?Provide cat-free environments
- Build a special outside cat enclosure attached to the house that allows easy access between the two for your pet.
- Enclose your backyard, shrubs and trees with cat-proof ‘floppy fences’.
- Put up the right sized nest-box in your garden. A nest-box can provide a safe haven for hollow-dependent wildlife which may live in your area, such as possums, parrots, lorikeets, and small gliding animals. Build your own, using guidelines in The Nestbox Book (available from the Gould League of Victoria). Keep a watch to see the nest-box does not get invaded by introduced species, such as mynahs starlings or honeybees.
- Plant nectar-producing species in your garden. Find out the ones that would provide food for your local native wildlife. Contact your local council or nearest Land for Wildlife Officer. Choosing the right species will protect the birds, cats will not like the thorns and hard leaves that will provide perfect habitat for birds.
Use a harness to walk your cat outside
Training your cat to walk with a cat harness (dog leashes are not suitable) is fun and rewarding for you and your cat.
Put bells on your cat’s collar
One bell is not enough. Put three large bells on the collar, two under the cat’s chin and another opposite. Bells do not stop cats killing wildlife - they only make a difference in one out of three attacks.
Keeping your cat confined inside and outside stops all cat attacks on wildlife.