New data reveals the number of native animals killed by pet cats nationally has escalated 34% since the pandemic pet boom.
The analysis by the Biodiversity Council, Invasive Species Council and Birdlife Australia highlights an urgent need to curb irresponsible pet ownership behaviour to stymy wildlife losses. Cats are natural hunters that will act on instinct when allowed to roam. With evidence suggesting most (71%) cat owners still allow their pets to freely roam, the boom in pet cats during the pandemic years means over half a billion animals are now preyed upon by pet cats each year, the majority native.
Professor Sarah Legge, Charles Darwin University ecologist and spokesperson for the Biodiversity Council said:
‘Our research found that 323 million native animals are dying in Australia each year because cat owners are allowing their pets to free roam – up from 241 million in 2020.
‘The jump in wildlife kills reflects the pandemic pet boom that saw pet cat numbers reach 5.3 million and is an alarm bell for governments to enact responsible pet ownership laws, including 24/7 cat curfews.’
Candice Bartlett, Invasive Species Council conservation officer said:
‘We have an archaic situation in New South Wales and Western Australia where local governments cannot implement basic cat curfew laws due to barriers in the state legislation.
‘This is a stark contrast to the ACT which requires residents to contain their cats, or Victoria where nearly 50% of councils have introduced cat containment laws.
‘While a million cat owners are doing the right thing, the majority of cat-owners allow their cats to freely roam which has dire consequences for wildlife, cats and community.
‘The NSW Government could save 66 million native animals every year in the Greater Sydney area alone by legislating 24/7 cat curfews and boosting funding for responsible pet ownership initiatives like subsidised desexing and a state-wide education campaign.’
Holly Parsons, Birdlife Australia’s urban bird program manager said:
‘Our urban spaces are home to 46% of Australia’s threatened animals so we have a responsibility to ensure pets aren’t allowed to freely roam in these areas.
‘Even when cats seem to be ‘playing’ with wildlife, they can be causing injury and stress to other animals. It’s not the cats’ fault. When they have the opportunity to hunt, they will act on instinct.’
‘We can’t change the behaviour of cats, but we can support better choices by cat owners.’
Photos of native wildlife rescued from pet cat attacks and examples of cat containment are available for use, as well as audio and video grabs. They can be downloaded here from Hightail.