Australia Goes After 'Ruthless Killers': Feral Cats

They're blamed for killing billions of animals a year
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2023 3:40 PM CDT
All Cats Could Get a Curfew in Australia
   (Getty Images / Arina_Bogachyova)

"They are walking, stalking, ruthless killers." That's how Australia's minister for the Environment and Water characterizes cats—feral ones specifically, not pets kept indoors—and she's laid out a series of ideas to majorly tamp down their numbers. The animals are blamed for wreaking havoc on the country's wildlife: NPR reports they kill an estimated 2 billion animals each year. The draft plan Tanya Plibersek released earlier this month would involve legislating "responsible pet cat ownership," which could force owners to spay and neuter their pets and observe cat curfews and could limit the number of cats that could live in one home. The New York Times notes it also suggests establishing programs that would allow hunters to kill feral cats.

"We are declaring war on feral cats. And today, we are setting up our battle plan to win that war," she said. Such a move wouldn't be entirely unprecedented: The Sydney Morning Herald notes the Australian Capital Territory has established a curfew for cats purchased after July 1. While the problem isn't unique to Australia, it is a specific concern there. As the Herald explains, "Australia is a world leader in wildlife losses. Since colonization, about 100 of the country's unique flora and fauna species have become extinct, with untold losses of invertebrates. The rate of loss has not slowed over the past 200 years."

For that reason, one cat researcher tells the Times that Australians tend to be more on board with cat-curtailing measures. "Maybe our job is easier in Australia, unfortunately, because we've lost so many species," she says. But NPR points out that not everyone is convinced cats are the leading problem or that the research to that end holds up. Bill Lynn of the animal ethics think tank PAN Works says the real blame for biodiversity loss should be assigned to humans. "If you look at the reasoning and the evidence for the scientific case against cats, it's extraordinarily weak. Not that it's weak in specific instances. It can be very strong in specific instances, but one example will become generalized to the landscape overall." Plibersek's plan is open for comment until December. (More feral cats stories.)

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