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Tackling the feral cat pandemic: a plan to save Australian wildlife

Report of the Inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia
Feral animals Biodiversity conservation Animal populations Environmental impacts Australia

Feral and domestic cats are present in large numbers across the nation. Estimates given to the inquiry indicate that there may be approximately 3.77 million pet cats and around 2.8 million feral cats in Australia.

Cats have been responsible for the rapid and catastrophic loss of wildlife, causing some species to become threatened, endangered and even extinct. Under the Australian Government’s Threat Abatement Plan, feral cats are recognised as a potential threat to 74 mammal species and sub-species as well as 40 birds, 21 reptiles and four amphibians. According to estimates, discussed further in Chapter 2, predation by cats is responsible for the loss of 1.6 billion native animals every year, with feral cats responsible for some 1.4 billion of this number. On average a single feral cat in the bush kills about 370 invertebrates, 44 frogs, 225 reptiles, 130 birds and 390 mammals per year. Pet cats collectively kill some 1 million animals per day.

Efforts have been underway for some time to manage the growth and spread of the cat population. A complex patchwork of laws and regulations sets up shared responsibilities between the Commonwealth, states, territories and local governments. The Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy provides an overarching architecture and targets, while the implementation of measures including feral cat culling and domestic cat controls are the primary domain of the states, territories and local government. Other factors contributing to the growth of the cat population in Australia include restrictions on the use of some control methodologies and limited community understanding of cat impacts.

This report is divided into six chapters, including the introductory chapter. Chapter 2 considers the prevalence and impact of feral and domestic cats in Australia. Chapter 3 examines Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, regulation, and cooperation. Chapter 4 looks at feral cat control methods. Chapter 5 discusses domestic cat control, and improved public awareness and education relating to the feral and domestic cat problem. Chapter 6 sets out the Committee’s views and recommendations.

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