The tricky question in cat parenting… should you let your cat walk-on-the-wild side outdoors or keep your furry friend inside and protect Australia’s native wildlife?
What’s the issue with roaming free you might ask?
Well, since cats were introduced to Australia by European settlers, they have played a major role in the decline and extinction of many native animals. Recent studies have found that a large amount of this is happening in and around urban areas, where the annual number of animals killed per square kilometre is 5670 killed by feral cats and 13100 by pet cats.
These tough statistics, alongside Anipal vet founder Steph Stubbe’s experience with injuries or fatal attacks on wildlife, while working at RSPCA, encouraged Anipal to create a range of feline halters and leads to help fur parents keep their cats out in the natural world, without risking the lives of our precious Australian species.
The challenge facing our cat companions
We all love and adore our cat community, but our furry friends are not without their complications. As mentioned, since cats were introduced to Australia by European settlers in 1788, cats have spread across the country and now inhabit 99.9% of Australia’s total land area with as many as 2.8 million feral cats now roaming the land.
The Australian federal government released a report in 2020 to tackle the issues that feral and domestic cats cause for Aussie wildlife. The report confirmed that cats were the primary drivers of mammal extinctions in the country, and went on to assert that Australia takes the unfortunate title of leading the world’s s threatened species tally – with ’34 such species wiped out and a further 74 land mammal species under threat’.
As one report summarises:
The final report found that every year, each individual feral cat in Australia kills 390 mammals,225 reptiles and 130 birds. That adds up. Every year, feral cats kill 1.4 billion native Australian animals—around the same number that died in the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires when more than 73,000 square miles burned.
Some of the key recommendations for the domestic cat population included education initiatives to improve awareness of the impact of cats on Australia’s native wildlife and habitats.
What can you do as a responsible cat owner?
It’s always a good idea to chat to your vet or local council about any guidelines that might be in place in your area. In the meantime, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Look at desexing, registration, and microchipping options for your cats – this will help ensure your furry friend isn’t unwittingly contributing to the feral cat population on night prowls
- Consider night curfews and containment options so your cat isn’t out preying on vulnerable species
- Keep your cat indoors or in an enclosed outdoor space, there are all sorts of amazing and fun enclosures you can create in your backyard that cats love!
- Use a harness and leash when outside for exercise
Introducing the harness and leash to your, independent feline friend
To tackle this challenge of wildlife protection head-on, Anipal created a range of recycled plastic collars, harnesses and leads to allow your cat the flexibility of outdoor exercise, whilst still respecting and protecting our native species. To understand whether a harness or lead is right for your cool cat, check RSPCA’s recommendations on best practice and advice here, alongside their initiative ‘Keeping your cat safe and happy at home’.
According to RSPCA’s advice, ‘4indoor cats need exercise and sources of enrichment to prevent obesity, boredom and the development of unwanted behaviours.’ Some handy tips and tricks for getting your cat accustomed to a harness include:
- If possible, make the introduction to a harness from a young age as cats tend to become set in their ways…
- Introduce the harness at home first, allowing them to get used to the sensation in a safe environment with familiar smells and without overstimulation and/or other perceived threats
- Use tasty rewards to reinforce good behaviour
- Be patient – these things take time and we all know cats are the ultimate independent sassy souls
- Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness at home you can introduce the lead around the house
- If all of the above has gone smoothly, its time to walk on the wild side and hit the great outdoors
The Threatened Species Range
To support and celebrate our native Australian threatened species, Anipal’s feline range has 3 unique designs:
Gigi the Gouldian Finch
Bertie the Blue Banded Bee
Bobby the Butterfly