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Responsible cat ownership.

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Cat with Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. Photo: Lisa Wilson, Wikicommons.

The cooler weather has arrived and this brings a lot of changes. Most of the reptile life that Alice Springs is famous for has gone underground to sleep out the cooler months. The small birds and mammals that are nocturnal or less active during the hot summer days, are now much more active through the middle of the day.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes bring wildlife into more frequent contact with diurnal pets, yielding predictable results. To understand the local side of this issue, the Alice Springs Town Council has some relevant information for pet owners available on their website – here.

Animal Welfare Week is approaching, and seeks to highlight the responsibilities of pet owners. These include all the usual things like making sure your pet is adequately fed, exercised, vaccinated, cleaned, and otherwise well-treated and looked after. An often overlooked responsibility of being a pet owner is confining your pet. In some parts of the country this is starting to appear in legislation – see here – but it really comes down to common sense. Cats have evolved as predators and, let free in the neighbourhood, will sometimes exercise their instinct to hunt.

There are now many companies online which construct cat-proof enclosures in cat owners’ homes. These are fantastic looking structures which amount to an adventure playground for kitty, while keeping him from stalking possums and birds. The Victorian State Government has an excellent site – here – with information about constructing your own cat-proof enclosure which will still allow your cat plenty of exercise, stimulation, and outdoor access. For a great example of this sort of thing with a local flavour, you need go no further than the Garden for Wildlife story about “Jessie; The Enviro-cat”. Jessie is owned by a long-standing Garden for Wildlife member who has constructed a safe and wildlife-friendly enclosure for her.

Also, the Land for Wildlife website has a fact sheet – here – which outlines the impact that feral cats can have on our wildlife once they have well and truly ceased to be domestic pets.

So if you must own a cat, I would urge you to ensure that it is well confined – day AND night. It’s worth it to avoid the unpleasantness of having to explain the dwindling population of the neighbour’s chook house.

Of course, if you will let your pets roam, it’s not beyond some of our native wildlife to give as good as they take!