Looks like cats are having more of an environmental impact than I’d realized.
Poland declares that household cats are now an invasive species
Cat lovers may not like this news: The Polish Academy of Sciences in Poland has declared that cats are dangerous, adding them to its list of “invasive alien species.” The institute isn’t alone: In some Icelandic towns, household cats have a curfew.
There is some damning evidence on why cats should stay inside. In the U.S. alone, housecats kill more than 2 billion birds each year, adding to the extinction of 63 different species. It’s this reason that makes cats a problem for the ecosystem, says Laura Helmuth, editor-in-chief at Scientific American.
A number of studies have documented the effect household cats have on outdoor animals.
“A lot of [studies] show that much of the hunting that cats do is just invisible to us, invisible to their owners,” Helmuth says.
In one study, Helmuth put small video cameras on cats and followed what they did over most of a summer. She found the cats killed a lot of species in their neighborhood. Only 20% of the time would they bring their catch back home, leading many owners to believe their cats weren't causing trouble.
More than 100 years ago, the Lyall’s wren was entirely wiped out by a cat named Tibbles in 1894. Helmuth says cats have that kind of impact because birds and other species have never experienced these predators in their evolutionary history.
A lot of species also make their nests on the ground, making them easy targets for cats to attack and eat chicks or adult birds.
“If you throw a cat a ball of yarn, they pounce,” Helmuth says. “They kill anything that catches their eye. And so it's able to go through a nesting colony of birds and just kill every single one it sees without slowing down.”
While Poland and Iceland are taking steps to encourage owners to keep their cats indoors, Helmuth says awareness about the issue is growing in the U.S. For cat owners that may say their pet is happier outdoors, Helmuth lists a few reasons why they should stay inside: Outdoor cats die at a much younger age, get hit by cars, fight other cats and can contract diseases.
“I think a lot of it really needs to be kind of a cultural change,” she says, “where people understand the impact of their cat, and that keeping it indoors is something that every cat owner can do as part of their effort to make the environment safer and better for everybody.”
Climate change and habitat destruction are main causes of extinction but Irresponsible pet ownership is no joke.
There are some simple and effective solutions to help minimize the harm domesticated cats pose to local wildlife. Spaying or neutering the pets helps keep the cat population under control. Keeping cats indoors will prevent them from preying on birds and other small animals in the area.
Ironically, one of the hazards some cats face in the wild comes from another invasive species. In Florida, non-native Burmese pythons, bred as exotic pets, got loose and multiplied in the Everglades; their population grew rapidly in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Today, they number in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, and Burmese pythons are encroaching into suburban areas — where domesticated cats make easy prey.
Here in Victoria Australia a 1994 law stipulates that domestic cats are not allowed outside after dark and representation is currently happening to only allow them outside in caged areas such is the damage caused by them.
The legislation on domestic animals runs to some 289 pages.
Here is the first section:
Domestic Animals Act 1994
No. 81 of 1994
Authorised Version incorporating amendments as at
1 July 2019
The Parliament of Victoria enacts as follows:
The purpose of this Act is to promote animal
welfare, the responsible ownership of dogs and
cats and the protection of the environment by
( a) a scheme to protect the community and the
environment from feral and nuisance dogs
and cats; and
( b) a registration and identification scheme for
dogs and cats which recognises and
promotes responsible ownership; and
( c) the identification and control of dangerous
dogs, menacing dogs and restricted breed
( d) a registration scheme for domestic animal
businesses which promotes the maintenance
of standards of those businesses; and
( da) the regulation of matters relating to the
breeding and sale of dogs and cats; and(db) the registration of foster carers for certain
( e) matters related to the boarding of dogs and
(ea) the regulation of the permanent identification
of dogs, cats, horses and other animals; and
( f) payments to the Treasurer from fees received
by Councils under this Act; and
( g) other related matters.
Consequently cats have to be microchipped & an annual fee paid to the local council.