PHILLIP Island Nature Parks has made inroads to eradicate Phillip Island’s feral cat population in recent times, but rangers and researchers continue to be concerned about the danger that domestic cats pose.
A whopping 150 feral cats were removed from Nature Parks land in 2015, trapped or shot by park rangers.
PINP deputy research manager Dr Duncan Sutherland said this number is only the tip of the iceberg.
“We respond to sightings of feral cats and attempt to get them out at that time,” he said.
“Densities are quite high, in order of about three per square kilometre. Feral cats are incredibly hard to control. They don’t generally go into traps and they don’t tend to take baits.”
PINP is now trying to understand how to improve feral cat management and the public’s perception surrounding feral, domestic and semi-stray cats.
Dr Sutherland said responsible pet ownership must be encouraged.
“We understand the effects domestic cats have on wildlife, and the dangers letting cats out has in terms of diseases,” he said.
“Phillip Island has some amazing wildlife and it’s an amazing place, but we’ve had species that have been lost to Phillip Island that may well be partly because of cats and foxes.
“We know that they have an impact on seabirds and ground nesting birds and a number of small mammals.
“We’ve lost bandicoots, potoroos and native rats, and we can’t contribute that just to cats, as foxes and changes to land management, urbanisation and so forth have also had an impact.
“Cats certainly have an impact on those sorts of species. They’re an incredibly efficient predator and for that reason they can really decimate populations.”
Dr Sutherland is calling for greater policing of domestic cats.
“It’s definitely something we’re working together with council to develop.
“Guidelines to improve cat ownership will weaken link with the feral population and reduce the impact on wildlife,” he said.
The Domestic Animal Act 1994 allows councils to declare areas prohibited or restricted from dogs and cats through the implementation of an order.
Bass Coast Shire Council’s manager of Community Health and Wellbeing, Claire Smith, said the council does not have an order in place in regard to cats in public places.
“The Bass Coast Shire Council’s Domestic Animal Management Plan 2012–2016 considers the issue of future cat control within the municipality, including the potential introduction of an order to restrict cats to their owner’s property,” she said.
“Property owners who have a problem with stray or feral cats on their own properties may contact the Local Laws Team to arrange for a cat cage to be delivered.
“Any cats caught are scanned for identification. Cats must be registered and micro-chipped before they can be released back to their owners.
“If a cat is not registered the owner may be subject to a failure to register infringement.”
Cats can happily live indoors
RHYLL resident Roy Fearnley supports the Phillip Island Nature Parks’ stance on domestic cats.
As an owner of a 14 year-old cat who has lived solely indoors for the past three years, he believes owners should be responsible for their cats.
“If it’s taken outside under control on a lead or in a cage, that’s fine. If it’s just let run free, that’s not so fine,” he said.
“The cat is your responsibility, it’s not your neighbour’s responsibility, and it’s not the ranger’s responsibility to look after your cat, so your cat should be under your control at all times.
“If you want your cat outside off a lead, then build it an enclosure. They don’t cost and arm and a leg.”
Roy’s cat used to be allowed outside on a lead, but an allergy in the garden as forced her inside permanently.
He said there have been no problems with the cat living inside.
“My cat could kill even on a lead so I’d be very nervous about leaving it out there unattended,” he said.
“Quite often I get other cats around at my house and it’s quite annoying because one of them is feral.
“They come and scratch at the doors or windows, they’re not particularly friendly.”