An incoming cat curfew is kicking up controversy between conservationists and pet owners in an eastern suburb of Melbourne in Australia.
The City of Knox is set to introduce a "24-hour cat curfew" from October 2021 that will force pet owners to keep cats on their premises at all times. The council said wandering cats may be picked up and fines may be issued (presumably to their owners).
One of the main aims of the curfew is to address the number of wild animals that fall prey to these pet predators. It may surprise you, but cats are among the most successful predators on Earth, catching prey with a 32 percent success rate. Each day, cats are estimated to be killing over 3.1 million mammals, 1.8 million reptiles, and 1.3 million birds in Australia, equating to roughly 1.5 billion native animals deaths per year.
“When allowed to roam, cats are at a much higher risk of illness and injury,” Mayor Lisa Cooper said in a statement. “Keeping cats within their owners’ property also protects wildlife and prevents them causing nuisance for neighbors and their pets.”
The council ran a survey of 720 local residents, almost half of which were cat owners, and 86 percent supported some kind of curfew, with greater preference for a 24-hour curfew over a night-time curfew.
However, many pet owners are not pleased with the plan. An online petition, currently with around 2,500 signatures, has asked Knox Council to review its decision to introduce a kitten lockdown. Not only do the opponents argue it will create stress and anxiety for many cats used to the great outdoors, but they also contend the plan is not backed up by data and the local community had not been adequately consulted. Furthermore, some have doubted whether keeping cats under house arrest is the most effective way to protect local biodiversity since feral cats are responsible for the majority of wildlife killed, not domestic pet cats.
“The lack of foresight is just plain cruel and there is no data to suggest that it will be beneficial for the local wildlife. Possums & foxes do more damage to wildlife than cats. Well-fed and well looked after cats do not even bother the local wildlife and the ones that do, tend to be nocturnal hunters which renders a daytime curfew moot,” the petition reads.
They aren't the first council in Australia to take such action. The Yarra Ranges Council, a local government area in Victoria, previously introduced a 24/7 cat curfew. Just like in Knox, the move proved controversial among some. The battle between cat-owners and conservationists is unlikely to subside anytime soon, but it appears that other parts of the world are also starting to toy with this idea. Last week, the President and CEO of the Ottawa Humane Society, an animal welfare group, called for a 24-hour "cat curfew" in the Canadian city.