Saturday 26 July 2008

Feral cats of Australia

Australian feral cat - Photo by alexanderino

The feral cats of Australia are being inhumanely persecuted and killed on the instigation of the authorities it would seem. If so, they are the innocent victims of errant human behavior. But there are many Australians that are sympathetic towards the feral cat.

The feral cats of Australia are in the news either directly or indirectly. There are apparently 12 million of them. For example, recently there was a lot of talk about the importation of the Savannah cat into Australia by a cat breeder. The Savannah cat is a large domestic cat, a wild cat hybrid (Serval and domestic cat). All the talk was about how this cat could or would kill native wildlife etc. There has been a lot of discussion about banning the importation of this cat. As at August 2008 the latest news is that this cat breed has been banned. Although I understand the concerns, I have my say as to why the Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong. Scientists often present research papers on how the domestic cat kills wildlife, especially it seems in Australia, no doubt born out of concern for the environment but there are political issues at stake too.

It has been claimed that feral cats kill a substantial amount of native species wildlife. But the big question is, is this true? Are the scientists skewing research against the feral cat for political and/or personal reasons? There would also appear to be a feral cat problem in Australia that is similar to that found in the USA. The climate in Australia is more conducive to the survival of feral cat colonies, I would have thought. Of course the origins of any feral cat problem is in human behavior, irresponsible ownership born out of ignorance often. The answer will always be in dealing with that. Dealing with the cats is dealing with the symptoms only.

The Government's position

The Australian government (at 2004) says that the feral cat is an "invasive species" and that it has caused the extinction of some species on islands (they refer to Macquarie Island) and contributed to the disappearance of some wildlife on the mainland. No hard data is given to support this as there probably is none (if I'm wrong please tell me and point me in the direction of verifiable and reliable data, thanks). This is supported by the fact that they say that are collecting information.

There is no doubt though that feral cats pose a problem but it is a problem that has been caused by us and neglected by us, which has exacerbated it. Domestic cats were deliberately allowed or encouraged to become feral in the 1800s in Australia to help control rabbits, rats and mice. Feral cats live off rabbits mainly so the rabbit population has helped the feral cats of Australia to survive.

It would seem that the Australian government is promoting the view that feral cats are a major hazard to humans and wildlife and need to be killed as quickly as possible with no regard for a humane approach. This flies in the face of their website in which they talk about humane methods. They recommend trapping and shooting the cat in the trap, using
1080 Feral Cat Baits (a poison) and so on. Obviously the situation is bad for cats. This is just so typical of humankind. We really need to look at ourselves very hard and ask are we behaving in a civilized manner? The point is it slaughtering feral cats by the thousands/millions doesn't work - see this post.


The Wikipedia author is I feel biased against the feral cat (other people think the same about this author, I believe). What I am concerned about is that controls will be put in place that are cruel and cause suffering to feral cats in Australia if biased arguments are presented on high profile websites. This would be unjust because as mentioned feral cats are the innocent victims of human behavior. To kill them cruelly would compound our error.

We need to keep a balanced view and think long term. The classic trap, neuter and return (or re-home) will, if carried out on a large scale and in a disciplined manner reduce the population of feral cats of Australia in time. It is something that should be seen as a very long term project. To think short term (a habit we tend to get into) will result in unjustified cruelty. And there are many people who will take the law into their own hands and start (this is probably already taking place) killing feral cats by poisoning and shooting them, as examples, if encouraged indirectly by irresponsible pronouncements of the government and "experts".

I could write more and provide tons of detail but it makes me sick to write about it and take it from me there will be a lot of cruelty perpetrated against the feral cats of Australia who are the innocent victims of human behavior.

Feral cats of Australia to feral cats

  • Australian Govenment
  • Wikipedia
  • Messybeast


  1. totally agree with the australians and with chinese. In my country there is the same problem with feral cats. They must be killed quickly.

  2. Killing feral cats does not even solve the problem. Feral cats just replace the ones killed. We have to turn the tap off (stop breading). I find your comment very cruel and thoughtless and frankly ignorant.

  3. It seems that the author of this website is getting skewed information about Australian Feral Cats. They are indeed a huge problem, and have already contributed to the endangerment and probably extinction of many native species. If even my normally well-behaved pet cats can catch the occasional native bird or marsupial, imagine what these wild cats, which have evolved to cope with the harsh conditions of the bush, can do. They are also a threat to domestic cats, spreading disease and causing injuries through fights. While it may seem cruel and heartless to kill these animals, it is crueller to have them wipe out entire species of unique native animals.

    It may be difficult for others to understand, but Australians are extremely protective of our native species, especially as we have no native cat species, and therefore no naturally feline link in the food chain.

    Feral cats in Australia are completely unlike those in Venice or Rome - they are large, wild and dangerous. I personally have had one pet cat die from a disease contracted during a fight with a feral cat - her tail was almost completely bitten off.

    The traps used to capture these cats are similar to the kind used to catch foxes (which are another feral pest in Australia, along with goats, pigs, rabbits, donkeys and camels, and the cats are killed in a relatively humane way.

    In response to Freddie Fox, can you suggest a way to stop feral cats breeding other than killing them? They are impossible to tame and difficult to catch.

    There are concerted efforts to desex all domestic pet cats, therefore reducing the potential for joining the feral population, but at the end of the day, the kindest thing is to simply kill as many of the feral cats as possible in as humane a way as possible, to protect both the native wildlife, and our pets.

  4. After re-reading the original post, and discarding my first post's aim of balanced enlightenment, I just need to say this:

    How stupid do you think Australians are?

    Yes, cats were introduced by Europeans , yes they feed on rabbits, another introduced species, if this is a point in their favour, let's look at the case of Cane Toads, which were introduced to deal with an insect affecting sugar cane crops, and have now spread across two-thirds of the country killing and poisoning as they go.

    The idea of 'capture, desex and re-home' is utterly ridiculous - assuming you can capture one in the first place (they're very clever at avoiding traps), desexing one without suffering serious injury is unlikely. As for re-homing...


    And lest you think I'm being misled by government propaganda - I have seen them myself, and as I said, I've lost a pet cat to them. They are HUGE, HARDY and CLEVER. Certainly not what you'd want curled up on your lap. They would rip you to shreds.

    As for the 'inhumane' killing methods - 1080 poison is fast acting and effective, and a strong poison is needed as these animals are BIG. Shooting is obviously less desirable, but if done properly, death is instantaneous and the animal feels no pain. Notice I'm saying 'animal' rather than 'cat' here - because that's just what they are. Wild animals that need to be dealth with as such, not a poor lost pet that just needs a cuddle.

    Ignorance like the original poster's is what allows the feral cat population to flourish.

  5. Oh, and here is your evidence, citing specific threatened species and areas, and providing references, which include wildlife journals and veterinary journals, not just government departments.

  6. Cat lovers... please look at this from a different point of view that isn't from your emotions.

    Feral Cats are in NO WAY CLOSE to a Domestic Cat / Stray Cat / Alley Cat. Feral Cats are fully alert wild animals, they don't want human attention, and would sooner attack a human then curl up next to one.

    If the population isn't reduced, then this is what will happen:

    -The cats wipe out Native species of animals due to killing them, or basically the Native animals being driven to starvation.

    -The cats themselves starve due to their numbers being too great.

    -Diseases arrive, affecting the the environment as a whole.

    It is more inhuman to just let these cats run free and starve, than it is to killing them.

    Adult Feral Cats will never be good pets. The kittens, yes, but the adults, no.


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