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Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong

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Savannah Cat photo ©copyright Kathrin Stucki - A1 Savannahs. Please respect copyright.

The Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong. The more I read about the Australians and their attitude towards domestic cats (and feral cats) the more I think it is simply wrong and muddled. This is a story about one of the most glamorous purebred pedigree cats (and I love the Savannah cat) and a cat at the bottom of the social order, the feral cat. Which is in need of help? A lot of this post developed into a discussion about the treatment of feral cats in Australia.

Australians have a problem, or so they think, with feral cats. I have talked about the feral cats of Australia (new post). From a humane perspective and my perspective, Australians as a whole as demonstrated in legislation passed their elected representatives, mistreat feral cats. As I understand it, Australians are allowed to shoot and poison feral cats (see Ground Shooting of Feral Cats). This translates to killing anyway they want. This to me seems simply barbaric. Please don't misunderstand me. I like animals and I like people. I also like good behavior towards other people and other animals.

See and read a lot more about the Savannah cat - this is the best page on this cat breed...!

There seems to be a consensus in Australia, probably originating in government, that feral cats wantonly kill their precious native wildlife. From what I have seen and read there is no hard evidence to support this. The surveys don't support this assertion and if they do they are probably biased surveys. However, one point seems to have been missed. The most important aspect of feral cats in Australia is that the Australians caused the problem and now the cat is being persecuted and punished as a result of people's errant behavior. This is typical of human behavior I am afraid to say. The people who are irresponsible should be punished and feral cats should be treated humanely and controlled gradually through a disciplined and long term approach (TNR - a tried, tested and humane method). People should show more humility and tenderness towards other animals (and less arrogance). It seems Tasmania is adopting a more humane approach by the way (see desexing feral cats).

I mention this because the feral cat "problem" has colored the decision making of the government and it is one reason why the Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong. The Australian government has imagined large (maybe very large) Savannah cats (possibly first or second generation) being abandoned and mating with feral cats to make a super feral cat that wipes out native Australian wildlife at an unheard of rate.

OK, I can see the argument and understand the fear but it is, I believe, misplaced. The problem is that the authorities had already approved (some 2 years earlier in 2006) the importation of the Savannah cat, which encouraged or allowed the Australian breeder (Glenn and Karen Parker, of Benowa) to contract with A1 Savannahs, the premier and founding breeder in America for the purchase of Savannah cats. That contract is now jeopardized or worse, the Australian breeder is forced to be in breach of contract with A1 Savannahs. The authorities cannot change their position and disregard commercial transactions made in good faith and within the law.

Further, the Savannah cat that is to be sold by the Australian breeder will be neutered/spayed so there will be no chance of a Savannah mating with a feral cat should one be abandoned or escape, which is unlikely anyway.

In addition Savannah cats at SBT level (Stud Book Tradition) are 5th generation Savannahs and I am going to presume that is type of cat that Glenn and Karen Parker would sell. In other words they are restricted under contract (with A1 Savannahs - I am guessing here though) to sell "pets" to Australians and not sell breeding Savannahs to other breeders. Savannah cats generally are no different to other cat breeds. They are well balanced cats, carefully bred to be family pets like the Bengal cat.

The Bengal cat breeders are already established in Australia. There is no difference between and SBT Bengal and an SBT Savannah in my view in terms of wildness (i.e. wild blood content). What will happen to the Bengal cat breeders and keepers?

All these factors support my argument that the Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong. It is also wrong for the government to have been so dilatory in respect of the control of feral cats until it became an overdue problem forcing the government to propose inhumane steps to control it.

Glenn and Karen Parker are now considering suing the Australian government, a tall order but forced on them and A1 Savannahs are also considering taking legal action on more than one level. It may get messy. Something that could and should have been avoided.

Here are some videos made by me. The first one show how beautiful a relationship with a Savannah cat can be and this cat is very special- MAGIC, the tallest domestic cat in the world under Guinness World Record rules:



Go on...see it in large format



Update: There has been two really good comments from an anonymous visitor and I agree with a lot of what he/she says. The situation is really a mess brought on the government of Australia for not dealing with feral cat problems much more proactively and earlier and now using the Savannah cat as a means to get themselves off the hook and divert attention from their dilatory behavior in respect of feral cats. I think it is down to a responsible "ownership" and breeding. If people can't adopt such an approach there should be regulations. The vast majority of cat breeders it seems to me are highly responsible. There also needs to be more accurate research on the impact of feral cats on native species. From what I've read some of the research is designed to serve a purpose (perhaps funded by the government); to attack the feral cat as a pest. As far as I can see, no Australians have attacked or taken proactive steps to control or punish people who act irresponsibly in relation to cat keeping. Are there plans in place to regulate the keeping of cats such as spaying and neutering and obligatory microchipping? Maybe the problem is now too big and regulations impossible to enforce. There needs to be more rational thought and less cat hating. Lastly there isn't enough hard evidence it seems on the status of the permission granted to the Parkers for the importation of Savannahs into Australia. Did they have written permission? And if so will they get compensation?

Update - 8th September 2008: the hypocrisy and arrogance of Australian people who criticize the feral cat for killing Australian wildlife is reinforced by the fact that humans created the feral cat problem in the first place and humans are by far the biggest killers of wildlife in Australia, primarily because of habitat loss, a classic example of which, is the burning of forest/woods and felling of trees to create grazing land (commercial reasons) in Northeastern Australia. WWF, the conservation charity say that 2 million mammals will be killed, some in a horrible way, (due to burning the forest) and this figure includes 9,000 koala bears as a result of the tree clearance. Some old story, I am afraid.
Update - 14th September: A petition is circulating online which some people have no doubt seen. It is really about putting the record straight on the Savannah cat which has been maligned, there is no doubt about it. I think that the petition is being driven by the Parkers and good for them. It is nice to see a fight back. One last point, I don't want people (Australians) saying that I am being naive; I am not. I understand the problems. I am able to stand back and see the wider picture. Plus I don't have a gung-ho shoot 'em up attitude.

Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong - Update - 5th October 2008: the mass and inhumane slaughter of feral cats as proposed by the authorities is not going to work anyway. This is because of the vacuum phenomenon. I would ask the Australian authorities to think again and do this properly in a controlled, moral and sensible manner. Tony Peacock the CEO of Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre would seem to agree that killing feral cats will not solve the problem. He has left a comment below.

Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong - Update - 8th October 2008: It occurred to me that I haven't clearly or fully said what I think should be done. This is it. The Australian government should set up a National Feral Cat Action Group that sponsors local communities who'd like to get involved in a trap, neuter, release program. If people were reluctant funding should be forthcoming. It is cheaper ultimately to run this scheme than to slaughter feral cats. Trap neuter release includes administering medication to cats that need it (limited to certain treatments for financial reasons), euthanizing cats that are very ill (FeLV, FIP for example), re-homing some for whom re-homing is suitable and returning neutered cats. Peoples' involvement can help create community spirit and it will be improving the lives of cats and people, while building an awareness of the need to spay and neuter. An obligatory microchipping regime can be introduced simultaneously in cooperation with state funded (for this particular task) veterinarians. People who let their cats become feral should be punished - a fine for example plus restrictions on future pet ownership. Private sponsorship could be considered (e.g. from large pet food suppliers etc.). Tony Peacock the CEO of Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (comment below) makes the point the human population of Australia is so thin that it would make TNR unrealistic. I wonder? Most feral cats inhabit urban areas don't they and form colonies? I'd be surprised if feral cats survived in areas where human population was low as feral cats depend on human activity.

Update 9th Jan 2009: Here are the two reports on the importation of the Savannah cat (and wildcat hybrids generally) by the researchers for the Australian Government: Risk Assessment on the importation of hybrid cats The conclusion is that importation of F4-F5 Savannah cats is alright. That precludes higher fillial cats that I presume the breeder in question needs to import. Draft Environmental Assessment of the suitability of the importation of the Savannah cat into Australia Both these reports are really general information documents on wildcat hybrids. They do not as far as I can see refer to or address the issue of the impact on Australian wildlife of the importation of F1-F3 Savannah cats, which seems to be the issue. Wrong? Please leave a comment.

Update Feb 2011: I have received an email from Brett Gregory. 

He wanted to publish a comment on this page but decided not to in case I didn't see it. For this reason he has impliedly agreed publication. Brett is very critical of me. He thinks I am anti-Australia and stupid it seems to me. You make your own judgments, though. I respond below to his email.: Dear Sir Firstly, I am sending this as a private email, rather than part of your blog as I actually want to read this (you may well miss it in the blog for all I know).

Furthermore, I have no desire to publicly embarrass you. You need to read it for your own benefit. I should point out from the start that I am a cat owner. The current bunch of three rescued kittens have only been here for a week, but when it comes time for them to be let outside then that will be after early morning and before sunset, which is when birds feed in lower shrubs. I was looking through your PoC site today, and thinking “this is a very informative site, excellent pictures etc”, and then I came upon the following: August 2008 - The Savannah cat is in the news again.

Australia has banned the importation of this cat breed (src: AFP - Google News). The ban was declared by the Australian government's Environment Minister Peter Garrett. There was talk about this before it happened. I say that the Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong (see link to new page on this). Australians are it seems to me a little paranoid about their feral cat population, which is estimated to be at 12 million.

They think that feral cats of Australia are killing native wildlife but there would seem to be no firm data to back this up. There is also a myth that some Australian feral cats are growing to the size of big cats! Anyway, they think if the Savannah cat is imported to Australia, one or two may become feral then breed with the existing feral cats and bingo, you've got a super feral cat killing more native wildlife. Who caused the feral cat problem in Australia? There would seem to be a policy of cruelty towards the Australian feral cat and an acceptance of the irresponsible behavior of some people. Initially I thought that this was written by an American, with their worldwide, well known, complete and utter ignorance of anything outside their own country.

I was shocked to learn that it was it was written by an Englishman (at least they know where Australia is). It seems very obvious that you have never been to Australia. We still have trees and bushland here. Lots of it. We haven’t yet cut down all our trees to build a navy, to fight wars in the way that Spain and England did. In every major city there are huge areas of bushland full of native wildlife. Have a Google Earth look at Sydney Metropolitan area, observe how much bush there is right on residential areas, and ask yourself if you think there may be wildlife there. For the record, I have travelled extensively in the UK, having driven 10,000 kilometres from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which is ten times the distance as the crow flies.

Your National Parks do not even merit that title. There is little that is natural about them, and the title “National Park” is about preservation of the natural landscape and habitat. Yosemite was the first in the world, and soon after The Royal National Park on the outskirts of Sydney (and mostly within the metropolitan region) was the second. We are not “a little paranoid about the feral cat population”. Most of us are reasonably tall. We bloody know it’s a massive problem. We know that domestic cats kill wildlife in urban areas. What the hell do you think feral cats survive on? We are justified in being a little paranoid, because of the damage that occurs. And you say “they think that feral cats are killing native wildlife”.

Twenty years ago I had a Burmese cat called Nimrod because of his hunting instincts. He killed numerous native birds (in the dozens) and wiped out an entire nest of juvenile Blue Tongue lizards. This was all in the confines of our garden. We put a bell on him, and it made no difference. I think bells only serve to send a cat insane. This is firm data that you say doesn’t seem to exist. And no, feral cats do not grow to the size of big cats (don’t know where you got that from) but they can be bigger, probably as a result of Darwin’s survival of the fittest, or the feast of wildlife on offer. There are no native predatory cats in Australia.

The closest was the Tasmanian Tiger (not a Feline but a marsupial, and restricted to Tasmania only) which we managed to kill off completely in the 1930’s. “Who caused the feral cat problem in Australia?” Well we did of course, just as it is in every country of the world, including yours. There is not a generalised acceptance of cruelty to feral cats, nor the irresponsible behaviour of some people. Irresponsible behaviour is as hard to stamp out as the feral cat population, and sadly, the ignorance of people, particularly those who publicly spout ill-informed information on the web, whilst purporting to be knowledgeable. It’s the latter that concerns me deeply - people who are completely and utterly ignorant of Australian Fauna and habitats saying that we should have yet another introduced animal here. An animal that is much bigger, and only a few generations down from being completely wild.

Australia may appear to be a robust land, but indeed it is very fragile. It may be more than 31 times the area of the United Kingdom, but the great majority is desert (stupid name because it’s full of life). Good God man, have you lost your senses? The bloody British brought Sugar Cane with it’s associated pests, and they became a problem. So Cane Toads were brought in to control the pests, and they became an ENORMOUS problem. Now we MUST find a solution to the Cane Toad because our native fauna is at great risk from them. They are highly poisonous, but our predators don’t know that. Foxes were brought in so the British could continue their appalling traditional of hunting (isn’t that cruel btw?). Sparrows, Indian Mynahs, Starlings all displaced native birds. The list is enormous.

Oh yeah, and the British tried very hard to wipe out the indigenous human population (except that they were not regarded as human). Fortunately they didn’t succeed, and we now have the opportunity to learn from their incredible wealth of knowledge. When it comes to Savannahs, we are just not willing to take the risk, no matter how small. And why should we, just to satisfy some wealthy cat fanciers? It’s absolutely ludicrous. Then I learn that you are an (apparently) learned solicitor. I just shake my head in disbelief that an intelligent person can put such tripe in the public domain. It is my belief that you would do your public reputation a very big favour by deleting the green section (above) from your website. Certainly (and very fortunately) you will never have any influence on getting the magnificent Savannahs into this country, so why make yourself look like an ill-informed and ignorant fool?

I have sent this to the President of the World League for Protection of Animals, Halina Thompson. It was from her that we acquired our kittens. She is extremely active and knowledgeable, and may be able to supply you with some references to the problem of feral cats in this country. You may then be able to make informed comments. HALINA: link to the article in question, scroll down two thirds of the way http://www.pictures-of-cats.org/savannah-cat.html Brett Gregory Katoomba NSW Australia

Short Response: I stand by what I have said. It was meant to be provocative. Brett, you seem to be defending Australia. You do this on several occasions. I have no opinions on Australia so there is no need to throw mud at England - it is irrelevant. I criticise England as much or more than Australia! I have a neutral stance in relation to Australia. I am simply commenting on a specific aspect of Australian behavior. You appear to be far too sensitive to an English person criticising Australia. This by the way seems typical of Australians.  You say that feral cats are a massive problem but do not quote any studies to support that. You simply recite a story about your domestic cat. This is not knowing that there is a problem. This is so typical of angry people like you. You throw mud everywhere but it is totally unsupported by valid sound studies. And please don't come back with Australian studies because they are often politically motivated or funded, in my opinion. Only in certain parts of Australia and America can people legally shoot feral cats, stray cats and even domestic cats that have strayed and Bengal cat shot. This is cruel especially when, as you agree, people caused the feral cat "problem".  TNR is the only current way and responsible cat caretaking. In my opinion, people cause a far greater loss of wildlife than cats in Australia. People should get their act together first and take responsibility for their actions. This should take the form of enforcing better cat caretaking etc. not slaughtering and abusing the cat. It is high time Australians looked at themselves and their actions when deciding what to do about the feral cat rather than attacking the cat who is the victim of poor human behavior.

Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong to Savannah Cat Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong - Note about the photograph: this picture is published with the permission of A1 Savannahs. I am pretty sure that theage.com.au which has published the same picture has not obtained the same permission. How many Google Blogger sites do you know with an Alexa ranking that this one has?

Update 4th January 2020! From Michael Bates and Australian:

Like Mr Gregory I am Australian. However I agree completely with everything you said about the Savannah cat, the human hypocrisy and that, if control of feral cats is beneficial, TNR should be mandatory rather than the current cruel practices. The Savannah cat is a beautiful breed and there is no reason to ban it.

It is just a further manifestation of the pathetic and hypocritical attitude of many Australian authorities toward cats. Their hostility and paranoia with regard to cats in this country is palpable. Local authorities even pass laws to confine domestic cats in suburban areas indoor or in backyard cages when they are a realistic threat only to introduced European mice and rats. The occasional opportunistic predation on native birds that generates so much hysteria is not honestly comment worthy when domestic cats are ill equipped to compete to any significant degree with the predation on native birds by native and introduced birds. Further their killing technique of throwing their prey against solid surfaces until its neck is broken (or it is otherwise fatally injured) is well adapted to mice and rats. However, even when circumstances converge to enable domestic cats to catch a bird, this throwing through the air is not always successful for killing prey with wings.

I have no doubt that creating adversity for native species by clearing vegetation rich coastal land for human purposes thus forcing them out into more sparsely vegetated areas would put a strain on native species generally including making them more vulnerable to predation. Likewise the human history of initiating bush fires not only creates a contemporaneous massive loss of native wildlife but, by affording a huge selective advantage to eucalypt trees over other native vegetation, it sets up future massive losses of native wildlife in future fires. Eucalypts are both a fire hazard and known in this country as 'widow makers' due to their habit of randomly dropping limbs (at the peril of anyone beneath it). Humans then put restrictions on clearing them when, in my humble opinion, the proliferation of eucalypts caused by humans should be reversed and they (with the exception of the solitary species that koalas can feed on) should be cleared and replaced with less environmentally dangerous native vegetation. These human caused problems for native wildlife are not the fault of the cat and do not justify ill treatment.

I would add that, while I can no longer find the reference, I recall reading a scholarly article many years ago that pointed out that Australian Aboriginal people not only contended that cats predated white settlers but that the fact was a part of their law. In other words cats were already a part of the ecosystem when white settlers arrived rather than being a recent feral introduction that represented an immediate grave inherent crisis (cf. a threat that is an artifact of recent human activity). Of course no one listens to original Australians in spite of their intimate knowledge of the country from venerable ancient experience. That is why it took so many decades and further evidence to determine that Azaria Chamberlain was taken by a dingo even though the aboriginal tracker involved on the night of the disappearance gave that evidence at the trial. The jury obviously preferred the evidence of the white scientist who gave evidence of fetal blood in the Chamberlain's car (which later analysis proved to be a sound deadening compound) and bloody handprints on clothing (that later proved to be red sand).

I note Mr Gregory’s comment: “There are no native predatory cats in Australia. The closest was the Tasmanian Tiger (not a Feline but a marsupial, and restricted to Tasmania only) which we managed to kill off completely in the 1930’s.”

This highlights the fact that, even if the ubiquitous but questionable assumption that cats in the wild post dated white settlement is correct, it doesn't mean that cats have no place in the ecology. In the context that Tasmanian Tigers have been sighted and photographed on the mainland the corollary seems to be that cats would provide a comparable replacement in the ecological void created by humans wiping out or virtually wiping out Tasmanian Tigers (unverified sightings are still reported occasionally). I doubt that presence or absence of a pouch has much impact on their predation even if Mr Gregory feels the need to draw the distinction.

Given the problems caused by feral rabbits it is noteworthy that a study of feral cats on American islands (referred to in an article without reference) found that rabbits were 73 percent of their prey followed by European mice and then birds as did a study in semi arid New South Wales1 (actually 73 percent of the prey were juvenile rabbits and a further 8.3 percent were adult rabbits). A study from Macquarie Island2 found a similar preference as did a study of domestic and feral cats in rural Sweden3.

Thanks for your article. Just wanted you to know that not all Australians share Mr Gregory's opinion.

Footnotes (feel free to take these out if you think it is excessive for a blog comment.)
1.Catling, P.C. (1988). Similarities and contrasts in the diets of foxes, Vulpes vulpes, and cats, Felis catus, relative to fluctuating prey populations and drought. Aust. Wildl. Res., 15, 307-17.
2. Jones, E. (1977). Ecology of the feral cat, Felis catus (L.), (Carnivora: Felidae) on Macquarie Island. Australian Wildlife Research 4, 249-262.
3. Liberg, O. (1984). Food habits and prey impact by feral and house-based domestic cats in a rural; area in southern Sweden. Journal of Mammalogy 65, 424-432.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Australia has the highest mammalian extinction rate in the world. The unique wildlife does not have good defences against the feral cat or the European red fox.

There are 12-18 million feral cats in the country and it is a genuine problem. I don't understand how you can say they aren't a problem - they devour thousands of tonnes of wildlife every year (species that only occur in Australia like mala, bilbies, boodies, woylies etc).

Of course a country can change its regulations to protect its wildlife. The Savannah cat didn't exist until two decades ago - the Australian government is just catching up.

The Parkers had never received permission from their State Government, Queensland anyway. Any new animal coming into that State is classified as a Class 1 pest anyway. Australian states can regulate these animals, the same as some American states ban them. The Parkers took a business risk and it didn't come off.

They were offering breeding animals for sale, by the way. Read their website - it offers breeding animals; as do the other two prospective breeders in Australia.
Michael Broad said…
Hi,Thanks for your useful comment. However, I am not saying that the feral cat is not a problem. I am saying that, on my research, there is inconclusive evidence that the feral cat is having a significant impact on native wildlife and in any event the problem was created by people (i.e. the human not the cat is at fault) so people should not therefore go around killing feral cats inhumanely and in a cruel manner. The people who are irresponsible should be punished, not the cats, and the cats should be dealt with humanely.

We need to look at ourselves more honestly.

Also, on my reading of the Savannah cat issue, the government agreed the importation and then changed its position to the detriment of the contracting parties. That indicates a muddled approach.
Michael Broad said…
This is a postscript to my last comment. If the Parkers were going to sell breeding cats (say F1 and F2)to other breeders, I would have to agree that that presents a potential problem because somewhere down the line there may be an irresponsible breeder. If I have misread the situation I apologize but the central issue is that the feral cat should be treated humanely as this animal is no less or more important than any other and as I said we made the problem.
Anonymous said…
The cats have to eat something out there - the daily dietary requirement of the feral cat population in Australia is over 2000 tonnes a day. A lot of this diet is made up of introduced animals, that's true, but a lot is native wildlife. (See Wildlife Research 27(3) 223 - 235
The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. II. A field experiment for one example).

I agree that they must be dealt with humanely. At the moment, there aren't good enough ways of dealing with the cats, so most Australian Governments are ignoring them except in high conservation areas, or where a culling program has the chance of a long-term impact (like islands). Governments won't provide money for programs that are ineffective.

The Parkers were quick to post anything favourable on their website, so I doubt they had government approval. They posted a consultant's report that was favourable - I reckon if they had written approval, it would have appeared on the website too. (If they had formal approval from both the Queensland and National government and then the ruiles were changed, I wouldn't have a problem with them being compensated).

The Australian government did take time to react to hybrid cats. But so did cat registries. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy registered the Bengal but refuses the Savannah and any further wild-cat hybrids.

It was clearly the Parker's intention to backcross to serval genes. The myth that F5's contain 3.125% serval exactly is just that, a myth. The breeders select for serval looks at each generation, so they are selecting for serval genes. Hence the boast on their website that their F5s "look like F3s" is probably valid - selection has raised the serval content.

And that's the worry when these cats get into the bush. Those genes are likely to be naturally selected then. Conferring better hunting skills on Australian feral cats is not a good outcome. That's why the Australian government said no.
Michael Broad said…
Hi, Thanks for this well informed comment. I appreciate the time taken to do it. I'll digest it and make a post about it.
Anonymous said…
Most people agree that the underlying issue is pet owner responsibility, not nescicarly particular breeds. Savannah (or Chasie, or Safari) owners who spend thousands on their pets are usually extremely committed and responsible and are probably willing to pay the Australian government for a permit to own them. That reoccurring revenue could be used to A: check on Savannah pet owners to make sure their cats are indoors and desexed, and B, give more money back to fight the feral cat issue in general. Win, win.
Michael Broad said…
Hi thanks for the last comment. The bottom line is that there is a better way, a more sensible and humane way of dealing with the domestic cat generally. The Australian government are just jerking around governed by short-termism, politics and plain bad thinking.
Anonymous said…
The cats aren't at fault - but the Australian ecology is not adapted to survive them. feral cats are just as dangerous and destructive as the rabbits, foxes, and cane toads.

Although I have no opinion one way or the other about responsible Savannah cat ownership in Australia, I believe that sweeping statements denying the destructiveness of feral cat populations, especially when made by people with no direct experience of the country or ecology in question, are irresponsible and underinformed. If the government of Australia, under advisement from highly trained ecologists and environmental scientists, believes that introducing breeding Savannahs represents a danger, through possible interbreeding with feral cats or through any other mechanism, then I'm inclined to agree.
Michael Broad said…
Hi, and thanks for the comment. I am the person who made the post. I for one am not saying that feral cats aren't a problem. I am saying that it has not been established that they are a significant problem in Australia and secondly, even if they are a problem as alleged, they should be treated with more respect and controlled humanely.
Anonymous said…
a cat is a cat, no metter if is domestic or feral, they only sleep and kill. One simple solution, domestic cat indoor, and feral cats killed without mercy. Cats are the most disgusting creatures.
Michael Broad said…
Hi, thanks for the comment. Although I can't help but feel that you might benefit from a little bit of education on cats. Do you kill other animals without mercy?
Anonymous said…
I don't think TNR is viable in Australia, but there are people interested in trying. I posted a discussion recently - which got a couple of passionate reactions.

People forget Australia is almost the size of the 48 States but with a population of LA.

"Australians" certainly aren't allowed to just poison cats. Poisoning has to be done by strictly controlled authorised officers and I honestly don't think there are any programs underway. There is research going on, but not really active control.

We have extremely restricted firearms availability so shooting is pretty rare too - hunters certainly do shoot cats if they see them, but it would be no different to many places.

I'm pretty sure microchipping is mandatory in all States these days.

Cats spread through the 1800s, but there wasn't an Australian Government until 1901. Ironically, one of causes of the spread was to try and control rabbits, which we introduced in 1859!
Unknown said…
You are straight up wrong about feral cats not killing "precious" wildlife (you condescending little, little thing, you!) and your entire analysis is hopeless, although there is value in what you say about neutering domestics.
Michael Broad said…
Hi Townsville, thanks for the comment but not for insulting me. I am not condescending and I am not little. I am just presenting my views forceably which is why this blogger post is ranked where it is and gets the comments it gets.

Please produce sound independent evidence that feral cats kill large numbers of wild animals. All the studies I have seen worldwide indicate that feral cats do not kill anywhere near the numbers that some Australians believe. Human activity, as I have said, kills far, far more.

I am tired of hearing people say the feral cat kills significant numbers of wildlife without supporting evidence. It is not good enough.
Anonymous said…
Hi Freddie,

I note Alaska has confirmed its ban on Savannahs. I don't know how many times during the Australian Savannah debate it was claimed that these cats wouldn
t escape - the recent case of Simon the Savannah in Anchorage shows otherwise.

In your earlier response to one of my comments you indicated Australian feral cats would form colonies, and not live in low density across the landscape. That isn't true.

Over 4000 hectares at the Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, Stage II, there were only eight cats. There isn't enough food for them to aggregate - they are very territorial in the Outback.

I'm also interested in your view on welfare. Servals have a 10-day longer gestation that domestics. Because F1 matings are always males servals over domestic females, they are borne prematurely. The breeders refer to the "miracle" of raising these kittens. Knowingly conducting a breeding program that results in premature births is wrong from a welfare perspective, in my view.

Cheers
Michael Broad said…
Hi Tony

Thanks for the comment, it is appreciated.
Anonymous said…
I've just done a blog post on feral cats - Freddie, you probably won't agree, but it adds to the debate.

Cheers

It's on www.feral.typepad.com
Michael Broad said…
Hi Tony

Thanks for the comment. I'll take a look and leave a comment!
Michael Broad said…
Tony, I have just discovered that the shooting of feral cats in NSW is encouraged by the authorities.

See this post:

Ground Shooting of Feral Cats

When are Australians going to behave in a dignified and civilized manner regarding feral cats, a problem they brought upon themselves?
Jen said…
It is the cat owners fault, I am an Australian cat owner and the way people handle their cats is bad for the cat and bad for the environment. I adore the Savannah's and it makes me angry that the irresponsibility of many, takes away the privilege of those cat owners that will do the right thing.

My cat is only allowed out under supervision or on a lead, he has managed to escape me a couple of times, but I’m lucky in that he knows he can’t go far, he always returns within a short period of disappearing and then he comes back inside.

If people dislike their cats being inside then the owner needs to have an area that is sectioned off so the cat can’t escape. People wouldn’t keep their pet rabbits or guinea pigs out in the backyard without a pen, why is a cat different? Just because the rabbit and guinea pig have more chance of not returning?

Pet cats can be run down by cars, poisoned, trapped and put down by people that hate cats, on top of that the number of feline diseases is increasing, it amazes me how lax people are about this, it really does.

Besides those points, even small domestic cats can take down large prey. I have seen domestic cats killing rabbits, chickens and possums (which are rather vicious), larger cats would take down basically the same prey items that the small cats do.

I don’t see the government changing their minds on this, but it is unfair to myself and others that would be responsible.
Michael Broad said…
Jen, thanks for a nice comment. I agree people should build enclosures and be more responsible or not have cats at all.
Anonymous said…
Just some of the evidence showing the negative effects of feral cats on native fauna:

Adams, PJ. Elliot, AD. Alger, D. Brazell, RI. (2008) Gastrointestinal parasites of feral cats from Christmas Island AUSTRALIAN VETERINARY JOURNAL Vol.86, Iss.1-2; p.60-63

DEWHA (Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts), (2008), Threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats, DEWHA, Canberra. http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/cats08.html

Dickman C R, (1996), Overview of the impacts of feral cats on Australian native fauna (for the Australian Nature Conservation Agency),
Dieffenbach, E. (1843). Travels in New Zealand. John Murray, London.

Edwards, GP, De Preu, N, Shakeshaft, BJ, Crealy, IV, Paltridge, RM (2001) Home range and movements of male feral cats (Felis catus) in a semiarid woodland environment in central Australia AUSTRAL ECOLOGY Vol.26,Iss.1;p.93-101

Iverson, JB.(1978) The impact of feral cats and dogs on populations of the West Indian rock iguana, Cyclura carinata Biological Conservation Vol.14,Iss.1;p.63

Matias, R. Catry, P.(2008),The diet of feral cats at New Island, Falkland Islands, and impact on breeding seabirds, POLAR BIOLOGY, Vol.31,Iss.5;p.609-616

McLeod R (2004). Counting the cost: impact of invasive animals in Australia, 2004, Cooperative Research Centre for Pest Animal Control, Canberra. http://www.invasiveanimals.com/publications/downloads/Counting-The-Cost.pdf

Medina, FM. Lopez-Darias, M. Nogales, M. Garcia, R. (2008) Food habits of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus L.) in insular semiarid environments (Fuerteventura, Canary Islands) WILDLIFE RESEARCH, Vol.35, Iss.2; p.162-169

Medina, FM. Garcia R. (2007) Predation of insects by feral cats (Felis silvestris catus L., 1758) on an oceanic island (La Palma, Canary Island) JOURNAL OF INSECT CONSERVATION Vol.11, Iss.2; p.203-207

Moseby KE. & Read, JL,. (2006) The efficacy of feral cat, fox and rabbit exclusion fence designs for threatened species protection Biological Conservation Vol.127,Iss.4;p.429

Pontier, D. Say, L, Debias, FO. Bried, J. Thiobuse, J. Micol, T. Natoli, E. (2002) The diet of feral cats (Felis catus L.) at five sites on the Grande Terre, Kerguelen archipelago POLAR BIOLOGY Vol.25,Iss.11;p.833-837

Robertson, SA. (2008) A review of feral cat control Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery Vol.10,Iss.4;p.366

Seabrook, W. (1989) Feral cats (Felis catus) as predators of hatchling green turtles (Chelonia mydas)Journal of Zoology Vol.219,Iss.1;p.83-88

Veitch, CR. (2001) The eradication of feral cats (Felis catus) from Little Barrier Island, New Zealand NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY Vol.28,Iss.1;p.1-12

Weggler, M. Leu, B. (2001) A source population of Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) in villages with a high density of feral cats (Felis catus) JOURNAL FUR ORNITHOLOGIE Vol.142,Iss.3;p.273-283
Anonymous said…
I'm an Australian, and I also love cats and hate to see them treated so bloody badly in this country.

However, you fools that like to torture and kill cats however you wish should realise that they are the Number 2 species for mass extermination and obliteration of diversity. Humans are number one.

Felines are the second most superior species on Earth by our own human standards.

I am far more concerned with feral humans...
Unknown said…
I was going to comment on here, but have just pent quite a bit of time reading through previous comments and it obvious quite obvious that there is no point trying to bring you any more 'evidence' of the damage done by feral cats in Australia. No matter what genuine evidence is offered your standard reply is that you haven't seen any supporting evidence. I am sorry your blog is to me a prime example of projection, all the things you project onto the 'cat haters' such as ranting, misinformed etc etc is a mirroring of your blinkered stance re cats. Yes the humans (Homo sapiens ferox) were/are at fault BUT now there is a massive problem that has to be remedied before the unique marsupials indigenous to Australia are brought to extinction from cats. We cant wipe out the feral humans, we can slowly educate and legislate for change.... but feral cats dogs donkeys horses camels rats mice can be rapidly controlled by efficient humane extermination. I'm sorry a native marsupial cat far outways an introduced moggy, so the cats have to go.
Cathy said…
First off, I should note that I am impressed with your site. But as far as this particular article goes I must say that as an Aussie living in regional queensland I have to disagree with many of your comments.

Feral cats are a huge problem; together with the feral dogs they are responsible for putting creatures such as the bandicoot into the endangered category. Australia didn't really have anything in the way of large predators (aside from the dingo, and the tasmnian tiger)and so when humans introduced the cats (and dogs to be fair) our native wildife just couldn't cope. It also meant that there was no predators for these imports to contend with, and so they thrived.

That being said, I agree that the cruelty involved with putting the feral cats down is wrong. But they still need to go if we want to protect our wonderful wildlife. Lets face it, cats aren't going to go extinct, but many of the species we have in Australia can't be found anywhere else.

As far as the Savannah goes, I do think banning them is a little over the top primarily because any cat sold would have to be desexed (its the law in QLD) and because they are so rare it is unlikely that they will 'get lose' and breed with the ferals. Not only this but who in their right mind would let a $5000 cat go? I love cats, I have two beautiful ragdolls myself, but they are indoor cats only, and if they need sunshine I put them in my outdoor cattery.

I would love a savannah but they are natural hunters (with their genes how could they be anything else?) and if the ban ever gets lifted then legislation will have to be written to ensure all owners have outdoor catterys and runs so that the animal CANNOT get loose.
Anonymous said…
Well well well. Have only just read this comment. No wonder u have posted yourself as Anonymous. That's what people expect from animal haters like yourself. Maybe you are the feral that should be killed without mercy, and it is you that is the most disgusting creature. Wonder what you think of that you cruel, insensitive b.....rd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous said…
Good on you Freddie Fox. Only just read your blog on the above excuse for a human being. Not only am I sure this disgusting piece of u-know-wot would kill other animals without mercy, but probably does this towards his fellow man.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said…
Ban must be lifted. My savannah is my best friend and ideal family member and do take care of everything. Their behavior largely depends on the way they are treated. You can visit them here on this website
Michael Broad said…
I agree. I think the authorities have overreacted because of their dislike and indeed fear of feral cats killing native wildlife. They fear that an escaped Savannah cat would become feral and a super-feral cat killing wildlife in an uncontrollable way. All this is highly exaggerated.

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