BoroondaraEnvironmentLocal Government

Cat Curfew in Boroondara

By 21 February 2024March 15th, 2024No Comments

Cats: cute, furry killing machines

LWT

Boroondara City Council will soon table a petition to consider introducing a cat-curfew. Boroondara hosts a wide variety of animals including birdlife, invertebrates, frogs, possums, bats, turtles and many more[1]. Despite the breadth of scientific data explaining just how devastating cats (domestic and feral) are to the environment, inaction by City Councils to introduce cat curfews is, I argue, an act of environmental irresponsibility.

Let me declare right up that I am an animal lover, an advocate for native flora and fauna and the environment. There are one or two exceptions to this however, and Felis catus is one of them.

To build a case in preparation for the petition submission, I set out to find out how many domestic cats there are in Boroondara, and, based on available data, how many native animals they are likely to be killing each year in the area. As it turns out, this is not an easy thing to do as data regarding the numbers of pet cats and feral cats are difficult to source. Nevertheless, I did my best under the circumstances to locate, calculate and estimate the numbers and collateral damage.

Research by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science (NES) Program quantified the impact of Australia’s pet cat population on wildlife at a national scale. The study, conducted by Legge, et al.[2], found that collectively, pet cats kill 390 million animals per year across Australia, and on average, each roaming pet cat kills 40 native reptiles, 38 native birds and 32 native mammals (i.e., 110 native animals) per year. Repeat, “pet cats”.

In Boroondara in 2021, there were a reported total of 5,403 registered pet cats[3]. By applying reclaim data from the RSPCA, an average of only 7% of cats impounded are registered prior to release[4]. From this we can estimate that there are at present 77, 185 pet cats in the City of Boroondara. Without a cat curfew, they are all potentially free to roam.

The NES Program further found densities of 40‒70 roaming pet cats per square kilometre in suburbs. The City of Boroondara covers an area of 60 square kilometres [5], and so from this we can estimate that there are between 2,400‒4,200 cats currently roaming the City of Boroondara. If each of these cats kill 110 native animals per year[6], then we can approximate that between 264,000‒462,000 native animals are killed in Boroondara every year. If we are look at the earlier figures above however, telling us that 77,185 pet cats are (potentially) roaming in Boroondara, then the kill rate of native animals will be approximately 8,490,350. That is, close to 8.5 million. Further, if statistics were available regarding the numbers of feral and stray cats in the area―known to kill 75% more than domestic cats[7] ―this figure would be considerably higher.

If all this does not shock you enough, then this just might. As well as preying on native animals, cats are the primary host of a parasite called Toxoplamosa gondii that causes the disease toxoplasmosis. This parasite can be transmitted from cats to other animals, including humans, where it takes up residence in the brain[8]. Disturbingly, due to the prevalence of cats in human societies, about one in three people worldwide are unwitting hosts of Toxoplamosa gondii[9]. You become infected by the parasite by ingesting food or water contaminated by cat excrement where it goes about taking control of the immune system. There is a growing body of evidence that this parasite is linked to serious neurological disorders in people, including schizophrenia, intermittent explosive rage disorder, suicide, mood swings, depression and anxiety[10]. There is a disproportionately high presence of toxoplasma in people who die in traffic accidents, and 20% of cases of schizophrenia are related to the presence of toxoplasma cysts. It is believed that more than one million suicide attempts worldwide are related to the parasite[11]. Oh, and did I mention that it can also kill human foetuses[12].

In summary, cats, not matter how cute and furry, are predatory by nature, spreader of dangerous parasites and elite killing machines. The cat curfew petition being tabled by Boroondara City Council is calling to follow the lead of Knox City Council by introducing a 24-hour cat curfew to the area, and in doing so, protect Boroondara’s native wildlife and the health and safety of its citizens.

 

 

[1] KooyongKoot Alliance. Fauna. 2023. https://kka.org.au/kooyongkoot/ecology/fauna/

[2] S. Legge, P. L. Taggart, C. R. Dickman, J. L. Read, and J. C. Z. Woinarski, “Cat-dependent diseases cost Australia AU$6 billion per year through impacts on human health and livestock production,” Wildlife Research, vol. 47, no. 8, pp. 731‒746, 2020, doi: https://doi.org/10.1071/WR20089.

[3] Boroondara City Council. “City of Boroondara domestic animal management plan 2021‒2025: responsible pet ownership,” Boroondara City Council. Victoria, 2021.

[4] Ibid.

[5] City of Boroondara. “City of Boroondara annual report 2021‒2022,” Victoria, 2022.

[6] S. Legge, P. L. Taggart, C. R. Dickman, J. L. Read, and J. C. Z. Woinarski, “Cat-dependent diseases cost Australia AU$6 billion per year through impacts on human health and livestock production,” Wildlife Research, vol. 47, no. 8, pp. 731‒746, 2020, doi: https://doi.org/10.1071/WR20089.

[7] S. Legge, J. C. Z. Woinarski, C. Dickman, B. P. Murphy, L. Woolley, and M. C. Calver, “We need to worry about Bella and Charlie: the impacts of pet cats on Australian wildlife,” Wildlife Research, vol. 47, no. 8, pp. 523‒539, 2020, doi: https://doi.org/10.1071/WR19174.

[8] M. C. Pineda, “Toxoplasma: the parasite that takes over our brains,” 5 January 2023. [Online]. Available: https://theconversation.com/toxoplasma-the-parasite-that-takes-over-our-brains-197100

[9] S. Arrunda et al., “Clinical manifestations and visual outcomes associated with ocular toxoplasmoisis in a Brazilian population,” Scientific Reports, vol. 11, no. 3137, 2021, doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-82830

[10] B. Sullivan, “Is the brain parasite Toxoplasma manipulating your behavior, or is your immune system to blame?,” 14 May 2019. [Online]. Available: https://theconversation.com/is-the-brain-parasite-toxoplasma-manipulating-your-behavior-or-is-your-immune-system-to-blame-116718

[11] M. C. Pineda, “Toxoplasma: the parasite that takes over our brains,” 5 January 2023. [Online]. Available: https://theconversation.com/toxoplasma-the-parasite-that-takes-over-our-brains-197100

[12] Arranz-Solís, D., Mukhopadhyay, D., & Saeij, J. J. P. (2021). Toxoplasma effectors that affect pregnancy outcome. National Library of Medicine, 37(4), 283-295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2020.10.013

 

Featured image by Rebecca Tregear from Pixabay