South West Catchment Council to launch Responsible Pet Ownership Project website

Containing your cat: Five-year-old ragdoll, Mima, can still access the outside in the protection of her enclosure. Photo: Pip Waller.
Containing your cat: Five-year-old ragdoll, Mima, can still access the outside in the protection of her enclosure. Photo: Pip Waller.

A WEBSITE will soon be launched to help cat owners contain their cat to their property within the greater Bunbury region.

As run by the South West Catchments Council, the website is part of the Responsible Pet Ownership Project, a five-year program funded by the federal government's National Landcare Program.

The website will be launched in December with the aim of reducing wildlife predation from cats as well as containing cats to the owner's property in an effort to reduce cat-to-cat conflicts.

The South West Catchments Council threatened species project manager Jaya Vaughan said the council ran a survey in 2020 on 725 pet owners in the greater Bunbury region as part of the program.

She said it was found that 81 per cent of those surveyed thought keeping cats contained to their property was "the right thing to do".

Ms Vaughan also said from a wildlife point of view, containing a cat to a property was the best way to help wildlife, but also to protect cats from each other.

"We've spoken to eight vets in the Bunbury area and they all said the most significant threat to a cat's safety is cat fight.

"Free access cats access the vet unexpectedly on average at least three times a year, with the most common injury being abscess."

Ms Vaughan said a Cat Tracker Project was conducted in South Australia recently, where tracking collars were put on hundreds of domestic cats.

According to Ms Vaughan, it was found on average that a free roaming cat will roam up to two hectares.

The study also concluded that cat's bring home only 40 per cent of what they hunt, meaning owners may not always be aware of what their cats are capturing and killing.

As part of the project, indoor cat focus sessions were recently run in Bunbury, offering cat owners information on enclosed patio enclosures for those interesting in transitioning their free roaming cat to indoor.

The enclosures or 'catios' , which Ms Vaughan recommends for anyone transitioning their cat from free roam, are generally made of mesh fencing secured to a property boundary.

South Bunbury resident Lucinda Hanczakowski, who has an outdoor 'CatZone' enclosure for her cats, Mima and Ciccia, attended one of the sessions.

This is about what's right, these are living animals and as owners we are responsible for them."

Cat owner, Lucinda Hanczakowsk

She said it was having cats previously who were required to go on antidepressants and lost all their fur due to stress from other cats, that led to her decision to keep her two cats inside with the use of the enclosure.

"It was installed in a matter of days and both are cats are perfectly content," Ms Hanczakowski said.

"This is about two things: protecting your cat and our wildlife. We have lots of Western Ringtail Possums around our house and baby magpies.

Ms Hanczakowski recommended that all cat owners in the greater Bunbury region should seriously consider keeping their cats indoors, but that it was always difficult to create change.

"Sometimes people don't want to make change because there's a fear of backlash, but this is not about that.

"This is about what's right, these are living animals and as owners we are responsible for them.

"People think cats can't be indoors, but they can."

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Once the website is launched, it will feature videos of eight individuals within Bunbury, including Ms Hanczakowski, who have so far successfully transitioned their cats from free roam to inside.

It will also feature a feline personality quiz and a list of resources on how to contain your cat.

Ms Vaughan said while the council understood everyone had different circumstances, containing a cat to a property was doable.

"And that's what we're trying to show on our website through providing information.

"But it takes more than that to change behaviours. You might be aware of the issue of climate change and you might be aware of what you can do to stop it, but then you might not do it because there are barriers."

If you'd like more information, contact Jaya Vaughan via jaya.vaughan@swccnrm.org.au.