Cat curfews in Australia to keep cats safe

Cat curfews in Australia

The days of pet cats roaming free are coming to an end. Photo: Carol Hu/

Across Australia, the days of free-roaming, free-loving, outdoor pet cats are coming to an end. Councils are introducing cat curfews in Australia and other initiatives to limit prowling and reduce the number of native animals and birds they kill says Sydney Morning Herald report by Julie Power February 12, 2017.

A new report released week found widespread support for keeping cats indoors or contained outdoors – as well as curfews, limits on cat ownership, mandatory desexing, and microchipping.

A study released last week that tracked more than 400 cats found nearly all roamed farther than most owners realised. This put the cats at risk of cars, hissy cat spats, annoyed neighbours and poisons, all while endangering native animals and birds.

University of South Australia researchers attached GPS devices to the collars of 428 cats for a week. It found the median range the cats travelled from their home was about the size of a football field, while some free-ranged across towns and city suburbs.

Nearly 90 percent travelled significantly longer distances at night than during the day, said Dr Philip Roetman who led the research by Discovery Circle.

Nearly all owners were shocked by the secret lives of their cats, said Dr Roetman.

Wandering cats got into more fights than others, were at more risk of being run over, and were less loved than sedentary cats, he said.

“If you want to reduce risks to the cat, do keep them inside,” he said.

About 70 percent of cat owners and non-owners supported keeping cats indoors or in enclosures at night.

Pressure is also building from people concerned about the impact of cats on native animal populations. A study found owners only see about 23 per cent of prey that cats catch.

Examples of councils taking action with a range of initiatives including cat curfews in Australia

Victoria’s Yarra Range Council, for example, has a 24-hour cat curfew, requiring residents to keep cats within their property at all times. South-west of Sydney, Wollondilly Council is now considering a night time curfew. Councillor Simon Landow has received overwhelming support for a dusk to dawn curfew to reduce the number of native animals killed by cats. But he said these rules had no teeth until the state government enacted similar legislation.

WA has strict laws making microchipping and desexing compulsory and placing limits on cat ownership, and South Australia is implementing similar laws.

In NSW, Eurobodalla Council is trying a different approach. In the first trial of its kind, it will provide 500 cat owners with a cat bib that resembles a baby’s. The large blue neoprene flap attached to the cat’s collar distracts the cat from the prey. It was found by Murdoch University researchers to stop 81 percent of cats from catching birds, 45 percent of cats from catching mammals, and 33 percent of cats from catching lizards and amphibians.

Courtney Fink-Downes, the council’s natural resource officer, said the council will be providing a free bib to cat owners who lived near bushland with native animals, lizards and birds at risk.

After getting the results of the cat tracking data from the GPS devices, Dr Roetman said many owners had decided to build cat enclosures or net part of their yards to contain their cats.