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Cat Confinement & Legislation

Cat Confinement & Legislation

The call for cats to be controlled (identified, registered, banned, confined 24 hours per day, or be desexed) has risen since the early 1980s. The drive for this call has come from the belief that cats are a major threat to wildlife, especially urban wildlife.  (For further discussion of the impact of cats on wildlife, please see the Issue "Pets and Wildlife".)

Confinement of cats can create positive welfare benefits for felines, advantages for the owner and their neighbours. 

Cats unable to wander are not hit by cars, attacked by dogs, tormented by humans, injured in cat fights or by other means.  Neither do they kill other animals, toilet in gardens or sandpits, pick up infectious disease or "caterwaul" at night when mating or fighting.

The welfare implications of keeping cats confined are a concern for many people and have been likened to keeping wild animals in zoos - it can be done humanely with knowledge of their needs and behaviour patterns, and with a genuine willingness to meet these requirements.  Ellen Jongman discusses this in "The welfare implications of confinement of cats" and Jongman 2007 Adaptation of domestic cats to confinement (abstract).

Veterinarian Robert Holmes (Practical advice for cat confinement) provides excellent advice on successful ways to confine cats including environmental and life enrichment strategies that lead to a marked reduction in anxiety and frustration.  This builds on earlier papers on cat behaviour presented by Dr Holmes at the 1997 UAM Conference (Pussycat peccadilloes and Feline fabulous).

More practical advice on cat confinement is provided by Neva van der Kuyt from the Bureau of Animal Welfare (Victoria), (DIY cat proof fencing and cat enclosures) and an on line brochure with detailed plans for cat enclosures (How to build cat proof fencing and cat enclosures).

Cat registration has been enacted in some States (NSW, Vic), but has been resisted elsewhere for a range of reasons (The power of the rectrospectoscope - cat legislation: what precisely did we learn in SA? ).

Cat identification on the other hand, is in the cat and owner's interests and costs State and Local Government virtually nothing (barring promotion and enforcement).

While the reasons behind the call for cat legislation tend to be the same, different State Governments deal with the issue in different ways (Victoria cat legislation, Cat legislation in South Australia, Legislation - strategic planning for companion animals in the Australian Capital Territory, "Ban those cats" - Resolving wildlife issues in the ACT) and different local councils enact legislative powers to suit their local needs (Cat curfew - Casey City Council, No cat zone - City of Kingston, Cat confinement - does it work?, Cat pounds - Manningham City Council perspective).

Local Government finds great value in comparing their results with others in relation to legislation, enforcement and resources and results (Benchmarking Victoria - an all council view & comparison).

The introduction of cat legislation can bring with it community expectation that the provisions will be enforced, leading to increased demand on council resources and costs.  However, experience in Victoria shows that it can significantly improve socially responsible pet ownership in the areas where it is carried out. (Benchmarking Victoria - an all council view & comparison)