A picture shared by a NSW wildlife carer shows the concealed damage our beloved pets can impose on other animals, prompting an urgent call to keep roaming cats indoors.
Despite dogs often being scorned more frequently for their threat to local wildlife, cats are notorious within the rescue community and are dubbed "silent killers" as the injuries they inflict often hide beneath their prey's fur.
Last week wildlife carer Katrina shared what fatal repercussions looked like for one possum after the animal encountered a cat in Wollongong.
How do cats pose a deadly threat to wildlife?
As with all animals, cats behave off instincts and will often "play" with wildlife they cross paths with — much to the dismay of cat owners who find deceased rodents and birds in and around their homes. Despite it being well-known that cats catch and kill creatures they find while roaming, the extent of their damage isn't limited by the size, with larger animals also falling victim.
"If the attack doesn’t kill them directly, many animals succumb to the bacteria that is in the cat's mouth and injected under the skin by the puncture wounds," Katrina told Yahoo News Australia.
Bacteria in a cat's salvia inflicts a "100 per cent chance of infection", with wildlife carers racing against the clock to administer antibiotics. Most animals have a 24-hour window to receive treatment, with some having even less, before they die from infection, according to wildlife carer and data collector Shaun.
"I can say with absolute certainty 30 per cent of animal rescues we respond to are due to cat attacks," Shaun said.
"50 per cent of altercations with cats end in death"Wildlife carer Shaun
What can be done about it?
Wildlife advocates are pushing for stricter cat containment regulations to protect local wildlife, with research suggesting that keeping pets indoors would be beneficial for domestic and feral cats alike.
The regulations differ between states, territories and council areas, but steps are being made to restrict roaming behaviour. Last year the ACT introduced new cat containment laws to restrict movement in public areas, with it now being illegal for cats to roam if they were born after the 1st of July 2022 in the state.
Council areas across the country are banning cats from roaming or enforcing strict night curfews, with Brisbane, Adelaide Hills and Bendigo in Victoria all tightening regulations, with penalties applying if not abided by.
In NSW, five local councils petitioned for cats to be confined to their owner's property last October, saying failure to manage cats results in "the overlapping problems of cat welfare, impacts on humans, impact on wildlife".
Pet and feral cats kill over two billion reptiles, birds and mammals every year in Australia, according to the Australian National University, with the message from wildlife carers being simple — keep your cats indoors.
"The Australian bush can be dangerous for our pets and they themselves can get attacked or suffer from infections from roaming free in bushland," Katrina shared, with the sentiment backed by evidence which public officials are adopting.
“Pet cats who roam live shorter lives on average and have higher rates of disease than those that are contained to the home," ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel stated when he announced new cat containment laws in his state.
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