'Irresponsible' pet owners warned after 323 million animals killed each year

It's a staggering figure – and the rate is only increasing.

It is a staggering figure — 323 million native animals are killed every year at the 'paws' of one of the country's most beloved pets, and the rate has only increased in recent years.

After the pandemic sparked a pet boom, 5.3 million cats across Australia are responsible for a high wildlife death toll and conservation groups are pleading with pet owners to make a simple change to lower the figure.

A pet owner captures a picture of two cats staring outside on a window sill where a bird has landed.
Wildlife conservation groups are urging pet owners to stop their cat from freely roaming outdoors after recent research reveals alarming rates of wildlife deaths. Source: Supplied

What can pet owners do?

According to the new research, 71 per cent of "irresponsible" cat owners still allow their pet to free-roam outdoors, and a simple shift in this behaviour could significantly protect both local wildlife and cats alike.

"My cat is part of my family and I hate the thought of something happening to him if he was allowed to wander," Invasive Species Council conservation officer Candice Bartlett told Yahoo News Australia.

"Two in three cat owners have lost a cat in a roaming-related accident... I know that keeping my cat at home will keep my cat safe, while helping to protect wildlife."

Left, A squirrel glider with two joeys was euthanised after the mother sustained spinal cord injuries after interacting with a cat. Right, a bat is being care for, surrounded in blankets.
Cat attacks are non-discriminative, with an extensive range of wildlife injured and killed across Australia. Source: Supplied/Tania Bishop

What can be done on a state level?

Wildlife conservation advocates are also pushing for stricter cat containment laws to prevent cat-wildlife interaction and ultimately lower the number of fatalities.

The ACT has the strictest cat containment laws in the country after passing legislation last year that prohibits all cats born after 1st of July 2022 from roaming in public areas, and nearly 50 per cent of Victorian councils have enforced cat curfews, like the City of Greater Bendigo.

Right, pet owners have created a contained outdoor space for two ginger cats, and left, the silhouette of a cat can be seen sitting on a window sill.
Pet owners are being urged to keep their cats indoors or to create contained outdoor spaces to keep them safe, alongside wildlife. Source: Supplied/Jacinta Humphrey and Candice Barlett

“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 said when announcing new cat containment laws in his state.

However, others states are lagging far behind.

"We have an archaic situation in New South Wales and Western Australia where local governments cannot implement basic cat curfew laws due to barriers in the state legislation," Ms Bartlett explained.

Minor amendments to the Companions Animals Act would give councils the power to enforce cat containment, which could be hugely advantageous. "The NSW Government could save 66 million native animals every year in the Greater Sydney area alone by legislating 24/7 cat curfews," she said.

Ms Bartlett also advocates for a boost in funding to educate pet owners and introduce desexing subsidises, which she believes would help mitigate the issue.

"Our vision is a new generation of cat owners, that realise that keeping your cat at home is the safest thing you can do for wildlife, cats and the community."

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