28 May 2021

Media release: ACT Cat Plan step in the right direction for Canberra’s wildlife

The Conservation Council ACT Region today welcomed the ACT’s Government’s commitment to at last implement cat containment across the whole of Canberra as a way to improve outcomes for native wildlife in the Territory, though expressed concern about the delayed start date of the measures.

“The decision to finally implement Canberra-wide cat containment is welcome – for too many years we have known about the havoc that roaming cats play as a result of hunting native animals in Canberra’s precious nature reserves,” said Helen Oakey, Executive Director.

“Australia is facing a biodiversity crisis, and cats have shown themselves to be powerful predators and a key threat to small mammals and reptiles, and bird species. Canberra’s wildlife is particularly susceptible to the impacts of cat predation due to the proximity of urban areas to nature reserves.

“The Conservation Council welcomes the new ACT Cat Plan as a step in the right direction to encourage responsible cat ownership both for the health and wellbeing of pet cats, and to protect wildlife.

“The Government has chosen to proceed with a “grandfathering” approach which means that cats acquired after July 1 2022 will be required to be contained, and already-owned cats will not.

“While this allows a phased-in approach there are downsides, including community confusion about which cats are allowed out and which ones have to be kept at home.

“Sadly, it will also mean that the impacts of cats on native animals is likely to continue for more than a decade as already-owned cats age. Setting a date by which all cats across Canberra should be contained would have been preferable.

“In addition, it is very disappointing that the new measures won’t come into force until July 1st 2022, allowing more than a year of newly-acquired cats to be free to roam and hunt for the duration of their lives.

“Other measures in the plan are welcome, including the requirement for cat registration which will help to identify and return lost cats to their owners. Microchipping and registration of pet cats will also be crucial to ensure compliance when cat containment is implemented.

“Better management of unowned and feral cats across the Territory will also be important, and the Council would welcome the listing of cat predation as a key threatening process under ACT environment laws.

“Perhaps the most positive outcome of today’s announcement is that the ACT Government can start a Canberra-wide community education campaign about why all pet cats should be kept at home, and only taken out while on a leash.

“Many cat owners may be unaware of the impact that their pets can have on native wildlife, and once they find out more, will hopefully take steps to voluntarily keep their cat at home where they are safer, and keep Canberra’s wildlife safe too,” said Ms Oakey

ACT Cat Plan 2021-2031