Cat Containment

The ACT Government has announced new laws to ensure cats are contained from July 2021 right across Canberra.  

Cats are a popular pet in Canberra and a valuable companion animal in one quarter of Canberra households. They are also efficient predators. All cats, even those that are well fed, have natural hunting and chasing instincts. Local research reveals that roaming pet cats are killing a significant and diverse range of native wildlife, threatening our Bush Capital’s biodiversity.

In addition to the already established cat containment suburbs; the ACT Government has recently announced that as of July 1, 2022 all newly acquired cats in the Territory will have to be contained at all times under ACT law.  This announcement is a positive move that will help to protect the ACT’s native wildlife… Sadly the start date for the new laws mean that all new kittens purchased up until July 1st 2022 won’t be included under the containment requirements. Given that domestic cats often live for over 15 years, this means that under the new laws, cats could still be roaming Canberra until 2037!

The ACT Cat Plan 2021-31 outlines the management of all cats in the ACT, including semi-owned, unowned, and feral cats. The Cat Plan has 3 primary objectives;

  1. To promote responsible cat ownership.
  2. To protect wildlife from cat predation.
  3. To reduce the issues caused by roaming cats in the ACT.

Implementation of this plan is facilitated by the ACT Cat Implementation Plan. It outlines 8 strategies to achieve the above objectives. Specifically, these aim to

  1. Promote responsible cat ownership.
  2. Improve compliance and enforcement of cat laws.
  3. Reduce the number of semi-owned and unowned domestic cats.
  4. Improve domestic cat welfare and management practices.
  5. Expand cat containment.
  6. Reduce the impacts of feral cats.
  7. Engage rural land holders.
  8. Promote human health and wellbeing through responsible pet ownership.

Why Cat Containment?

Research undertaken in Canberra reveals that roaming pet cats kill a significant amount and diverse range of native wildlife. While cats are a popular pet in Canberra and a valuable companion animal in many households, they are also efficient predators. Even well-fed cats have natural hunting and chasing instincts

It is also in your cat’s interest to be contained both day and night. Contained cats are more likely to live a longer and healthier life than those allowed to roam.

Roaming cats can be killed or injured through car accidents and fights with other animals. They can also contract fatal diseases such as feline AIDS or be more likely to require veterinary attention for fleas, ticks, worms, abscesses, cuts and other illnesses.

27 per cent of the ACT’s cat owners reported that their cat had come home injured at least once each year. Roaming cats were four times more likely to have suffered significant injury at least once in the previous year than cats that were contained.

Cat Facts for Canberra


  • There are an estimated 56,000 pet cats in Canberra.
  • Pet cats kill more than 67 species of prey, including native birds, reptiles and frogs, and killing an estimated  380,000 – 630,000 animals annually.
  • Pet cats actively hunt during the day and night.
  • Cats favour species like frogs, reptiles and birds that live on the ground. 
  • Some pet cats prefer to hunt a particular species until the local population is completely eradicated.
  • Pet cats can roam up to 1km from home.
  • 77 percent of Canberra suburbs are close to nature reserves which are important habitat for threatened species or species of concern, and are vulnerable to cats.
  • In 2008, 252 animals injured by cats were received by the RSPCA ACT, including 32 species of native bird, two species of bat, two species of lizard and the brushtail possum.
  • 82 percent of animals brought to the shelter because to injuries from cats were native to Canberra.
  • Cats can host Toxoplasmosis, a blood disease that causes sickness and death in some species of wildlife.

How can you keep your cat contained at home?


Usually the cheapest and easiest option, your cat will be content if you provide enough space and different areas for toileting, sleeping, hiding and playing (such as scratch posts or climbing poles), and access to food and water. Your cat will also like access to outdoor views and smells with wire screens, so open windows and doors as long as your cat can’t escape. Cats also enjoy a sunny spot to bask in.

Indoors with an outdoor enclosure

By attaching an enclosure to your house which attaches to their indoor space via a window or cat flap, or building a free-standing enclosure, you can expand your cat’s environment and provide them with choice about where to spend their time.  A balcony or veranda which can be made escape-proof is also a great option. Remember that separate outdoor enclosures will need to have food, water, and play and resting areas, and be mindful of external threats from neighbouring dogs who may frighten your cat if they can constantly see into the enclosure.

Indoors with an outdoor space surrounded by an escape-proof fence

Escape-proof fencing on your yard provides the best of indoor and outdoor living for your cat whilst keeping them safe.  There are lots of options and products available to make your yard escape-proof from modifying your existing yard fencing to putting in a new solid fence or netting.