The national Australian government, along with many state governments, have been pursuing large-scale culling of unowned outdoor cats for decades. The goal of eradicating feral and stray cats from large portions of the landscape, even whole islands, is to protect the native wildlife, which many Australians believe are being threatened to extinction by cat predation. Despite heavy evidence that cat predation has little effect on overall prey animal populations, anti-cat hysteria seems to be the norm throughout the country.
Alley Cat Rescue has been following the persecution of cats in Australia with particular concern. That is why we were surprised and thrilled to read a recent article on the ABC Australia website that announced, “Stray cats would be desexed and released to reduce the number of animals euthanased under a proposal being considered by the New South Wales government.”
This is welcome progress from Australia’s fifth largest, and arguably best internationally known, state. According to the article, the Centre for International Economics for the NSW Office of Local Government is recommending funding a sterilization program for an initial period of five years. Free spay/neuter programs have actually already been started in some areas of NSW and, per the article, “an RSPCA trial in Greenacre in Sydney's south-west [has reduced] the number of kittens coming into the shelter from the area by a third in its first year.”
According to Professor emeritus of the University of Queensland’s School of Veterinary Science, Dr. Jacquie Rand, this could have a huge positive impact on outdoor cat populations. Dr. Rand, who is heading a research project on community cat programs, told ABC News Australia that said the cost of desexing and microchipping — about $300 plus registration fees — was a barrier to taking ownership of cats.” She therefore believes that concerned, compassionate citizens will be empowered to TNR the community cats they already feed and otherwise manage, as well as enable them to remove more friendly strays and kittens from colonies through adoption and fostering.
Although many Australians argue that returning cats outdoors, even after they are sterilized, still puts native species in immediate danger of being hunted, Gemma Ma, manager of the RSPCA's Keeping Cats Safe at Home program, presented the undeniable counter-argument to ABC Radio Sydney that “the current approach of trapping and euthanasing strays had failed to curb the numbers living on the street.”
We hope to see more support for outdoor cats coming out of NSW in the near future. We are also hopeful that community cat programs there will influence other places within Australia, and perhaps other nations, to respect cats’ lives as much as they do those of wild animals.
Reference: Bolger, Rosemary. “NSW Considers Expanding Free Desexing for Stray Cats to Reduce Euthanasia Rates.” ABC News, 19 Jan. 2023, www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-19/nsw-considers-expanding-desexing-stray-cats-reduce-euthanasia/101867888.
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.