BY GABE MERKEL
Night roaming cats are at the centre of a conflict between residents of Randwick and their recently elected Mayor Kathy Nielson. Cr Neilson introduced a motion, widely referred to as the “cat ban,” to the Randwick City Council almost two weeks ago and it recently passed by a vote of eight to six.
The motion establishes a committee which will look into keeping cats inside and confined, especially at night. The policy is designed to protect local fauna and to prevent cats from defecating in public places. Liberal Councillor Harry Stavrinos denounced the policy in an interview with News Corp, describing it as “outrageous” and saying that the police force has more serious things to do than “send people out to watch cats defecating on lawns”.
Councillor Brendan Roberts also criticized the motion, contending that it’s “not really based on actual evidence, just people’s feelings” and insisting the council “should be debating more important issues than this”. Jim Freeman, cat lover, and a resident of Randwick, condemned the policy as extremely unfair.
He went on to point out the potential difficulty of enforcing the regulation, saying that Council had a number of more pressing items that could be looked at and dealt with. In addition to doubts about compliance and importance, there have been criticisms that the policy will be detrimental to Randwick cats’ emotional and physical welfare.
Locals have raised concerns that keeping cats indoors could cause feline psychological and physiological stress as well as increase the likelihood of obesity, diabetes and a host of other diseases. However, a representative of the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home told the City Hub that while “all cats need to exercise…this can be done indoors as well as outdoors…in the form of toys, puzzle food dispensers, scent, etcetera.”
The staff member provided assurances that an indoor cat could lead a very happy life with adequate enrichment and interaction. While the new Council policy has some locals’ fur standing on end, it does have its supporters.
Randwick resident Christie Louise gave a strong endorsement of the policy, recalling an incident in which a neighborhood tomcat attacked her shih tzu, causing the dog to lose its vision permanently. She also described past problems with unsupervised cats defecating in her yard and scaring her children. Ms Louise said her other concern was that cats who are allowed to roam tend to hunt and kill native wildlife.
Cats have been identified as the contributing factor in the extinction of at least 20 Australian mammal species and, by some estimates kill around 75 million native animals every day. While most of the deaths can be attributed to feral cats, the hunting habits of domestic cats, which are nocturnal, also takes a toll.
Despite the statistics, Randwick Council will have an uphill battle to convince cat lovers that their beloved furry friends should not be allowed to venture outdoors.