family & Pets

Courtney Allan

Feral cats are killing Aussie wildlife according to eradication experts

Feral cats are killing Aussie wildlife according to eradication experts

In 2015, the Australian government announced a controversial plan to eradicate two million cats by 2020 in a desperate bid to save native wildlife.

The plan was met with controversy, as animal activists wrote angry letters in response to the announcement.

With feral cat numbers in Australia fluctuating depending on the wet and dry seasons between 2.1 million or 6.3 million, the number of feral cats simply cannot be ignored.

Ecologist John Read has a plan. He’s written a new book titled Among the Pigeons: Why Our Cats Belong Indoors, in response to the problem and has worked in feral cat management for the last 25 years.

Together with his wife Katherine Moseby, they have developed a cat-grooming trap called “The Felixer”, which takes advantage of the animals need to groom. The trap identifies feral cats and squirts them with poison, which the cats lick off and ingest.

Read and Moseby were blown away by the amount of native wildlife that one feral cat could ingest over a short period of time.

“My record was a black cat shot more than 40 kilometres from the nearest town with a staggering 32 freshly killed lizards plus a zebra finch and a mouse in its stomach,” Read said.

However, despite their lifelong work, Read and Moseby love cats.

“I really like cats,” says Katherine. “But that doesn’t mean I accept them as wildlife. I don’t think we should sit back and let our native species become extinct because we brought cats to Australia. Although I still love cats as a species, my focus has changed from the challenge of befriending pet cats to the challenge of outsmarting feral cats.”

Read has shifted his focus on changing the behaviour of cat owners themselves. He quotes New York Times columnist Richard Conniff on the aim to make “outdoor cats as socially unacceptable as smoking in the office, or leaving dog droppings on the sidewalk”.