Happy days for stay-at-home cats

A new kitten is the cat’s meow when it comes to adored Christmas presents.

Eurobodalla Council’s natural resources officer Courtney Fink-Downes said the summer holidays were perfect for giving moggy time to settle in and bond with the family.

“No doubt, you spent many hours over the summer break watching your little ball of fluff chase sunlight across the lounge room floor, stalk a favoured toy, and tackle your laces while you put on shoes,” Ms Fink-Downes said.

“But with the kids back at school and adults returning to work, how will your cat spend its days? All that cute chasing and chewing can easily become hunting behaviour that harms or kills native birds, lizards and butterflies.”

Ms Fink-Downes said research had shown the average outdoor cat killed 110 native birds and animals each year, and letting them free-range can be bad for the cats too.

“We know there can be poor outcomes for the cats too - with potential harm from motor vehicles, other cats, dogs and even some wildlife, like snakes,” she said.

“Even suburban cats cover some serious ground. Recent research shows that outdoor suburban cats travel around 10 house blocks each day and 20 house blocks each night.”

Fortunately, cats don’t need a lot of space to exercise and they can happily entertain themselves when kept inside – as recommended by the RSPCA. The animal welfare organisation lists essentials like food and water, and environmental enrichment with options for hiding, sleeping and play, and litter trays with a variety of substrates as requirements for a happy indoor life.

Ms Fink-Downes says a scratching post and a spot where the sun shines in completed the picture.

“There are also ways to keep cats – and wildlife – safe while providing some outside activity. For example, there are some terrific commercially available cat enclosures or simply netting-in the deck or veranda. Of course, some cat owners go crazy with their enclosures, with runs encircling their house, with steps and slides and plenty of sleeping spots.”

Another example is a CatBib from Council, which is available free for owners of registered and microchipped cats in Eurobodalla. These neoprene aprons are fitted to the cat’s collar and do not interfere with a cat’s daily doings except prevent hunting, by breaking up the animal’s footfall,” she said.

Council’s coordinator of environmental compliance Nathan Ladmore reminded owners that cats must be registered and microchipped under the law.

“It’s really about keeping cats safe, and helps us reunite lost animals with the owners quickly and reducing the number of feral cats,” Mr Ladmore said.

Ms Fink-Downes said it was quite possible to transition cats who had lived their whole life outdoors to happily accept indoor living, referring to the RSPCA’s informative Safe and Happy Cats website, with handouts and videos.

For more information on transitioning your cat to indoor life, visit https://safeandhappycats.com.au/

Above: By meeting their basic needs for food and water, rest and play, cats can lead a happy life indoors – with benefits to wildlife and to the cats themselves.

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