We had a huge response and some positive, informative discussions at our two Feral Cat Info Sessions last month. Community members got to hear from a range of experts on cats and how we can manage their impacts in Tasmania.
The Two Feral Cat information sessions were held this week as part of Landcare Tasmania’s Coal Valley Landscape Project, with over 40 locals keen to learn more about cats in our community and the impacts feral cats have on our catchments.
Specialists at the information sessions, held in Campania and Richmond, provided insight into the damaging impacts of feral, stray and house cats, what can be done to better manage them in our communities, as well as recent changes to legislation.
We brought together a range of speakers on the issue, including Bruce Jackson former senior DPIPWE veterinarian, Dr Tess Vitesnik and Rose Bray from Ten Lives Cat Centre, Nikki Brookman Regional Cat Management Coordinator for Kingborough, and John Bowden Feral Cat Management officer for Latrobe Council.
The info sessions started with Bruce Jackson explaining that Toxoplasmosis, a parasite transmitted by cats, that can cause miscarriage and mortality of new-born animals and can have devasting impacts on sheep flocks. Many infected ewes also become barren after a stillbirth. The parasite can also infect humans, and a 2020 study from the national Threatened Species Recovery Hub estimates the economic cost of cat diseases on human health in Australia at $6 billion per year. This builds on a recent report estimating that of the hundreds of individual invasive species studied, feral cats are the costliest, accounting for just over $10bn in damages and management expenses across Australia.
Another cat-borne disease called Sarcocystosis can be transmitted from cats to sheep and renders their meat unsuitable for human consumption. Cats that have eaten contaminated sheep meat can pass on the parasite for many months after and so the cycle continues.
Tess Vitesnik and Rose Bray spoke about how Ten Lives works together with local communities. Over recent years they have worked with a few highly dedicated volunteers in Richmond, and have reduced feral cat numbers significantly. Their approach was an information campaign to local residents, followed by cat trapping in the township. Landcare Tasmania provided monitoring cameras to the program to highlight the night (and daytime) extent of cats in the township.
“Connecting with the Ten Lives program in Richmond and responding to our members calls for more info on cat management in the Coal, were an incentive for us to develop the info sessions as part of our catchment project.” said Landcare Tasmania's a/CEO Mr Stronach.
Nikki Brookman, the Regional Cat Management Coordinator based at Kingborough Council informed listeners about the recent amendments to the Cat Management Act 2009. Land owners are now allowed to trap cats on their property. And from 1 March 2022, all cats over the age of four months must be microchipped and desexed.
Experienced cat trapper John Bowden showed landholders how to use a cat trap effectively, and shared many and sometimes shocking stories from his significant work on the ground.
It was highlighted that feeding stray cats in urban and peri-urban areas plays a major role in creating very high-density cat populations. A solution is to refrain from feeding stray cats, and contacting a cat management organisation such as Ten Lives. Those organisations can work towards making the process as animal friendly as possible.
It was also strongly suggested that people desex their cats, and keep them in a cat enclosure on their property. These enclosures can be built cheaply from recycled or repurposed materials, and if set up properly, will likely lead to happier, safer and healthier cats. More and more people understand that cats do not have to wander outside to be happy.
Landcare Tasmania’s groups have long been involved in feral cat management across the state, and continue to carry out successful cat management activities including monitoring, trapping and community awareness programs.
The sessions are part of Landcare Tasmania’s 2021 Outreach Program which provides opportunities for upskilling and networking in the lead up to the Tasmanian Community Landcare Conference this October.
A big thankyou to all the knowledgeable speakers who made this event possible and to the community who came along.
The two evenings are supported by the State Government’s Landcare Action Grants, donations to the Tasmanian Landcare Fund through the JM Roberts Charitable Trust and Landcare Tasmania’s partners Waratah Wholesale.