Meander Valley Gazette

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Here kitty, kitty, kitty...

RuralJoanne Eisemann

By Hayley Manning

LANDCARE TASMANIA members, family and friends were invited to an information day and social barbecue at Meander Memorial Hall in October. Native shelterbelt experts shared their tips for optimum results, and Project Coordinator of the Meander Valley Feral Cat Trapping Program, Kevin Knowles, gave an update.

Kevin, a member of the Upper Meander Catchment Landcare group, started Tasmania’s first feral cat trapping program three years ago, in an attempt to provide a more accurate account of true density numbers.

Traps are set over a square mile for two weeks, then onto the next square and so on for 12 months, before the process is repeated. Kevin estimates 10-12 cats are caught in the first round with significantly reduced numbers in the sec- ond round of trapping.

“Domestic, stray and self-sustaining feral cats are a risk to Australian wildlife, mammals and birds because they are not equipped to fight against the introduced species,” Kevin said. “Devils used to keep the numbers down by eating feral kittens, but now the cat is the apex predator.”

“Most feral cats also carry the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is not only fatal for infected wildlife and pets, but it can also cause spontaneous abortion in sheep. One local farmer lost 500 lambs two years ago,” he added.

Kevin notes that research conducted over the last ten years provides evidence that humans infected with toxoplasmosis can suffer from tumors, mental illness and blindness. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable and may have a miscarriage.

Proposed changes to the Cat Management Act 2009 could see the protection of primary production land by allowing the landowner or a representative, to humanely destroy, trap and seize any stray or roaming cats, which should then be taken to a cat management facility.

RSPCA CEO Dr Andrew Byrne, said the proposed amendments in the new Tasmanian Cat Management Plan 2017–22 includes the compulsory desexing and microchipping of all cats, but suggested cat registration needed to be included and the fees used to subsidise costs. The delayed 2017–2022 plan will go to Parliament in September 2019.

With regards to cat management facilities, City of Launceston General Manager, Michael Stretton, said that the RSPCA will focus on its inspectorate services across Northern Tasmania, and move away from providing shelter services for dogs and cats.

“The Council has already announced Dogs Home of Tasmania as the new dog pound facility and we hope to announce the new provider for the cats in the near future,” Mr Stretton said.

Plans are underway to change cat ownership requirements to combat the feral cat problem. Photo by Andrew Cooke, courtesy of Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.

Plans are underway to change cat ownership requirements to combat the feral cat problem. Photo by Andrew Cooke, courtesy of Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.