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Cats make great pets, they are a much loved companion for millions of Australians. Cats are quiet, clean and they don't need a lot of space or exercise. Compared to dogs, cats generally cope better with being left alone when their owners are at work. Cats provide excellent company. They can be playful and affectionate, yet can still be very independent.

New cat by-law to help manage cat behaviour and keep them safe

Council has endorsed a new cat by-law to help reduce the impact cats have on our environment. New rules include compulsory registration; number of cats allowable on a property and cat confinement.

The draft cat by-law was a result of lengthy consultation organised as part of Council’s Animal Management Plan in 2017. Part of the consultation involved asking questions regarding the management of cats in the Mount Barker district. From this survey (from March to April 2019) Council received 526 responses about cat management (see results below).

Community Consultation Results

  • 76% supported cat registration
  • 68% supported a limit to 2 cats per property
  • 71% supported cat curfew
  • 73% supported council addressing cat nuisance/behaviour

The new cat by-law will include the following changes:

Council will trial a transition period to finalise details (including dispensation processes, fines and actions)

Placing a limit on the number of cats which can reside at a property will assist with the reduction of unwanted kittens which require rehoming. It will also build the capacity to addresses excessive cat numbers causing health, nuisance and welfare issues.

The Cat By-law allows for some flexibility when it comes to cat numbers at a premises.

Similar to requests in relation to dog numbers, cat owners will need to apply to Council to seek approval for more than two cats to be kept at their property. An application form and an application process will be available on our website in coming weeks.

In assessing the request to keep more than two cats on a property Council staff will require the applicant to seek the consent of their immediate neighbours. If the property is a rental then written consent of the property owner or the managing land agent will be required.

In addition:

  • all the cats being kept on the premises will need to be desexed;
  • no insanitary condition is being caused by keeping of the cats on the premises; and
  • no nuisance is being caused by the cats

If Council receives complaints about cats once dispensation has been granted or cats from the property have been observed to be contravening the curfew then the dispensation for an extra cat can be revoked.

Limit is 2 per dwelling, for both a rural or urban residence.

Exceptions may be made for those who already own more than two cats.

The main advantage of cat registration is that it helps with reuniting lost cats with their owners. This is a key component of Council’s role in dog and cat management.

A key part of the by-law is addressing nuisance cat behaviour. A cat is causing a nuisance if it (as per definition):

  • Unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of a person, including but not limited to a cat(s) displaying aggressive nature or creating unpleasant noise or odour; or
  • Damages or otherwise has an adverse impact upon native flora or fauna; or
  • Acts in a manner that is injurious to a person’s real or personal property; or
  • Wanders onto land without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land
  • Defecates or urinates on land without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land.

What will happen to cats making a nuisance? In the first instance Council will discuss any cat nuisance issues with owner(s) of the cat(s) and inform them of their responsibilities. This will hopefully result in a change of behaviour, if the issue continues Council will look into undertaking enforcement action.

A curfew will address nuisance behaviour from cats within the curfew times (8pm to 7am) and will also be a huge step toward decreasing the impacts that cats have on native wildlife.

A curfew is also in the best interest of people’s valued pets as the safest place for a cat is at home, they won’t be at risk from getting lost, hit by a car or fighting with other cats.

Generally speaking, indoor cats live in a much more stress-free environment than those that spend time outside and may live up to 15 years or more.

What will happen to cats found breaking the curfew? Council’s aim is to reunite lost animals with their owners. Any cats that cannot be reunited with their owners will be impounded and hopefully rehomed.

For more information about selecting a suitable cat as a pet, fact sheets, desexing and microchipping

To search for lost and found animals, the Dogs and Cats Online system is a database of dogs and cats that reside in South Australia

Threatened Species

The Mount Barker District Council area provides habitat to a number of fauna species including birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and insects. Unfortunately a number of these species are listed as threatened at a regional, state and/or national level.

Council’s Biodiversity Strategy identifies cat predation as having a major impact on our region’s biodiversity.

Cats are known to roam long distances and will generally hunt all hours of the day and night. Cats are most active at dusk and dawn, this is the same times that most of our native wildlife is active and is one contributing factor to their impact on our native fauna. Cat predation on our native fauna has been identified as a key threat to 35 species of birds, 36 species of mammals, 7 species of reptiles and 3 species of amphibians.

Mount Barker District Council takes its role of protecting the biodiversity of our region seriously and Council’s Cat By-law especially the curfew aims to minimise the impact that cats have on our environment.

Table 1: Threatened species within Mount Barker Council area:

Threatened Species Table

The endorsed By-law will soon be sent to the Legislative Review Committee (LRC), they have four months to review the By-law. Council will also be gazetting the By-law, if there are no objections from the LRC the By-law will come into effect 4 months after the gazettal notice.  We are finalising a procedure which will outline how Council staff will enforce the By-law.

There will be an upcoming Council report regarding proposed cat registration fees. The plan is to introduce affordable cat registration fees which will partially offset cat management activities, if it is too expensive people won’t register their cat(s).  It is planned that cat registration will start in the 2020-21 financial year.

The timing of the commencement of the By-law depends on the process mentioned in response to question 1 but we are anticipating an early 2020 commencement. We have already started educating the community in regard to the contents of the By-law and about responsible cat ownership, this community education will be ongoing.

If you are over the limit of two cats and have a reasonable number of cats at your property you will not be asked to reduce your pet cats to the two allowed in the By-law. An application form for keeping more than two cats will be made available soon.

When cat registration is introduced you will be required to pay the registration fee for each cat at your property even if you are over the two cat limit.

You can hire one of Council’s cat traps, they are available at the Council Civic Centre (6 Dutton Road, Mount Barker). The traps are only for trapping feral and cats and are available for a $100 fee which is refundable when the trap is returned clean and undamaged. It is the hirer’s responsibility to take the trapped cat to a vet to be assessed and if the cat is to be euthanised then this is done at the cost of the hirer.

Id the cat is not feral and is domesticated please contact Council on 8391 7200.

No. Feeding semi-owned cats causes a number of issues namely: they prey on our native wildlife, spread disease to domesticated cats and create issues to nearby residents as a result of nuisance behaviour. Although your intention is to help the feeding of semi-owned cats it will only will only worsen the problem. The vast majority of semi-owned cats are suffering from disease, they are not de-sexed and will be able to reproduce prolifically if they are being fed.

  • Council’s cat curfew (8pm to 7am) will reduce the impact that cats have on native nocturnal wildlife. Council’s curfew does not apply during the day so cats will potentially kill other wildlife such as lizards and birds that are active during the day. Keeping your cat confined both day and night is recommended especially if you live near bushland and nature reserves and want to minimise the impact your pet cat has on native wildlife.
  • Pet cats that are prevented from roaming live longer. They are protected from being hit by a car, injured in fights, attacks by dogs, snake bite, getting lost/stolen and catching diseases from other cats.
  • Contrary to popular belief, domestic cats don’t need to roam. You will enjoy their company more and have less vet bills.
  • Council gets many complaints from the community about the nuisance that roaming cats cause (including fights, spraying, digging & defecating in yard/vegetable garden (and spreading disease), disturbing pets, entering houses, preying on wildlife). Your cat’s activities may be impacting on neighbours, their animals and neighbourly relations.

Cats that have been fitted with bells on their collars can still kill wildlife as they can learn to silently stalk their prey. Native birds or small mammals don’t necessarily associate the sound of a bell with danger.

No, TNR does not address the welfare of semi-owned or feral cats which are usually suffering from disease and have short lives. TNR does not address nuisance behaviour issues caused by these cats and the massive impact that these cats have on our native wildlife.