Did you know that Kingston City Council requires all owners of cats to to keep their cat/s securely confined to the owner’s property and not allow that cat to wander at large outside the owner’s premises between sunset and sunrise across all areas of the municipality?
Why is Cat Confinement important?
Council introduced a cat confinement order in 2009 under the Domestic Animals Act 1994 in response to public consultation undertaken with the community regarding their concern about the negative environmental impact of cats on native animals and the nuisance value of wandering animals for neighbouring households.
The consideration of cat confinement was highlighted as a proposed activity in Council’s Domestic Animal Management Plan 2008-2011 to help address issues such as predation on wildlife, community nuisance and attacks on domestic pets.
Why Should I Confine My Cat?
There are several important reasons your cat should be confined indoors at night, or even better – live indoors permanently!
Around 80% of accidents involving cats occur at night. Cats allowed to roam can be killed or injured through car accidents and fights with other animals. They may contract fatal diseases such as Feline AIDS, or be more likely to require veterinary attention for fleas, ticks, worms, abscesses, cuts, diarrhoea and other illnesses. They may also get lost, or join an unowned cat colony. For these reasons, cats kept inside generally live at least three times longer than cats which are not confined. The safety benefits are even greater for cats kept inside or in an enclosure both day and night.
Better neighbourhood relations
By keeping your cat indoors, it will not be able annoy neighbours by spraying and howling. Roaming cats also cause disputes and anxiety between neighbours by causing dogs to bark, by fighting with other cats, and by defecating in gardens.
Less predation of wildlife
Cats are most active at night, particularly at dusk and dawn. This coincides with the activity periods of many species of native wildlife. If given the opportunity, cats will instinctively hunt and kill wildlife, even if they are not hungry. Keeping your cat indoors will help protect our Australian wildlife.
Compliance with laws
Some Councils have Orders or Local Laws requiring cats to be confined during specified hours (e.g. between sunset and sunrise or even 24 hours a day), and/or restricting the presence of cats in certain public areas (e.g. parks or reserves). In addition, if your cat repeatedly enters private property without permission, the landowner or occupier has the right to take action to stop your cat trespassing, under section 23 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994.
Contact the Local Laws team for more information on 9581 4576.
Are Cats Happy Indoors?
YES! If you provide for all their needs (see next section for details), de-sexed cats are happy to live in a suitable enclosed area. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not have an innate need to roam; they simply require opportunities for exercise and play, as well as around 19 hours of sleep per day. Many city cats become better pets and enjoy long, healthy and contented lives inside a house or flat 24 hours a day.
Where and How Do I Confine My Cat?
There are several options for confining your cat.
- Simply keep your cat inside the house or flat with you.
- Confine your cat at night in the shed or garage.
- Build a cat enclosure for your yard. You can build an A-frame enclosure with chicken wire, or adapt an aviary into a cat enclosure. Alternatively you can enclose a veranda or the section of garden between the house and fence with chicken or fly wire. Cat access to the house can be provided via a window or cat door.
- You can buy a cat enclosure (solid or net), or modular cat park for your yard. Look in the Yellow Pages under Pet Shop Suppliers for commercial suppliers of modular cat parks/cages and animal runs.
- Build a cat-proof boundary fence around your property. Attach small gauge chicken wire or aluminium flashing to the top of existing fences, and angle it into your property, so the cat has difficulty in jumping over. Remember to secure any trees that may overhang the fence by either enclosing them with wire or erecting a ‘cat barrier’ at a suitable height up the tree.
What Are My Cat's Needs When Confined?
For overnight confinement, you will need an area that is cosy and dry, as well as being well ventilated and draught free. Your cat will need a bed, food, water and a litter tray.
For longer periods, it is vital to provide an enriched environment. Cats are naturally curious and playful, and love to explore. If these needs are not met, they may become bored and destructive, and develop behavioural problems.
The following should be provided for all cats that live indoors or in an enclosure:
- climbing post – up to 2.5m tall, with 2-3 perches.
- cats love to jump and climb, so you must provide them with some high surfaces (preferably in the sun).
- scratching post for sharpening claws – most cats can be attracted to the post with catnip.
- toys, such as balls, scrunched paper, toy rats and mice, soft toys etc. Cats particularly enjoy toys attached to elastic and suspended above them.
- sunshine, cats love to lie in the sun and sleep or watch the world go by. Provide an outside area for sunbathing if possible. Window ledges and bay windows, or even a chair next to a high window, are excellent vantage points.
- hiding places, to play and sleep in. Try cardboard boxes, paper bags and other cubby holes.
- grass for chewing (e.g. oats, wheat, ryegrass). Non-toxic varieties only!
- companionship, plenty of owner contact, or another cat for company.
- exercise, encourage your cat to play. You can also train your cat to walk on a harness and leash with you outside.
Training Your Cat or Kitten to accept Confinement
Kittens are easy to train to stay inside because they do not know anything else, and subsequently will have no inclination to roam the streets. It can be more difficult to train an adult cat to stay indoors if it is used to living outside. However, with patience and understanding, it can usually be achieved in a few weeks. If your cat is not already de-sexed, spaying or neutering it will also help decrease its desire to wander (as well as make it a more pleasant companion!).
The first step is to keep your cat inside at night. Food, comfort and warmth are major driving forces in a cat’s life. Skip your cat’s morning feed, and call it in at the end of the day to be fed. Don’t feed your cat until it comes inside. Cats learn quickly that they don’t get fed unless they are home. Once the cat is inside, do not let it out again until the next morning. Ensure the cat has its essential needs met (e.g. food and litter), and plenty of owner contact.
Your cat may indicate it wants to go outside again for the evening as it has done previously. However, it will start to adjust to its new routine after a few nights, and generally speaking, most cats will come to prefer the warmth and comfort of confinement, particularly during the winter months.
If you wish to train your cat to stay inside all the time, gradually start to increase the period spent indoors once your cat has adjusted to night confinement. In this case, environmental enrichment is even more important. Access to sunshine or an outside area for exercise may be more important for a cat that was once accustomed to living outdoors.
In very difficult cases, it may be necessary to use tranquilizers for a short period to allow adjustment and modification of your cat’s behaviour. Consult your veterinarian for further information.
Training Your Cat / Kitten to Walk on Harness and Leash
Training your cat or kitten to a harness will allow you to safely take it outdoors for exercise. The earlier you can begin training (e.g. 6-7 months), the better. Walking your cat with a harness is preferable, as cats can slip out from a collar too easily. Ensure you purchase the correct size harness (measure your cat beforehand), which also includes a metal ring for attaching identification.
Place the harness and leash in an area where the cat can sniff, paw and play with them. After several days, put the harness on the cat (without the leash), allowing for two finger widths at the stomach and neck. Leave the harness on for five minutes initially. Repeat this as often as possible, until the cat gets used to wearing the harness. Then (under supervision) attach the leash and again, allow the cat to get used to it. Finally, pick up and hold the leash, encouraging the cat to accept the restraint, and come when called. Use food as a reward for appropriate behaviour throughout the harness training process.
When outside, try to follow the cat where it wishes to go, rather than 'take it on a walk' as you would a dog.