Cat ownership

Cat confinement

Kingston City Council requires all owners of cats to keep their cat/s securely confined to the owner’s property between sunset and sunrise. This was introduced 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.

Why is cat confinement important?

There are many benefits related to cat confinement and cats can be easily trained to accept confinement.

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. For these reasons, cats kept inside generally live 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 between 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

Kingston City Council requires all owners of cats to keep their cat/s securely confined to the owner’s property between sunset and sunrise. 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.

Are cats happy indoors?

Yes! If you provide for all their needs (see next section for details), de-sexed cats are happy to live indoors. Cats do not need to roam; they need exercise and play.

Where and how do I confine my cat?

There are several options for confining your cat.

  • Simply keep your cat inside the house with you
  • Confine your cat at night in the garage
  • Build a cat enclosure for your yard
  • Build a cat-proof boundary fence around your property

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:

  • cats love to jump and climb, so you must provide them with some high surfaces (preferably in the sun).
  • climbing post and/or scratching post for sharpening claws
  • toys - 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.
  • 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.

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.

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.

Training your cat or kitten to walk on harness and leash

Training your cat or kitten to wear a harness or leash will allow you to safely take it outdoors for exercise. The earlier you can begin training (e.g. six to seven months of age), the better. Walking your cat with a harness is preferable, as cats can slip out from a collar too easily.

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.