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Council takes temperature on ‘dusk to dawn’ cat curfew

Grover, who has a leash, is allowed outside while the family is with him.

“We’re very close to the Darebin Parklands lake here, so it’s more about the wildlife,” Mr Giannis said.

Grover the cat doesn't like other cats roaming the streets, and riling him up.

Grover the cat doesn’t like other cats roaming the streets, and riling him up.Credit:Chris Hopkins

He said the family had since realised that it was better for Grover to stay indoors, too, because other cats that stare at him through the window rile him up.

“There’s a few cats in the neighbourhood that don’t have curfews, and kind of just stand outside the window. Our cat gets quite agitated and worked up,” Mr Giannis said.

“There’s been a few incidents where the cat’s thrown a bit of a wobbly.”

There were 279 nuisance reports to Darebin Council in the year to November 2019. Residents also borrowed a council cat trap 158 times, mostly because cats were causing stress to other pets and residents, leaving behind faeces and urine, preying on wildlife, breeding, or fighting with other animals.

More than a dozen other local authorities in Victoria have imposed cat curfews, including Knox, Bayside, Whitehorse, Monash, Mitchell Shire, Bendigo and Yarra Ranges councils.

The RSPCA, Wildlife Victoria and Zoos Victoria all support cat curfews, with the pets killing millions of native birds a year, though they would prefer cats to be contained at all times.

Wildlife Victoria has received 67 reports of cats attacking animals in Darebin alone in the past financial year and 757 across the state.

Wildlife Victoria chief executive Megan Davidson said: “Obviously they’re only the ones that are seen being attacked by cats.”

“The numbers that are reported to us are just a tiny, tiny subset of the number of animals killed by cats every year.”

In Darebin, some of the animals injured over the past year included lorikeets, honeyeaters, fantails, ringtail possums, tawny frogmouths and bats.

“As you can imagine, we wholeheartedly support the idea of cat curfews,” Ms Davidson said.

Head of operations at RSPCA Victoria Tegan McPherson said curfews also kept cats safe from car accidents, dog attacks and cat fights.

“People who are concerned about cat curfews need not worry, a cat can live a happy and healthy life indoors, provided it has adequate enrichment, exercise and attention from its owners,” she said.

Darebin Parklands head ranger Peter Wiltshire said most people who live nearby respected that they needed to protect the parks from their cats, and keep them indoors at night to stop them hunting.

“We’ve pretty much got cats under control around here,” Mr Wiltshire said. “The wildlife is challenged in so many ways, but a curfew on cats is awesome.”

Darebin Council voted to press on with consultations for an overnight curfew last month.

“This is the recommended approach to a curfew as it is seen to address the majority of issues
associated with stray cats which tend to occur between dusk and dawn,” the council’s report said, recommending against a 24-7 curfew, or a curfew only in public places.

“There is significant experience with this approach in other parts of Melbourne that demonstrates benefit. There would still be some impact of cats out during the day in regard to wildlife.”

The survey for residents closes on August 7.

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