Feral Cats have a significant negative impact on native fauna. Scroll down for some practical advice on dealing with feral cats.
Controlling Feral Cats
Feral cats are masters of not being seen. They are probably on your block, but you won’t see them. It is thought there are about 18 million feral cats now in Australia, eating around 75 million native animals each night.
Eric Onderstal, from Environmental Ecology Australia, spoke on controlling feral cats recently. Here are some of the main points.
Feral Cat Description & Habitat
Cats were introduced into Australia around 1804 and turned feral by 1820.
Feral cats are quite different from domestic cats. They are bigger, more muscular, with longer teeth & a thicker coat. They are usually tabby or striped, occasionally black. They are very aggressive and never cower. They have a particular stare that lasts for 2 – 3 seconds. Feral cats have 2 – 3 litters per year, with an average of 4 kittens. Females can reproduce at 10 – 12 months of age.
They prefer dry, semi woodland & have a range of up to 10km2. They are mainly active at night, living in logs, burrow or thickets during the day. They are an opportunistic feeder. Their preferred food is birds, then rabbits, mice, reptiles & if still hungry, insects.
Control of feral cats is difficult and requires patience and persistence. Cage trapping is the best control method even though they prefer live prey. Shooting is possible but difficult. Traps are readily available at hardware stores. Follow these procedures:
- Trap in late summer or early autumn because there is less wild food around. Winter & spring are the hardest times to catch a cat.
- Wash the trap with tap water & put trap away from other animals in the sun for 2 weeks before use, to ensure it is scent-free. (A dirty trap is less effective.) Wear clean gloves when setting trap.
- A couple of free feeds (with the cage open but not set) can help. Experiment with different meat or fish.
- Conceal the trap by adding vegetation (see photo next page). Try not to have it too shiny. You can add a visual lure – e.g. a feather on a string – to arouse their curiosity. A pheromone spray is also possible. A fox whistle may help.
- Make sure your trap is working. You may need to file the trigger mechanism so it responds to a light touch. Do not use lubrication because it smells & attracts dirt.
- Check the trap every morning.
- A trail cam (about $120) might be useful. Put on the ground at cat height. Buy one with a video option with AA or AAA batteries.
It is illegal to relocate a feral animal. A feral cat must be disposed of by a vet, Animal Welfare or the landowner. Use gloves at all times. Feral cats are ferocious and will attack face and eyes. Never attempt to remove a live feral cat from the trap.
Catching cats can require doggedness and determination
A member’s experience with cat trapping.
No smaller than 750mm long, 290mm wide, 320 high. Quite cheap on the Internet. The model with a metal plate around the handle protects the hands from feral attack, otherwise use gloves.
Try bowls of milk and supermarket cat food. Place bowl in a second bowl of water if ants are a problem. Cat food can be frozen in small lumps for ease of use. Magpies and Blue tongues also enjoy this so monitor trap well.
Tempting the cat
Place milk and meat outside of wired open trap. A motion activated camera can be set up if food disappears. Once food is taken, start to move it a couple of inches each night. Sometimes a wandering feral may only return intermittently, so considerable patience is needed.
Setting the trap
When the cat is going right into the trap, and taking food from beside the trigger plate, only then put food past the plate and set the trap. We have seen a cat stretch over the trap to pick up food and back out unharmed, so make sure bait food is pressed down into corners of the dish to tempt it to keep eating.
Dispose of thoughtfully, in a non-sustainable manner.