Cats better off being indoors overnight

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Warrnambool cat owners are being urged to keep their cats indoors overnight.

Warrnambool City Council Local Laws Coordinator Tim Brosowsky said pet cats were safer if they were indoors between sunset and sunrise.

“If your cat is out and about at night there is a greater chance it may be struck by a car or be injured in a fight with another cat,” Mr Brosowsky said.

“It’s also at risk of contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) as a result of fighting.

“And spraying and howling, particularly during mating season, can be annoying for neighbours.

“If your cat is found roaming at night there is also the risk of receiving a $385 fine.”
Member of The Australian and New Zealand Veterinary College in Veterinary Behaviour based at the Lava Street Veterinary Clinic, Dr Fiona Warton, said developing a routine was important to help transition a cat into being indoors overnight.

“As a household, agree on a time and start by feeding your cat its favourite treat at the same time every night, or when it comes indoors,” Dr Warton said. 
“This will encourage them to be in at a particular time each night. 

“Provide litter boxes for the same number of cats in the house plus an extra at all times so they are aware where they can toilet overnight. 

“Enrich their environment with soft, comfy bedding, favourite toys and cat trees, plus play interaction to encourage them to enjoy their indoor time. 
Dr Warton said in Australian urban and rural cities there was a constant issue with feral cats and the negative effects they have on both the domestic cat population and the environment. 

“Cats spending a large proportion of their day/night outside have access to a complex and changing environment - potentially good for expressing a wide range of normal behaviours such as scratching, predatory behaviour, climbing and exercise,” Dr Warton said. 

“However with this comes a number of risk factors including a higher exposure to infectious diseases, increased risk of injury or accidents (cat fights, road accidents, injuries from other animals, poisons) and the risk of being separated from their owner through straying. 

“Some owners may be concerned about potential problem behaviours developing with their cats if they are confined. However, I believe that with consideration of all the above points an appropriate indoor environment can be developed for cats that will meet all their needs and allow for the appropriate expression of their normal behaviours.” 

Cats roaming at night can have a devastating effect on wildlife. The Threatened Species Recovery Hub estimating that every pet cat allowed to roam and hunt kills on average 186 mammals, reptiles and birds per year.

Roaming cats also boost the feral cat population and across Australia the combined impact of feral and roaming domestic cats is significant.
In Australia every day cats kill 3.2 million mammals (mostly native species in the bush; mostly introduced species in towns); 1.2 million birds (almost all native species); 1.9 million reptiles (almost all native species) 250,000 frogs (all native species) and 3 million invertebrates.

Dr Warton’s tips for keeping cats indoors overnight 

•    Cats can be happy when kept indoors if their individual physical and mental needs are met. Provide an enriched environment and adequate human interaction for each cat as they all have individual personalities and things they enjoy.

•    Cats respond well to predictable routines, this is helpful for getting cats to come in consistently before dusk and being confined indoors overnight.

•    Feeding the evening meal inside before dusk then keeping your cat inside links a positive experience with coming indoors. 

•    It can be helpful to feed your cat some supper later in the evening before bed to help with getting them to settle inside. Cats are crepuscular (which means they can be more active at dusk and dawn) and have predatory instincts. Feeding supper in an enrichment toy that holds food can help meet this need to carry out hunting sequences or predatory play at night before settling.

•    The aim should be to provide an indoor/confined environment that meets your specific cat's needs, this will best help it adapt to being inside at night. Many cats exist very happily as full time indoor cats with all their needs met. This means an environment that allows for them to express their full range of normal behaviours, interact with their environment and socially in their household, which may include people and other pets.