I have a big orange-and-white cat named Rambo who loves to lure you in with his cuteness, then bite you when you least expect it. You might think he likes you, but underneath the purrs—well, he's an asshole.
The one thing that seems to completely mellow him out, however, is being outside. Basking in the southern California sun, rolling in the dirt, watching birds—he's in his happy place.
Yes, even indoor cats love being outside. Which is why it struck me as odd that Australia's government is looking to ban indoor cats from going outside EVER AGAIN!!!!
The powers that be are proposing a cat curfew, in which owners would not be allowed to let their kitties roam free and be forced to deal with their cranky moods all. day. long.
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What is this kitty curfew you speak of?
Earlier this month, Australia's government released a proposal to keep indoor cats inside, all the time (unless on a leash or in a confined area), local media reports. No more jaunts in the grass for Sparkles and Peaches. Not only that, the government is looking to round up and kill two million feral cats—a fraction of Australia's total feral cat population.
Why the seeming cat-hate? Australia's commissioner for threatened species, Gregory Andrews, says keeping domesticated cats inside and eradicating feral cats will help save the lives of millions of native mammals. Plus, it will keep indoor cats from breeding with feral cats and making the problem worse.
Are cats really that bad, though?
Well, Australia has an extinction problem. The country has lost at least 29 indigenous mammal species since 1788, more than any other nation. And cats are said to be a major contributor to that problem. Back in April, Jim Radford, a conservationist with Bush Heritage Australia, told VICE News that the country's 20 million feral cats are the "single biggest threat" to its protected species.
As Commissioner Andrews told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this year, "Each feral cat eats between three and 20 native animals a day. That adds up to a conservative 80 million native animals a day."
In that same interview, Andrews said that scores of animals—including the platypus, 40 different types of birds, 21 different types of reptiles, and four frogs—are threatened by feral cats. He added, "I don't hate cats … it's not about hating cats, it's about not accepting the impact that feral cats are having."
The problem with cats can be traced back to the 18th Century, when English settlers brought over the felines over from Britain and purposely released them into the wild to kill mice and rabbits. A couple centuries later, they're out of control.
"Feral cats are a serious vertebrate pest in Australia, and have severe to catastrophic effects on native fauna," stated a draft of the Threat Abatement Plan for the Predation By Feral Cat, introduced by the Australian Government's Department of Environment in April. The report also states that cats are tricky, "extremely cautious" creatures, "making them hard to cost-effectively control with traditional measures such as shooting and trapping." Which is why the government is looking into "baiting" them, i.e. dropping poisonous pellets on the ground in hopes that the cats will eat them and die.
So what does this mean for adorable indoor cats?
Essentially, the government is asking cat owners, especially those that live close to identified conservation areas, to never let their cats roam free again. While the government can't technically force anyone to contain their felines, officials are hoping the community, as well as state and local officials, will support them, according to the proposal. And in fact, in some parts of the country, the measure is already in place and kitties have been confined forever.
Some veterinarians have shot back that keeping domesticated cats inside all day can make them go a little crazy (or, crazier than they already are). "Some cats are very stressed when they are confined, it can actually induce behavioral issues and some physical problems as well," vet Michael Archinal told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Of course, other vets are more optimistic. "A properly cared-for cat with the right personality is perfectly content to spend her entire life indoors," vets Race Foster and Marty Smith argued in a post about indoor cats wanting to go outside. "Frankly, the outdoors has many potentially dangerous situations. In fact, the average life expectancy for an outdoor cat is about three years, compared to twelve for an indoor cat."
If only Rambo knew how lucky he had it.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.