STEPincLogo A

Monday, 11 March 2024 22:51

Domestic cats and dogs pose a serious threat to wildlife

© Invasive Species Council (2024) © Invasive Species Council (2024)

Domestic cats and dogs pose a serious threat to wildlife because of their natural hunting instincts. With a large number of unowned (stray and feral) and free-roaming cats and dogs, it’s important to manage domestic pets to minimise the damage that can be done to other, more vulnerable species.

It’s difficult to estimate the impact domestic cats have on wildlife, however studies suggest a suburban domestic cat can kill and bring home anywhere from 5 to 30 native and non-native animals each year.

Pet owners should:

  • keep cats inside, even if it’s just at night when native animals are most active
  • keep dogs inside at night, or confined to a secure space on the property
  • provide a safe environment for wildlife in their garden and encourage a wildlife-friendly backyard
  • identify pets with a collar, tag or microchip
  • add collar bells for cats
  • de-sex their pets

If a pet brings in an animal, if possible take it straight to a vet. The saliva of dogs and especially cats, contains bacteria that is toxic to wildlife. It is known amongst WIRES carers and rescuers that animals bitten by a cat or a dog have a small window (usually a few hours) where antibiotics must be administered, or the animal is unlikely to make it.

Lizards such as Blue-tongues often reside in backyards and can have around 15 gardens within their territory. It is likely the lizard has lived in the area for some time and is adept at avoiding hazards such as cats and dogs. However the rescue office receives a large number of calls for Blue-tongued Lizards who have sustained injuries such as puncture wounds or broken backs from domestic animal attacks.

This article has been contributed by Andrew Little. It is a transcript of presenter notes by Jess Styan, WIRES Rescue and Care of Wildlife on the North Shore, as part of WildThings NSW Forum on Sunday 15 October 2023.