The vegan pet lifestyle goes beyond just feeding your loved ones with plant-based cat food, but also ensuring that they are living a life where they aren’t a risk to the wider environment. Keeping an outdoor cat may seem natural, but it puts your beloved feline in danger, as well as native wildlife that may live in your area. Read on to learn about the ecological damage outdoor cats create.
Outdoor Cats and Native Wildlife
Cats are natural predators, and when allowed outside may chase and kill native birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. This destruction of native wildlife can greatly impact their numbers, especially for vulnerable or endangered species. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, feral cats threaten the survival of over 100 native Australian species and have caused the extinction of many. It is estimated that 390 million native creatures are killed by domestic cats a year, which is an average of 186 animals per outside domestic cat a year.
A famous example is Tibbles the cat, a pet who was brought to a small island off the south coast of New Zealand in 1894. Once there, the single cat eradicated every known specimen of the small, flightless Stephens Island wren. Owned cats are a predominant reason for the extinction of native birdlife all over the world.
Cats also consume prey that would otherwise be food for other Australian carnivores, particularly birds, and deplete the food stocks of many native meat-eaters. This is especially noticeable in the colder months when food is more scarce. The only wild predators to outdoor cats are other wild pets like feral dogs, as well as dingoes, meaning that they are near the top of the food chain, making it hard for carnivores under them to get adequate food.
When let outside, your cat could be at risk of mating with another outdoor cat, or even a feral cat. This also highlights the importance of spaying and/or neutering your cats, to ensure that wild populations are diminished. Unexpected litters are a large contributor to the feral cat population, and consequently, risk the ecological balance of our biomes even further.
As much of a problem that owned cats are, the real deep-rooted issue is that of stray or feral cats. In the US, stray and feral cats kill up to three times more than their owned counterparts, and it is believed that their numbers may rival that of pet cats. Feral cats can also attack house cats and cause serious injuries to your beloved pet.
This raises the issue of how to humanely deal with unowned animals. Thankfully, there are options for stray cats in Australia, including fostering and a variety of shelters and humane societies that aim to take a large number of stray cats off the street and rehome them.
From a technical point of view, the pet cat impacts on wildlife can be reduced more effectively and humanely than those of feral cats, while also enhancing the welfare and quality of life of pet cats in Australia.
Other Reasons To Keep Your Cat Indoors
Besides the ecological reasoning, there are many additional reasons to keep an indoor cat. One of the main reasons why cat owners keep their pets inside is because the outdoor dangers to their cat are so great. Cars and other vehicles provide a great risk to cats and are the main killer of outdoor cats in Australia. Another risk factor is the risk of poisoning, not only by potentially poisoned rodents but also from plants that are deadly for cats or from other pest traps.
How Can My Cat Go Outside Safely?
If you feel like your cat needs some outdoor time, this can still be done safely. Cat leads and harnesses are widely available, with many vegan-certified ones on the market. Allowing your cat some supervised outdoor time can be beneficial for both your pet and you, without the ecological risk a free-roaming cat would create.
Allowing your cat to know the outdoor surrounds of your house can also be beneficial just in case of the chance they sneak out, to ensure they know how to find their way back home.
If you have the skills or space for it, a cat run, also lovingly called a “catio”, is also an excellent option for your cat to get some sunshine in a safe way. Cat runs can be costly if bought pre-built or from a business, but can be cheaper to create if you build it yourself.
The ecological damage cats have to the natural environment can be devastating, so it is up to us as responsible vegan cat owners to ensure that our precious felines aren’t outside. Protected native species will be saved, and feral and stray cat populations won’t increase due to outside house cats wandering the streets. By keeping your cat entertained inside and taken outside under supervision, your vegan cat will live a long and happy life.