The Australian government doesn’t want outdoor cats in the outback. This week, government officials announced a push for cities across the land down under to ban pet cats from running wild outside. But the kittens’ well-being isn’t what Australia is concerned about: it's their prey.
Australia is home to many different species of tiny mammals that also happen to be the perfect cat snacks. Feral felines have already wiped out several native species, and some conservationists think they're responsible for almost all of Australia’s small mammal extinctions since they were first brought to the continent by English settlers 200 years ago, writes Cara Giaimo for Atlas Obscura. Now, Australian officials are pushing to put domesticated cats under 24-hour lockdown in order to protect at least 28 endangered species they threaten.
"They are tsunamis of violence and death for Australia's native species," Environment Minister Greg Hunt recently told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The curfew comes on the heels of the Department of the Environment’s new feral cat plan, which also aims to exterminate 2 million feral cats in the next five years. Because the federal government doesn’t have the authority to impose a country-wide ban, officials are calling on cities and states to take action themselves. "The plan over the long term is to make this part of our culture,” Gregory Andrews, the country’s first Threatened Species Commissioner tells Nicole Hasham for the Sydney Morning Herald. “It's a journey that Australia has to go on."
Some cities and municipalities near conservation areas have already enacted bans, including several suburbs of Sydney and Canberra. But some cat lovers, including PETA and the French actress Brigitte Bardot, have taken issue with both the ban and the culling despite the government’s ecological intentions saying that extermination in the name of conservation doesn’t work.
Australia’s pet cats may soon be confined to their owners’ homes, but don't worry: the flow of cat pictures and GIFs to the internet should remain unaffected.