Feral cat survey – or setup?

Wild cat

Cats and wildlife need you to complete this survey.

The Commonwealth government’s National Feral Cat Management Survey is open. It is for wild cats, not urban strays.

The survey has been heavily promoted on the Threatened Species Commissioner’s Facebook page. If you have ever seen a cat-related post on that page, and read the comments, you’ll know the sort of feedback the survey is likely to receive.

We encourage people to provide feedback from a different, more scientific, viewpoint.

In the absence of representative survey feedback, the government and other anti-cat organisations will use the survey results to further demonise and scapegoat cats.

On this page

Deadline

The official closing date is 11:59pm Wednesday 22 August. Researchers will receive feedback until 5pm Friday 24 August.

Why cats and wildlife need you to participate

This survey enables you to express your concerns about the government’s ‘war on cats’. Since the ill-conceived, poorly-designed and unscientific ‘program’ was announced, we have seen:

  • an increase in cat scapegoating, vilification and hate speech
  • an ongoing failure by governments of all types – Commonwealth, state, territory and local – to protect habitat, adjust fire regimes or address climate change
  • slashing of funding and jobs for biodiversity and conservation
  • an anecdotal increase in cruelty towards all types of cats, including companion and strays.

Vilifying cats, under the guise of helping wildlife, has become a national past time. This doesn’t help threatened species.

About the survey

  • It is about feral cats who live independently of humans, not about urban strays or companion cats
  • Separate surveys for individuals and organisations
  • Takes 5-10 minutes to complete
  • Anonymous; data is collated by RMIT
  • Most questions are multiple choice
  • There is only one question where you can provide qualitative and constructive feedback
  • Results will be presented in a research report and possible journal article and presented at conferences
  • Questions are quite leading. There are no questions about cruelty. Questions for organisations are solely about the number of cats killed, land mass over which cats are being killed and effort expended in killing cats. There are no questions about wildlife – let alone threatened species – populations before or after the killing

Preview the survey

If you wish, preview the survey questions now.

Preview survey for individuals [Word doc]

Preview survey for organisations [Word doc]

What to say in the only free-form section

There is only one section where you can provide free-form feedback. All other sections are pre-formatted.

If you care about cats, wildlife and their effective and humane management, here are some things you could say. Please write in your own words. Choose what’s most important to you. Please be professional and polite.

Survey methodology is flawed; results are not representative

  • The government has made no attempt to ensure that feedback is obtained from a representative cross section of Australians
  • No consideration has been given to the bias in survey respondents
  • Promoting it online, most predominantly on the TSC Facebook page, will lead to heavily skewed data, as it is being completed by people who already have an anti-cat agenda
  • It is no more valid than a newspaper opinion poll
  • People can submit multiple responses if they choose to
  • It is concerning that RMIT intends to publish the results in a report, at conferences and possibly as a journal article

 

No wildlife monitoring

  • The ‘feral cat management program’ does not include any budget for monitoring to determine if it benefits threatened species
  • Research shows that random killing of cats doesn’t help wildlife
  • If threatened species protection is the aim, monitoring needs to be conducted

Killing cats increases numbers

  • Tasmanian research on feral cats (Lazenby et al 2014), and research on many other species of carnivores around the world, indicates that low level killing increases, not decreases, their numbers. View journal article.
  • The researchers:
    • observed increases in cat numbers of 75 to 211%
    • stated that any killing program must include monitoring of cat and wildlife numbers
    • stated that cat-proof fences and increasing the number of hiding places (such as log piles) for small prey may be more effective in helping wildlife than killing cats.

Killing, not threatened species protection, has become the goal

  • The program’s focus seems to solely be on killing cats.
  • Conservationists and biologists advocate that reducing cats’ impact on threatened species is the most important factor, not killing.

Lack of funding in researching effective feral cat management methods

  • The government has funded research that estimates the number of certain types of native and introduced wildlife (birds, mammals, reptiles) killed by feral cats. This makes for attention-getting headlines in the media
  • However, no funds have been provided to determine how to humanely and effectively reduce feral cat numbers or any impact they have on threatened species populations
  • Such funding is urgently needed

Habitat protection and restoration is not being implemented

  • With a sole focus on killing cats, reducing the impact of cats on wildlife has been ignored.
  • Feral cats’ impacts could be reduced by protecting and restoring habitat

Cruelty is not considered

  • Cruelty towards all types of cats – not just those living in the wild – has anecdotally increased throughout Australia
  • There is no monitoring of, or apparent concern about, how feral cats are being killed and the level of cruelty they suffer
  • The survey indicates that poisoning cats is humane
  • There is no physical difference between feral, urban stray and companion cats. When the government embarks on a killing program for a species that is also a companion animal, much greater care is needed to ensure that companion cats are not affected and equally scapegoated. No care has been shown by the TSCs

Critically endangered species not prioritised

  • If the aim of the program is to protect wildlife, critically endangered species would have been prioritised for funding under the Threatened Species Prospectus. Instead, the government prioritised programs that would likely be funded by NGOs, philanthropists and other governments

Independent review found funding program is flawed

  • The government’s Australian National Audit Office reviewed the Threatened Species Prospectus. The Prospectus encourages NGOs, private philanthropists and bodies other than the Commonwealth government to assist threatened species.
  • The audit found the prospectus to be lacking in a number of areas. In particular, no monitoring of its effectiveness is being done

Killing, not species protection, is the sole goal

  • Having a basic goal of killing cats does not constitute management. The preservation and recreation of habitat is critical in protecting threatened species. The program does not include this.

TSC conduct on social media

  • The TSCs (current and former) have used a ‘kill all cats’ approach on social media
  • They have encouraged and facilitated cruelty to cats
  • The TSC Facebook page is littered with offensive cat hate speech by its followers
  • Cat vilification, hatred and cruelty is actively encouraged (particularly by the former TSC, Gregory Andrews) and is unmoderated
  • In contrast, people who oppose cruelty and the unscientific nature of the feral cat program are blocked. This amounts to censorship and propaganda
  • The TSC’s failure to adequately moderate the page is unprofessional and a breach of the government’s standards with respect to social media.
  • It encourages violence and is jeopardising the safety of people’s family members

TSC KPI to increase Australians’ acceptance of killing cats

  • We understand the TSC has a KPI to increase Australians’ acceptance of killing cats
  • If this is necessary, we suggest it highlights the program’s flaws more clearly

DoE funding and threatened species monitoring slashed

  • Funding for the Department of Environment has been reduced by 25%, with one third of biodiversity and conservation staff to lose their jobs
  • One third of Australia’s 548 threatened species are now not being monitored at all
  • This is not the action of a government that cares about threatened species. Biologists are concerned that critically endangered species could quietly become extinct without detection

Cats are being scapegoated and are a smokescreen for environmental inaction

  • In light of all the factors indicated above, the feral cat program is simply a smokescreen for government inaction on other issues

What happens when it doesn’t work?

  • Given the failure to address habitat loss and degradation, fire regimes and climate change, who will the government blame when the ‘kill all cats’ program is a failure, when threatened species’ populations are still in decline and when more species have become extinct?

Complete survey now

Complete survey for individuals

Complete survey for organisations

Deadline

Complete your survey preferably by 11:59pm Wednesday 22 August. If not by then, submit by 5pm Friday 24 August.