To help protect and enhance the welfare and safety of cats in our municipality and create a more harmonious environment between pets, people and other animals, a 24-hour cat curfew and mandatory cat desexing for newly registered cats will be introduced in the City of Whittlesea.
At the Council meeting on 18 July, Council endorsed the introduction of these two key actions identified in our Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-2025, with both to come into effect from 1 August 2023, to allow Council and cat owners sufficient time to transition to the new arrangements.
Council understand this is a big change for many cat owners and we will provide support and information to help with the transition over the coming year, including educational information, videos and practical advice on preparing your pet and your property. This page will be updated regularly with support to assist residents with this change.
An insightful webinar on Keeping Cats Safe at Home. Dr Ma talks about her experience on the project Keeping Cats Safe at Home designing and implementing evidence-based best practice targeted cat desexing programs that aim to address populations of stray cats. She also talks about how Keeping Cats Safe at Home is using social science research and human psychology to influence the behaviour of cat owners and stray cat carers to increase cat containment and reduce overpopulation.
Dr Gemma Ma is an RSPCA veterinarian with over 10 years’ experience working in shelter medicine and general veterinary clinical practice. During this time she has worked extensively on RSPCA NSW access-to-vet-care programs across NSW. Dr Ma graduated with a PhD from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science in 2020. Her thesis investigated the role of companion animals in human and environmental health. Dr Ma is currently Project Manager on Keeping Cats Safe at Home a 4-year human behaviour change project assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust. The project aims to reduce wildlife impacts of domestic cats by encouraging cat owners to prevent their cats from roaming and is working in partnership with 11 NSW councils.
Mandatory desexing of all newly registered cats will also come into effect from 1 August 2023. There are currently 7,832 registered cats in the City of Whittlesea; 95% of them are desexed. Council is offering a subsidised cat desexing program until June 2023 and will be applying for a grant from the State Government to extend this funding. All enquiries and applications about mandatory desexing of newly registered cats and council subsidised desexing should be via email to email@example.com. For further information on Animal Registration
The Cat Protection Society of Victoria (CPSV) in Greensborough has recently introduced a Last Litter Program which is funded with the support of donors. They offer fully subsidised desexing of female cats when the owner agrees to surrender the kittens to CPSV for rehoming. The big picture goal of the program is to break the cycle of endless breeding in vulnerable cats and ultimately, help to prevent cat overpopulation. You can read more about the program Last Litter Program
Cat Confinement and support
Why confine my cat?
Keeping cats confined reduces the risk of cats:
Sustaining traumatic injuries from cars and other animals
Contracting common cat diseases such as cat flu, ringworm and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Being accidentally poisoned by toxic plants, pesticides or being bitten by snakes or spiders
Cats can happily transition to an at-home lifestyle too! In recent times, many people have transitioned to working from home. Cats can happily transition to an at-home lifestyle too! Cat containment (also known as ‘keeping your cat safe at home’ or an ‘at-home lifestyle’) means keeping your cat on your property at all times. You can transition a cat of any age, at any stage, to an at-home lifestyle.
Go slowly. Give you and your cat time to establish a new routine. Step-by-step your cat will learn that an at-home lifestyle can be fun. Kittens adapt well if kept at home from an early age. An adult cat who currently roams can also be gradually introduced to an at-home lifestyle by initially keeping them inside at night and increasing the time they are kept at home during the day.
Support to confine your cat
There are several options available to keep your cat secure and safe in your yard, from building your own to commercial options available from hardware stores and pet suppliers. It is important to look at ways to engage and enrich your animal to ensure it adapts to its new living arrangements.
The RSPCA and Zoos Victoria have developed a range of tools to help cat owners give their cats happy and enriched lives at home.
Cat enclosures, netting and cat-proof fencing are some ways to stop a cat from wandering outside your property. But remember, cats can still go outside, as long as it remains on your property, just like dogs. Cats can leave your property in a cat carrier on a leash or in a cat pram - as long as you have effective control in a securely fitted harness.
Visit this page regularly for more help to transition your cat to 24 hour confinement.
Local success stories
Click on Marija and Piper's story to read about how other locals have kept their Cats safe and confined.
+ Marija and Piper the cat from Epping
Marija said, “I fully support the upcoming new regulations as I am all for keeping cats safe and confined!”
Ever since I have owned a cat, I began looking for new ways of keeping her confined to my courtyard in Epping, where she is safe while not impacting on her wellbeing.
My cat Piper was adopted from a rescue and had ended up in a shelter in the first place because of her escaping.
Cat proofing the back yard came after Piper managed to jump the back fence and escape, so after a very stressful day of searching and fretting, I decided to get started on fence-proofing my courtyard.
My back yard is not very large, and I felt the best way to cat proof the fences was by putting cat netting around. It was an easy DIY job, I had help from family and it did not take much time at all. It was fairly inexpensive for my situation too, and I sourced the materials from Catnets and Bunnings.
When I was researching cat proofing options, the best resource I found was the Agriculture Victoria – enclosures and fencing website, which has an entire section on cat confinement, including information, plans and DIY info on making various types of cat enclosures as well as information on where you can purchase materials. I also found some very useful information on the Catnets website as well as the Bunnings Cat Hacks Australia group on Facebook. These are great resources as you can find options for everyone: owners, renters, DIYers – everybody and I would highly recommend it.
“People often think that cat proofing your yard or making a cat enclosure is a difficult and expensive exercise, but not necessarily – you are only limited to your financial options and your imagination!”
Piper is very happy to have the back-yard garden to explore and enjoy some fresh air. I enjoy gardening and have lots of bird and insect attracting plants, so there is still lots going on in there. As Piper is a nomad, she still gets to go for a wonder outside – safely on a lead and harness.
We regularly go out on walks with the dog too, so she enjoys this very much. Piper was a life saver during the lockdowns, regularly having me out on a walk and some fresh air.
Walking a cat is a great conversation starter! Piper and Woofy (my dog) are well known in my area and people are always delighted to see them out on a walk together. If there are any people out there wondering if they should explore harness walking their cats – if your cat wants to go outside, absolutely, go for it.
“For me, keeping the cat safely on my property is a no-brainer – compared to the vet costs to treat an accident or injury, a cat enclosure is well worth it, and the peace of mind of knowing my cat is safe while still having outdoor access is priceless.”
Watch the Cat Management Online Community Information Session from 28 April 2022
Feedback from Cat Protection Society of Victoria
The Cat Protection Society of Victoria has praised the recent decision by Whittlesea Council to introduce a 24-hour cat curfew and mandatory cat desexing for newly registered cats, in a bid to not only protect the safety of cats, but also the environment and wildlife.
“We applaud any decision that will benefit the wellbeing of cats in general. Many local councils throughout the country have already mandated cat curfews, and we’ve been an advocate of cat management for a number of years,” said The Cat Protection Society of Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Crook.
“A cat that is allowed to roam free has an average life expectancy of only three years, compared to a cat that is confined which has fifteen years plus, so the benefits to a cat are enormous. Addressing issues such as cat curfews and mandatory desexing also helps to control overpopulation and cat colonies, which often result in extensive loss of wildlife, illness for the cats, and positive welfare outcomes for pet cats.”
CEO Ian Crook
Frequently Asked Questions
+ 24 Hour Cat Confinement
What is a cat 24 hour cat curfew? A 24 hour cat curfew means cats are not allowed outside of your property and are secured to your property at all times.
Can I take my cat for a walk on a lead if there is a 24 hour curfew? Yes, as long as you have effective control in a securely fitted harness, or the cat is in a carrier.
Why has council introduced a 24 hour cat confinement? Council has introduced a 24 hour cat confinement to help protect your cats’ welfare The decision was guided by feedback provided at our recent Domestic Animal Management Plan consultation, community consultation, reports about nuisance cats, reports of environmental impacts of cats in parks and reserves and reports of attacks on wildlife.
How will it be enforced? If residents have issues with cats trespassing, the resident can request a cat trap from the Council. If a cat is caught, then enforcement action can be taken against the cat owner.
Will cat owners be fined if their cat is caught off their property? Cat owners may be fined as part of any cat curfew if their cat is caught off their property. Officers will educate cat owners for a period of time as part of the introduction of the curfew.
What happens if my cat is caught outside their property? If officers contain any cats found off their owners’ property, then the cats will either be returned to the owners or taken to the Epping Animal Welfare Facility (EAWF). Once reclaimed, owners may face enforcement action as above and will be required to pay reclaim fees when collecting their cat from EAWF.
What happens if my cat is trapped? Our Animal Management Officers will make all reasonable attempts to reunite the cat with its owner by checking registration and microchip details. If we are unable to identify the owner, we take the cat to the Epping Animal Welfare Facility. If we are unable reunite a cat with its owners and it is taken to the EAWF there will be fees associated with its release. These will vary depending on whether the cat is registered, microchipped or desexed, and the length of time the cat has spent in the facility.
Will I be warned before my cat is impounded? If we cannot identify your cat or get in touch with you, the cat will be taken to the Epping Animal Welfare Facility.
What do I do if a cat is wandering onto my property and causing a nuisance? If you know the owner of the cat, we encourage you to speak with them first. If the issue cannot be resolved and you wish to make a formal complaint, please contact Animal Management Team on 9217 2170 or email Animal.Management@whittlesea.vic.gov.au
Can I use my own cat trap? Before trapping, we encourage you to talk to the cat’s owner to discuss the issue. If this is not possible, or does not resolve the issue, you may trap a cat that wanders onto your property. The sale, setting and use of humane cat traps is regulated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and failure to properly use or monitor a trap may result in penalties. All other traps, including those with hook actioning mechanisms, must not be used and are prohibited. Once the cat is trapped, you may return it to the owner, contact the City of Whittlesea Animal Management Unit to collect it or take the cat to the Epping Animal Welfare Facility. You should always have food and clean drinking water placed in the cat trap and should check the trap regularly throughout the day to see whether a cat has been trapped and needs to be collected.
Will the introduction of a cat curfew manage ‘semi-owned’ or stray cats? Cat curfews will not deal with the “semi-owned” cat population, but it may assist with these cats if they are deemed a nuisance by property owners and are able to be contained via cat traps. Our Animal Management Unit are working on other initiatives to address “semi-owned” cat issues, including educating people who feed but do not own cats and offering subsidised desexing to encourage people to take full ownership.
How can I train my cat to stay indoors? Resources will be available to assist in the transition to acclimatising your cat to an indoor (or in an outdoor enclosure) lifestyle. Some simple methods include: Feed your cat indoors. Instead of letting your cat back outside as soon as they're finished eating, keep them inside for increasing periods of time. If you're starting your cat's retraining during the winter, a warm, dry bed to snuggle in may be just the ticket to convince them to stay inside. More ideas can be found on the Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife website.
Is my cat allowed outdoors on my property? Yes, your cat is allowed outdoors, providing it remains on your property. Various forms of enclosures are available, and we will have information resources available for people to assist them.
How can I keep my cat active? Enrichment activities such as cat towers, keeping plenty of cat toys for them to play with, taking your cat outside on a harness and leash. We will provide owners with other resources which will have more information about keeping your cat active.
How can you tell the difference between a pet, stray or feral cat? It is often hard to tell the difference between a pet, stray or feral cat, as some pet cats will display different behaviours depending on their characteristics. Quite often stray and feral cats will disappear around people, unless they have built up trust with people. Cats are always given time to settle if taken to a shelter. It’s important that pet cats are microchipped and registered so we can distinguish them from unowned cats and reunite them with their owner if they become lost.
Will I have to use a cat trap on my property to catch a nuisance cat? Yes, as catching an uncontained cat is incredibly difficult. If a cat is able to be contained without the use of a trap then officers will collect it, otherwise a trap will be provided, and officers will collect any cats caught in council traps.
How will cats on council property be caught? Who needs to catch them? Generally, cats will only be collected from private residences. In some circumstances Council officers will assist with the collection of cats on council property (parks), however this will be done under supervision.
Where will I have to take the captured cat? Council officers will collect any contained cats from private properties; however cats can also be taken to the Epping Animal Welfare Facility (ensuring the cat is transported in a safe way).
Who do I contact if I suspect my cat has been trapped? Contact your local council or check online to see if your cat has been taken to the Epping Animal Welfare Facility
Do cats get injured if they are captured in a cat trap? It’s important that cats are trapped only in approved traps issued by Council or approved, humane traps. All instructions provided by Council or when purchasing your own trap must be followed to ensure the safety of the cat.
Will keeping my cat inside impact its mental health? If a cat is kept active and given enrichment toys, then keeping your cat indoors will have little effect on its mental health. Some products are available if your cat has increased stress due to being indoors. Indoor cats are less susceptible to disease and injury.
What happens to cats that are captured? If the cat is registered with Council, we will reunite the cat with its owner. If a cat is unowned/stray/feral it will be transferred to the EAWF where it will undergo behavioural assessment to determine suitability for adoption.
Is it legal for my neighbour or Council to trap my cat? Yes, it is legal for someone to trap a trespassing cat.
What resources are there to keep our cats indoors? Council will provide a range of resources for cats, including information from Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife and other organisations.
Will Council support costs associated with building a cat enclosure? At this stage council will provide resources for owners to find the easiest and most cost-effective way to contain cats to their property, and this may include workshops, but at this stage Council will not be subsidising enclosures.
Will a curfew make any difference to overall levels of predation or to the threat of wildlife? Several reports indicate that cats are natural predators to native wildlife, whether or not they are owned or stray/feral. Containing your cat to your property (especially at a young age) will lower its natural predation and will assist in the protection of local wildlife.
Do other Councils have a curfew? Almost half of Victorian councils have a cat curfew in place, with a mix of 24 hour curfews and sunset to sunrise curfews. The City of Darebin introduced a night-time cat curfew (from 7pm to 7am) on 1 Jan 2021, Yarra Ranges has a 24/7 curfew and the Knox City Council 24-hour curfew comes into effect on 10 April 2022. The Cities of Whittlesea and Moreland are both engaging their community on the possibility of introducing a cat curfew.
If my cat is made to be indoors 24 hour a day will I still need to register them? Why? Yes, all cats over the age of three months are required to be registered under state law. If your cat escapes your property then these fees will assist in returning your cat to you, and also assists in running the Epping Animal Welfare Facility, which cares for all cats that are brought into the facility, whether they are owned or not. Registering your pets helps Council reunite you with them as we will be able to quickly trace them back to you.
If a curfew is introduced will the cost of cat registration be reduced? At this stage no changes are being looked at in relation to registration fees, however we are looking at advocating to the state government for standard fees across all councils.
What is the fine for a cat not being confined to my property? There is a transition period until 1 August 2023 where Council will be supporting residents to be ready to be compliant. Education and support will continue after introduction. When fines are issued they will start from $92 - other fees or fines may apply.
+ Mandatory Cat Desexing
What are the benefits of desexing my cat? There are many health benefits of desexing your cat, as well as getting to the source of the overpopulation issue that we face in the City of Whittlesea.
How does desexing my cat benefit the community? Desexing your cat will help to address the overpopulation of cats within the City of Whittlesea and will also assist in nuisance complaints as desexed are less likely to roam.
What does desexing involve? Desexing involves the removal of reproductive organs.
What is the cost of desexing your cat? Cat desexing starts from $150, but does vary according to sex, age and other factors. Council is offering a subsidised cat desexing program until June 2023. We will be applying for a grant from the State Government and considering funding options as part of our next budget to extend the program beyond this date
Does the Council cover any of the costs? Council is offering a subsidised cat desexing program until June 2023. We will be applying for a grant from the State Government and considering funding options as part of our next budget to extend the program beyond this date.
How do I know if I am eligible and can apply for Council subsidised desexing? All enquiries and applications about mandatory desexing of newly registered cats and council subsidised desexing should be via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What if I’m intending to breed my cat? Some exemptions to the mandatory desexing rule apply. This includes cats that are owned by a registered breeder where the cat is used for breeding purposes.
Are there any exemptions to mandatory cat desexing? If you are a registered breeder or a member of an applicable organisation you are exempt from mandatory desexing. If your cat is subject to a written medical advice from a vet that desexing would be harmful to its health.
What age is it recommended that a cat is desexed? The RSPCA recommends the desexing of cats at a young age (under 4 months) before they reach puberty.
Is early desexing harmful to my cat? No, reports suggest that the health benefits of early age desexing far outweigh any possible side effects of early age desexing. Please seek advice from your veterinary practitioner if you have any concerns or questions about your cat.