What is it about cats that inspire such out-paw-ings (forgive the pun) of affection in some quarters, and an almost pathological dislike elsewhere? There are literally thousands of cat videos on YouTube and no doubt millions of downloads worldwide. If you are feeling a bit low, it’s even suggested as therapeutic – Google ‘cute little kittens’ and there’s hours of relaxation in watching those fluffy little felines run amok.
There’s no doubt that for many people cats make great domestic pets and they have done so since the days of ancient Egypt, maybe even earlier. The Egyptians considered their feline buddies sacred, and even went to the trouble of mummifying them when they died. In the late 1800s, an Egyptian farmer uncovered an enormous tomb of some 80,000 mummified cats and kittens, most of which were exported to England as fertilizer. Not the sort of thing Bunnings would have on their inventory today.
Yet as we are all aware, the modern ‘felis silvestris catus’ also has a very sinister side, particularly when it runs wild and wages war on our native species. Nobody knows the actual number of feral felines throughout Australia, with estimates between five and eighteen million, but the damage they do is tragic. The daily death toll of birds, lizards and other small critters has been put as high as 75 million.
It might seem way too late, but the Federal Government has just announced a five year plan aimed at killing up to two million of the rapacious moggies. As the ABC’s Ashley Hall recently reported:
“We’ve had the war on drugs and the war on terror. Today the Federal Government will declare war on cats, feral cats that is.”
Whilst a total of 10 new feral cat-free enclosures will be established to protect endangered species, just how the actual cull will take place remains to be seen. Baiting, shooting and poisoning have been discussed, but the sheer numbers of cats at large suggests a formidable enemy – along with their ‘death cult’ allies, the camels and toads.
Whilst the feral population of cats is largely distributed through rural and outback areas, the urban areas should not be forgotten. Who could forget the infamous Woolloomooloo panther, an enormous jet black tom, who terrorised both residents and wildlife in the suburb for over two years. The evil beast was even spotted climbing trees to snatch newborn noisy miner chicks from their nests. Gladly or sadly (if you’re a pussycat tragic), the panther became a doormat when he chanced his fleet of foot against the might of a council garbage truck on a rainy Friday morning.
Needless to say the legacy of the panther remains through his numerous offspring that now populate the backstreets of the Loo and Darlinghurst (and may well have migrated, along with his dominant genes, right throughout the state). Whether the so called ‘war on cats’ has any noticeable effect in reducing their ever-expanding numbers and protecting our beloved critters remains to be seen. In the meantime for those uncompromised cat lovers, for whom the shooting and poisoning of the feral variety is highly questionable, there is always a diversion into the fluffy world of playful kittens online.