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Animals

Cat Curfew

Mitchell Shire Council will soon introduce a cat curfew. The curfew requires cats to be confined to the owner’s premises overnight, between sunset and sunrise.

The cat curfew is not about keeping your cat inside your house; you just need to confine your cat to your property boundary during that time. However, cats that are not confined during the day (during non-curfew hours) can still be trapped if a resident objects to the cat being on their property.

For most people who already do the right thing and keep their cats contained, this won't change much. However, there are some cat owners who will need to make some adjustments.

If your cat is trapped outside your property by a member of the public or a Council Local Laws Officer, attempts will be made to reunite you with your cat provided the cat is currently registered and microchipped.

The curfew will help keep cats safer, reduce the impact of nuisance cats on the community, protect wildlife and the environment and help to manage feral cats.

As part of the introduction of the cat curfew, we will be providing education to cat owners. To allow you and your feline friend to adjust to the changes, we will waive any fines for trapped cats for the first three months after the curfew is introduced.

Top 12 benefits to keep your cat inside at night

  1. They live longer
  2. Cats don't go missing
  3. Cats don't get hit by traffic
  4. Cats don't accidentally get locked in sheds/garages
  5. Cats are protected and less likely to contract or spread disease
  6. Cats are safe from pesticides in neighbouring gardens
  7. Pet cats are safe from feral cats
  8. Happier neighbours: No cats roaming around in their gardens. No cats digging up their plant pots. No cats catching birds that are welcome visitors in their garden
  9. No cats roaming causing dogs to bark
  10. Environmentally friendly - Hunting of wildlife isn't possible if your cat is confined - Total control over what your cat eats
  11. Lower cost - Less chance of injury occurring from traffic or cat fights - Less chance of your cat picking up disease or infections = Lower vet bills.
  12. Owners get to spend more time with their cat - Quality time with your cat in your garden.
What do I do if I have problems with cats on my property?

Cats are not permitted on private property without permission from the owner or occupier. The occupier has a legal right to contain a cat and hand it to Council. However, it is important that this is done humanely.

If a cat has entered your property and it appears tame or friendly, it most likely has an owner nearby. In the first instance, we would encourage you to approach the cat's owner and explain the problem.

They might not be aware that their cat is roaming and may be able to take some steps to keep it contained.

If you're not comfortable contacting the cat's owner, you could consider leaving a letter in their letterbox or at their door.

If you can't find the owner, you can approach the cat and secure it in a box or cage and call Council's Local Laws Unit to have the cat collected (during business hours Monday to Friday).

Cats found trespassing or contained during the cat curfew time of a weekend will not be collected by Council's Local Laws Officers.

If you have a problem with an unfriendly, feral or stray cat, Council has a small number of traps that can be hired by residents at no cost. Traps can be hired for one week and must be collected and returned to Council.

It is important that traps are used humanely. We provide information to people borrowing the cages about how to use them to minimise distress to the cat as much as possible.

I set a trap. What now?

If you have a trap set, it must be checked regularly and cannot be used where the trapped cat would be subject to stress.

If you trap cat, you will need to contact Council and a Local Laws Officer will come to collect it. Cats can only be collected during normal business hours on weekdays, which means that you can only use the traps overnight from Sunday to Thursday.

Why do we need a cat curfew?

Many councils across Victoria have cat curfews.

A curfew is good for your cat, good for your neighbours, good for the environment and good for wildlife.

It will:

  • help keep pet cats safer
  • reduce the impact of nuisance cats on community members
  • help to better manage feral cats
  • reduce the impact of cats on wildlife
What is the proposed cat curfew?

If you own a cat, or there is a cat living at your house, it must be kept on your property at night time, between sunset and sunrise. You can be fined if your cat is caught off your property during these times.

The Bureau of Meteorology sets sunset and sunrise times every day, and this is what we'll use to determine times.

Your cat can still go outside at night, but they must stay on your property. This can be done through fencing, enclosures or by keeping your cat indoors.

What are some of the ways I can keep my cat on my property?

You can keep your cat contained indoors, create a cat enclosure, build a cat-proof boundary fence or use a shed or other outside building to keep your cats in overnight (make sure they have suitable ventilation, access to water and consider heating and cooling needs).

Your cat will adjust, but it will take some time, so just be patient.

We recommend:

  • Keeping your cat's main meal until the end of the day so you can call it in before it gets dark.
  • Making sure your cat has somewhere comfortable to spend the night in a well-aired space with a bed, water and access to a litter tray.
  • Provide a stimulating environment for your cat such as scratching posts, toys and access to a window to see out.
  • Consider installing a cat run, cat enclosure or cat-proof fencing so your cat can roam safely on your property.
What can I do to keep my cat active?

There are plenty of things you can do to keep your cat enriched in your backyard or if you choose to keep your cat indoors permanently.

Zoos Victoria and RSPCA have developed a ‘Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife’ education program. It has some fantastic 'cat hacks' and advice including:

  • chase hacks
  • food hacks
  • sensory hacks
  • sleep hacks

You can also share your cat hacks with the ‘Safe Cats, Safe Wildlife’ online community.

For more info, you can go to the Safe Cats website.

What happens if your cat is caught roaming?

It is important to remember that you are required by law to register your cat from the age of 12 weeks.

If your cat is microchipped and registered (and your details are up to date), we can re-unite you and your cat quickly and easily. You will be able to reclaim your cat from the pound if impounded.

If your cat is not microchipped or registered, we have no way of getting in touch with you. The cat will be taken to the pound. If it’s not claimed within eight days, suitability for rehoming the cat will be considered in accordance with the relevant "Code of Practice".

Will there be an amnesty?

Council has introduced an amnesty if your cat is caught in the first three months after the curfew is introduced. You will still need to pay boarding and registration fees if your cat is impounded.

How can you tell the difference between a pet, stray or feral cat?

Most pet cats, even timid ones, display different behaviours to stray or feral cats.

We can usually tell the difference, but the best thing you can do is make sure your cat is registered and microchipped. If your cat is caught, it can be scanned and you can be contacted and reunited.