Cat bib program up for discussion in the Blue Mountains

Marauding Mountains moggies could be fitted with bibs to restrict their ability to hunt.

There is interest in trialling a cat bib program in the Blue Mountains, which was first introduced in the Eurobodalla Shire.

Greens councillor Brent Hoare will bring a motion to the October 27 council meeting about introducing cat bibs in the Mountains and calling for a report on adopting an integrated approach to reducing the impact of domestic cats on native animals.

"Hearing about what Eurobodalla has been doing for a number of years and had some reasonable success with, it's worth having a look at whether we can replicate that success here," Cr Hoare said.

"It's encouraging how quickly the Eurobodalla cat owners have embraced the use of cat bibs and I hope the cat owners in the Mountains would recognise that their cat goes hunting and that people would be prepared to give it a go."

Made from wetsuit-like material, the bib inhibits a cat's ability to hunt, while allowing cats the freedom to run and jump, groom and sleep.

Eurobodalla Council's natural resources officer Courtney Fink-Downes said Murdoch University studies showed the bibs stopped 80 per cent of cats from catching birds and reduced small-animal predation by nearly half.

"Larger bibs can be put on more persistent hunters," she said.

Ms Fink-Downes said the bib was put on a cat during the day if they were being let outside, but the cat must be brought inside at night and the bib removed.

"Contrary to popular belief, cats hunt even when they are not hungry and roaming domestic cats are a significant conservation issue in Eurobodalla, with birds, lizards, frogs and native mammals like bandicoots and gliders at risk," Ms Fink-Downes said.

"It's been a great way to work with cat owners. A lot of cat owners want to do the right thing but are not sure what to do," she said.

The Eurobodalla Council trialled the bibs at Congo in 2013-14 to help protect the greater gliders there. After community feedback they then introduced free cat bibs to some areas of the Eurobodalla.

About 18 months ago the council decided to provide cat bibs free to all owners of microchipped and registered cats. They are distributed via local vets, or council posts them directly to the owner.

"They are starting to become more normal here. It's like picking up dog poo after your dog," Ms Fink-Downes said.

She said the program wasn't costly to run - the bibs cost just $14 each, and the time she spends liaising with vets and cat owners had been integrated within her daily tasks.

While Ms Fink-Downes recognised cat curfews and cat runs were better at eliminating a cat's opportunity to hunt, the cat bibs were saving wildlife.

"The more wildlife we can look after the better," she said.

Back in 2017, Cr Hoare had hoped to bring cat tracking to the Blue Mountains to gain an insight into how domestic cats behave in close proximity to native bush. But the project didn't get off the ground due to university funding issues.

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