Armadale city staff plan to do nothing to protect wildlife from cats after a PhD study they funded found habitat destruction had more impact than moggies on native mammals.
A thesis by Murdoch University researcher Maggie Lilith will be tabled at Monday night’s council meeting to support a do nothing approach.
Dr Lilith’s 2007 thesis was completed with the help of a grant from the council.
It notes that cat ownership in Australia is declining compared to increasing cat ownership in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe. Dr Lilith believes the decline in Australia may be linked to perceptions of cat predation.
She investigated the abundance and diversity of small mammals in four areas of remnant bushland around Armadale in eastern Perth.
Two areas were beside subdivisions where cat ownership was unrestricted, one next to a housing estate where cat ownership was banned and one beside a subdivision where a compulsory night curfew and bells on pet cats were enforced.
Dr Lilith found no evidence that pet cats had slashed the population of small mammals. Species diversity and abundance was virtually identical from subdivision to subdivision.
She found that the structure and species composition of vegetation differed between most sites. It was this factor, not cats, that appeared to be the main determinant of the richness, diversity and number of small native mammals.
In Armadale, development covenants controlling cats are in place at Waterwheel Estate and Churchmans Brook Estate.
Based on Dr Lilith’s findings, city staff have recommended that nothing more be done until a state-wide cat Bill being drafted by Liberal MP Joe Francis enters Parliament.