Penny Milburn is both a cat owner and a registered Land for Wildlife property owner who feels responsible for ensuring that her cats are kept safe and that they don’t kill native wildlife or become a nuisance to other people.
“I lost my first cat, Hiccup, on the road, and it absolutely devastated me,” said Penny.
“My oldest cat, Atomic, is 12, and he was allowed to roam with Hiccup for the first two years of his life in New South Wales. Before Hiccup was killed, we had numerous expensive trips to the vet with various injuries in those two years, including from catfights.
“They wore bells on their collars, but one day while sitting on the balcony I saw Atomic silently stalk and catch a bird very easily, which mortified me because I am also very passionate about wildlife. So I decided that building an enclosure would keep both Atomic and the wildlife safe”.
Most cats adapt well to living indoors, particularly if they have been kept this way from an early age. However, adult cats that are used to roaming may have more difficulty in adjusting.
“I started the transition by keeping Atomic limited to inside the home and the enclosure at night, then gradually decreased the time that he was allowed to roam beyond those spaces. I think because I built the enclosure in a sunny spot where Atomic could still see most of the yard, with a few planks and logs to climb at different heights, he loved it in there from the beginning and the transition was very easy. It was a very simple enclosure that we built between the house and a fence. Marvin, Cinder and Ella have since joined the family, and an enclosure is all they have ever known.
“An enclosure is so much safer for the cats. It protects them from legal trapping, snakes, being hit by cars and from being injured or catching diseases from interactions with other cats. And so it saves me a lot of money too. Marvin is 10 now and Cinder and Ella are both aged eight, and I have never had to take either of them to the vet for any illness or injury in their whole lifetime. We lived in a different house when they joined the family, and we simply closed in the double carport to create an enclosure.”
The remarkable fauna that exists in the wild in Tasmania was one of the special things that attracted Penny to relocate here in 2009. Tasmania has one of the highest recorded rates of cat-carried Toxoplasma infection in the world. Toxoplasma infection can be fatal for infected marsupials. And when she saw first-hand the albino wallabies on Bruny Island infected with it, Penny was even more motivated to contain her cats, to help prevent the spread of this dreadful disease.
“I was quite shocked that I flew into Hobart with four cats, without any questions asked about whether they were de-sexed, or how I intended to control them,” she said.
Before relocating her cats to the Huon, she built an enclosure that they could access from the house via a simple tunnel. She pointed out that it is possible to build enclosures very cheaply from bush poles or scrap timbers, second hand roofing iron and, in her case, an old fish net from Tassal.