Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to the New South Wales Cat Protection Society, climate induced warmer weather is causing cats to have more unwanted kittens.
Longer breeding seasons, more kittens: are cats reacting to climate change?
When Kristina Vesk started working at the Cat Protection Society of NSW in 2006, she rarely saw kittens in winter. Now warmer weather means cats are breeding all year round, increasing the numbers of unwanted kittens and the threat to native wildlife from strays and feral cats.
Ms Vesk, the society’s chief executive, said there used to be weeks from June to September when the shelter saw very few, if any, kittens. But with the climate changing and temperatures rising, it seems cats are increasingly on heat.
“For the past three years, I don’t think we’ve experienced a full week at any time of year where we don’t have at least a couple of kittens in our care,” Ms Vesk said. “Kitten ‘season’ has grown longer and longer as we keep having … enough warm and sunny days in winter that make cats think it’s a good time to start breeding.”
Vanessa Barrs, a Professor of Feline Medicine at the University of Sydney, said most cats do not breed in winter to conserve energy and help kittens survive. But breeding can be influenced by photoperiod, the number of available daylight hours, and “cats artificially exposed to 12 hours of light indoors … can be induced to breed all year round”, she said.
Is building wind turbines and solar installations really the most effective way to reduce the number of unwanted kittens? Or might it be more effective to run a TV campaign, encouraging pet owners to be responsible about having their animals desexed?