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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Cats in several suburbs of Sydney will be ordered to curl up inside from dusk to dawn under a curfew that hopes to curb overnight attacks on native wildlife.
The move in by the Leichhardt local government area, on the inner west side of Sydney, was inspired after deputy mayor Michele McKenzie's son rescued a brushtail possum and its baby when they were attacked by a cat.
There are also plans to reintroduce a colony of ringtail possums, which are much smaller in size, to the municipality, and McKenzie wants the animals to have the best possible chance at survival.
But the odds are stacked against the possums unless cats, which can climb trees to catch the animals, are stopped from prowling at night.
There have been some 564 reported cat attacks on ringtail possums in the last year alone, making up the biggest part of total cat attacks on wildlife, wildlife protection agency WIRES said. "It's a small thing to ask people to keep their cats indoors if it means protecting our native wildlife." McKenzie said "After all, they were here first, we've introduced domestic pets, so we have a responsibility to control them."
Whilst the curfew cannot be strictly enforced, an education and information program to be sent out by the local government will propose that cat owners keep their pets indoors between dusk and dawn, monitor their cat's activities during the day and attach two bells to their collar.
The proposal will cover the suburbs of Balmain, Rozelle, Lilyfield, Annandale and Leichhardt. McKenzie said local residents were very responsive. Cat owners "don't imagine, because they feed their pets, that they are attacking wildlife. But it is a natural instinct, cats will prey on wildlife -- and because they can actually get up in the trees they are a bit more dangerous than dogs," McKenzie said.
"Dogs will do terrible damage to a possum, but they don't get them quite as often because they don't climb trees."
WIRES reported that over a 5 year period, there were 16,775 attacks by all types of domestic pets on native wildlife.
(Reporting by Amy Pyett; editing by Elaine Lies)
Corrects reference to Sydney in lead.