Pets in the City
On 17 August 2010, Cat Protection attended the launch of a great initiative of the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) – Pets in the City – a comprehensive guide to looking after pets in the city. The guide is available to download free from www.petsinthecity.net.au and includes information on choosing the right pet, negotiating rental and strata agreement to keep a pet, and keeping mainly or only indoor pets happy and healthy.
The launch was held at the pet-friendly Sydney hotel, the Sebel Pier One at Walsh Bay. There were tables set with tiered platters of cakes and sandwiches, coffee and tea for two-legged guests … and a sideboard with dog treats and a balcony with Astroturf as a restroom for the many dogs in attendance! All the dogs were very well-behaved and there were even a couple of guest cats.
Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore MP, launching Pets in the City, spoke of how much she enjoyed taking her dogs for walks in her neighbourhood. Hearing his name and the word ‘walk’, her dog Banjo leapt with excitement, reminding us all of the delight our four-legged friends both give and receive.
Ms Moore said, “In a society in which people often live on their own, pets give pleasure, they teach responsibility, they provide security, and they love and are loved in return.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows around one in four Australian households currently live in flats, units or apartments. As we know too well at Cat Protection, this form of accommodation is frequently pet-unfriendly: not because cats and dogs can’t enjoy living in such environments, but because owners’ corporations/strata and landlords don’t welcome them.
We average at least one cat surrendered to us each week because of pet-unfriendly housing – it is heartbreaking for all concerned. Pet resumés – documented records including references – can help to prove your cat will be a good tenant but there are no guarantees. Law reform is needed in this area to protect tenants and landlords – we know that most pet owners would be happy to pay a ‘pet bond’ but this is not allowed by law.
The default position for strata should be pet friendly – as it is in the ACT. Excluding thousands of people from keeping pets is not just making those people miss out on the joys of a pet, but creates the tragic situation of pet homelessness and the killing of healthy cats and dogs in pounds and shelters. As a no-kill shelter, there is a high demand on our service but our capacity is obviously limited.
Responsibly owned cats (and dogs) make great tenants. Desexed cats are clean, quiet and with environmental enrichment (toys, perches, a cat friend) can live perfectly happy and healthy lives completely indoors. Cats make us better people too – they benefit our physical and mental health, help us to be more empathic and provide loving companionship.
One of the key findings from the PIAS research was that people who do keep dogs and cats in high density living do so successfully and responsibly, and report very little difficulty. Dog and cat owners in highly urbanised environments expressed similar levels of satisfaction with their pet-owning experience as those in the general population: 94 per cent for dog owners and 93 per cent for cat owners.
The most common problem associated with pet ownership in medium to high density dwellings was hair shedding (27 per cent of owners). The solution to this is easy – regular brushing (and if it really bothers you, choose a short-haired cat), regular vacuuming, and those great sticky rollers (we sell them at Cat Protection!) to remove cat hair from clothes and soft furnishings.
The PIAS guide also debunks myths such as large dogs needing big backyards – as they say “A number of large dog breeds are quiet and calm couch potatoes. By contrast, many small dog breeds are extremely noisy and energetic.” And yet the nonsensical approach of some so-called ‘pet friendly’ apartments is to put a weight limit on the size of the dogs allowed!
Jean Cocteau said “I love my cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul.”
A city without cats is a city without a soul. You can help to make our cities more pet-friendly. Write to your local state Member of Parliament asking for more pet-friendly housing regulations; if you live in strata, fight for pet-friendly by-laws. Most importantly, prove the detractors wrong by ensuring you are a responsible pet owner – make sure your cat is desexed, registered and microchipped, keep them indoors or confine them to your property with cat-proof fencing or a cat run, keep them parasite-free with regular flea and worm treatments, and keep them healthy with regular vet checks.