Hi-tech attempt to deal with Outback feral cat problem

Published: January 19, 2018
Feral cats noticed by grey nomads

Veteran grey nomads will be all too aware of the growing problem that feral cats have become in many Outback areas.

As hugely efficient predators, their effect on the natural environment and impact on native wildlife is dramatic. They are also exceptionally cunning and so efforts to control the feral cat population have struggled.

Studies over the last three decades have revealed that cats are mainly hunters so don’t often take bait and are hard to trap.

In the search for a solution, a new feral cat management device that uses lasers to detect the shape and movements of cats has been deployed on Aboriginal land in South Australia.

Dubbed the Felixer, the machine has been specially designed to help reduce the number of large feral cats that live in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the far north-west of the state.

University of South Australia ecologist John Read helped develop the machine, which shoots toxic gel at cats walking past.

“Cats are very fastidious about grooming and they’ll lick that off and go away and get poisoned,” Dr Read told the ABC. “By squirting poison onto their fur, rather than throwing baits around, it’s a more targeted way of getting feral cats.”

Dr Read said the design of the machine ensured the Felixer wouldn’t incorrectly shoot a native animal.

“We’ve got some activation sensors which detect a cat’s rump and its shoulder,” he said. “The animal’s got to be that high in order to activate them, so shorter animals like rabbits or lizards or bilbies [and] other native animals are too short.”

It also has a ‘blocking sensor’ at about our knee height, which is high enough that dingos, kangaroos, people, will automatically activate it. In that instance, the whole machine shuts down for at least a minute.

The Felixer has been deployed in the APY Lands because feral cats were a threat to the critically endangered black-footed wallaby, or warru.

APY Lands general manager Richard King said the outback feral cats were not like normal domestic cats.

“These cats are about 35% bigger, and basically the meanest type of cat that you can get, almost like a bobcat,” he told the ABC.

  • Have you come across any ‘huge’ feral cats on your adventures? Comment below.
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3 years ago

We were out Winton way for a couple days and saw 3 big feral cats.

3 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Cant wait for this to be available for the domestic market.

3 years ago

Some years ago at the Devils Marbles, early morning watched 10-15 cats stalking the Spinifex pigeons who were getting water from the runoff of the vans parked there. I saw signs saying not to shoot the cats , as I don’t own a rifle etc I used my slingshot instead.

Tony Robinson
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Hope you managed to get a few.

3 years ago

Just wondering if secondary poisoning would happen if native animals ate the carcasses?

Therese Roberts
3 years ago

I think its cruel to kill or hurt any cats there should be a better way to keep track to get rid of feral cats its the owners fault they become like that for dumping them whem their kittens

3 years ago

My first encounter with a feral cat was some years ago in western NSW & the thing that stuck in my mind was its size. I had only ever seen bigger cats at the Zoo.
I now live in suburban Sydney (Hornsby) and back onto Ku-ring-gai National Park where my son had a more recent encounter with a feral cat. He disturbed this cat which had just caught a Lyrebird and attempted to rescue the bird, however on approach the cat became extremely aggressive and had no fear of the presence of an adult (He quickly exited)
I think a machine like the Felixer is excellent, however it is concerning that you don’t need to travel too far from Sydney CBD to encounter a Feral Cat.
My advice to anyone who comes across Feral cats is to give them a wide berth if you do not have a gun.

Peter Flynn
3 years ago

I am a cat owner, I have been all my life, the problems start with us.We must have our animals desexed, and we must be totally responsible for them.It is only a few generations away from the enlarged, feral cats that we read about, generally, domestic pets can turn feral very quickly, Dogs and cats.


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