Don’t let them out: 15 ways to keep your indoor cat happy

Cats have recently been on the tail-end of bad press, with recent research finding roaming pet cats kill 390 million animals per year in Australia. Most of them are native species.

To protect our native wildlife, who never evolved with such an efficient predator, it’s imperative we keep our cats contained – all day, every day.

Read more: One cat, one year, 110 native animals: lock up your pet, it’s a killing machine

In Australia, Canberra leads the way in introducing initiatives such as “cat curfews”, and rangers can seize free-roaming cats in declared areas with infringement notices of up to A$1,500. It’s likely this will be followed in other places as local government authorities become more proactive.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Some people will think measures like these are draconian. But keeping cats inside can actually be in the best interests of the cat, as well as the environment.

Outdoor cats die sooner

Cats live substantially longer, safer lives if environmental dangers of free-roaming are eliminated. An exclusively inside (or contained outside) life precludes the chance of many common and important causes of life-threatening trauma.

The most significant risk is being injured or killed by a vehicle, especially for young cats who haven’t learned the dangers of traffic.

Read more: Ticked off: let’s stop our dogs and cats dying of tick paralysis this year

Other animals can prey on cats. Dogs are the most common risk, and your local vet can testify to the horrendous injuries cats suffer when they’re bailed up by dogs. Venomous snakes, monitor lizards, urban foxes and dingoes also put cats in danger. Tick paralysis is also a risk in some areas.

Cats like looking out windows, but make sure windows have fly screens to keep them inside. Shutterstock

Cats, especially sexually intact males, are territorially aggressive and fight among themselves. And cats that fight are commonly infected by the feline immunodeficiency virus which can spread, along with other viral and bacterial pathogens, through the transfer of blood during fighting.

What’s more, free-roaming cats who catch mice and rats that have eaten poison baits can become poisoned secondarily. Other things are also toxic to cats, such as lilies and anti-freeze, and some cats are maliciously poisoned.

But is denying cats ‘the outside’ also cruel?

The bottom line is most cats can be totally happy living indoors – but owners need to put in the effort to provide for their environmental and behavioural needs.

Cat trees provide opportunities for scratching, climbing and jumping up and down. Shutterstock

But a 2019 survey with more than 12,000 respondents found many Australian cat owners are not adequately providing for their indoor cats, especially when it comes to toileting and feeding.

This may lead to a range of health and welfare issues, such as obesity and related diseases, behavioural problems and urinary tract disorders.

For example, cats are very fastidious when it comes to toileting, so you need to give them nice clean litter trays (they don’t want to use a place they think another cat has soiled). Cats don’t like to eat near their toilet, so separate their litter trays and feeding area in different rooms. They also need choice, so more than one litter tray is required.

Raw chicken drumsticks promote good oral hygiene for cats. Author provided

Welfare problems can also arise if indoor cats cannot satiate specific natural desires and behaviours.

For example, cats love to climb and jump, and they like to sharpen their nails. You need to provide the opportunity to perform these activities indoors with a range of cat furniture.

Read more: Pets and owners – you can learn a lot about one by studying the other

Here’s a list of simple ways (taken from a larger study) you can make inside a happy place for your cat, even if you live in a small apartment.

Cleanliness and eating habits

  • have one litter tray per cat, plus one (for instance, three litter trays for two cats), in different locations, in quiet areas of the house. Clay litter is best. Scoop out faeces and urine soiled litter on at least a twice-daily basis and change the whole tray once a week. Have one litter tray covered (for privacy) and the other open – cats like variety
  • regular grooming with your cat’s favourite grooming brush is fun and feels like a massage. It’s good for the coat and prevents hairballs and matted fur
Regular grooming prevents mats in the coat and leads to fewer hairballs. Author provided
  • consider providing some natural food such as raw chicken drum sticks. Raw meat requires chewing, massaging the gums and provides cats with a sense of possession. Some cats will even “kill” the drumstick by banging it on the ground a few times before eating. Nothing settles a cat more than knocking off a drumstick.

Setting up the space

  • cats need vertical space more than horizontal space. So consider a ladder or other objects to let them climb to the top of a wardrobe or the fridge. Use cat furniture which expands vertical space
Cats like to curl up somewhere warm, such as near a heater or in a sunny spot. Shutterstock
  • cats like windows so they can check out what’s happening outside. Have stands located so they can look out
  • cats love multiple points of safety and seclusion. Set up several cat baskets lined with a soft blanket or igloos, and ideally at different heights (for example, a few at ground level and one nice and high – maybe on top of a wardrobe)
  • cats have a higher thermoneutral temperature than dogs and people, so they seek out warm places. Place some baskets in the sun, or a basket in front of the heater
  • have good border security. Windows need fly screens to keep cats inside. If not, the “high rise syndrome” – where cats drop from a height of two or more stories – can lead to severe injuries. Front doors need automatic closing mechanisms to stop cats getting outside
  • provide cat with scratching towers for exercise, and to satiate its desire to sharpen its claws. Vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces should be provided. Better here than on the good furniture
Vertical space is more important than horizontal space for a cat. Author provided (No reuse)
  • consider installing a modular pet park (outdoor cat enclosures) or similar contained outdoor setup, which gives the cat an outdoor experience but without risks.

Keep them entertained

  • the ideal number of cats is usually one or two. Having two littermates is often ideal, as they are more likely get on and keep each other company when you’re not at home. A single cat will usually just sleep while you’re away and look forward to you coming home. Three or more cats are not recommended as they do not invariably get along which can cause more health and welfare issues
  • cat toys can provide fun and exercise, and they don’t need to be expensive. A ping pong ball is cheap. Scrunched up paper is very popular. Cat exercise wheels are costly, but can be a lot of fun and provide good exercise
  • puzzle feeders that hide food are also a fun toy for curious cats and can recreate the hunting behaviour of searching for food
  • give generously of your time a couple of times a day to pet and play with your cat
  • some cats like to watch TV. There are special videos on YouTube for a cat audience showing movements, such as of birds and fish, which cats can find mesmerising and entertaining.

More details can be found herehere and here, using resources developed by the RSPCA to help any cat owner optimise their indoor environment to maximise their pet’s health and welfare.

Originally published in The Conversation, a website that publishes commentary, research and analysis from Australian universities and the CSIRO.

Council transfers community services to Valmar

Yass Valley Council has officially transferred community services to Valmar, including all staff, volunteers, vehicles, activities and schedules.

Valmar CEO Hugh Packard, Yass Valley Council General Manager Chris Berry and Deputy Mayor Nathan Furry recently joined Valmar and Yass Valley Home Living Support Service (HLSS) staff and volunteers for a morning tea to mark the occasion.

Valmar has been approved to take on the full operational responsibility for running Yass Community Transport and Commonwealth Home Support Program. Council has been working with the not-for-profit community organisation and leading provider of services to the frail aged and people with disabilities in the region to ensure minimal disruptions to local users.

CEO Hugh Packard said Valmar is honoured in being approved to take on the full operational responsibility for running Yass Community Transport and Commonwealth Home Support Program.

“We have been working with Council to ensure that there is minimal disruption to this service and that the focus remains on service users and the high level of service provision that individuals and communities expect,” said Mr Packard.

“Valmar has a vision of enhancing the lives of each person we support through a process of asking what they want, hearing what they say and acting on this. We are really grateful Council saw fit to recommend us for this opportunity and we look forward to be able to continue to grow our relationship with the people of the Yass Valley.”

In October 2019, Council determined to commence negotiations with alternate accredited service providers to take over the operation of its community services functions. In December 2019, three specialist service providers, all with an established local presence, were referred by Council to the State and Federal Governments as suitable organisations to undertake the transfer of community services in the Yass Valley. The Department of Health (DoH) indicated Valmar as the preferred provider.

“This is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate and an opportunity to thank HLSS staff and volunteers for their contribution over the years,” said Cr Furry.

“Council is grateful for the reassurance from Valmar that it will carry on, expand upon and deliver a wider range of services to the community, including the retention of local staff and the continuation of activities and transport assistance.

“We are confident that these important local services are in very good hands.”

RFS Brigades return to training across the Southern Tablelands

Brigades have resumed regular scheduled training across the Southern Tablelands Zone as social distancing guidelines ease allowing for more hands-on training at local Brigades. With new safety and social distancing guidelines in place, Brigade training is well underway for bushfire season 2020/21 bolstered by nearly 100 new recruits who have joined local Brigades in the months since the devastation of last summer.

“The community would not have noticed any change in terms of emergency response, but behind the scenes, our volunteers have really had to rise up to the challenge of providing a fire service in the Covid19 world,” said Operational Officer Lachlan Gilchrist.

Local Brigades have seen large numbers of new volunteers in the months since the catastrophic fire season of 2019/20 with over 100 new volunteers joining Brigades throughout the Southern Tablelands, although this enthusiasm has thrown up some new challenges during the Covid19 pandemic.

Lachlan Gilchrist said, “When people join the Rural Fire Service, we want to welcome them with open arms into our Brigades but social distancing guidelines has meant it’s been a bit more arm’s length which is very different for a community-based organisation like ours, we can’t thank them enough for their patience over the last few months”.

There have also been some other noticeable benefits from a return to training. “I don’t think we can overstate the social good that Brigades have played and continue to play throughout this isolating time, I think it’s been enormously valuable for people to connect to their community and you can see that in the faces of our volunteers at training, this is important” said Lachlan Gilchrist.

If you are thinking about joining the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, contact your local Brigade Zone Office on 02 6226 3100 or go to

Cuts to local ABC and media

The cuts to the ABC are deeply concerning, affecting their independent news reporting as well as programming, particularly children’s programming. ABC Canberra is to lose two to three positions.

The ABC will cut 250 jobs – including at least two in Canberra – to help make up an $84 million budget shortfall.

Hundreds of media jobs have been lost in recent months, and hundreds of regional newspapers run by News Corp and Australian Community Media have been furloughed or closed permanently in recent months – including the Yass Tribune.

We hear the term ‘fake news’ all too often these days. It’s usually applied when a government or politician does not like the coverage they’re receiving. Strangely, if a media outlet shows strong bias by mis-reporting or ignoring facts this is acceptable – providing it doesn’t upset the government position.

We need a strong, truly independent media to report the news without bias, and do the hard yard investigating councils and governments. In rural and regional areas this is just as important.

The Yass Courier will continue to build our local presence in the coming months. We won’t ‘rush to print’, we’ll slowly grow to be your truly independent, strong, valuable news service in the region.

Improving COVID-19 safety at regional workplaces

The NSW Government is helping businesses return to normal trade, through the launch of a new suite of resources to guide businesses as they manage the risk of COVID-19.

Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro and Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson launched the resources at a farm in Hoskinstown, and said the resources go a long way to supporting regional businesses in NSW.

“Now that the COVID restrictions are easing it’s time to get NSW’s regional economy back up and running,” Mr Barilaro said.

“I encourage every business to jump online and download these simple yet powerful tools to map out a safe way back to business that makes life easier for customers and workers as we make our way into recovery.”

Mr Anderson said these new materials have been specifically created for non-customer facing businesses, to ensure everyone across the state has access to industry specific, practical guidance to prevent the spread of the virus.

“76,957 businesses have already downloaded the NSW Government’s COVID Safety Plans, and we’ve now created additional resources for regional businesses such as farms and agricultural businesses, hotels, offices, construction sites, and warehouses,” Mr Anderson said.

“The materials available include practical, inexpensive guidance to keep your workers safe during this time.

“Common misconceptions for agricultural workers are that you can’t ride in a car with others or that you can’t hire seasonal workers anymore. That’s simply not true so long as you have the right measures in place.”

Some of the measures agricultural businesses and farms can take include:

  • avoiding close contact in vehicles and lowering windows for ventilation
  • checking that workers are not displaying COVID symptoms
  • ensuring drivers assisting with loading stock minimise contact with surfaces
  • communication over phone or radio rather than in person where possible
  • contactless delivery through electronic paperwork rather than signature on delivery.

The new campaign materials including social media tiles, downloadable posters and checklists for all NSW agricultural businesses are available at

Regional growth

The experience of dealing with of COVID-19 has removed one of the most significant barriers to a substantial population shift in this country, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

RAI CEO Liz Ritchie says the notion of how we work has been turned on its head and she hopes this change will see significant population growth in regions, following on from a trend that has already been set over a decade.

“From 2011 to 2016, our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne lost more residents to regions than they gained – and this was well before COVID-19. Over the last few months, we’ve all had to change how we work and this has allowed staff and employers to see that location is no longer a barrier for where we choose to work,” Ms Ritchie said.

Today’s official launch of the RAI’s latest report, The Big Movers, unpacks population trends around the country, and confirms that regional Australia attracted more people than it lost to capital cities during the last Census.

In the five years to 2016, Sydney saw a net loss of 64,756 people to regional Australia, Melbourne 21,609 and Adelaide recorded a small net loss of around 1,000 residents. Brisbane bucked the trend with a net gain of 15,597 people.

Between 2011 and 2016, more than 1.2 million people either moved to regional Australia or moved around regional Australia from one location to another.

While the latest Census figures showed that regional Australia attracted 65,204 more people than it lost to our capital cities, the trend is certainly not new. For the decade 2006-2016 more than 135,000 more people moved from capital cities to regions than the other way around.

Ms Ritchie says that the policy questions are more about how we can further understand and amplify the drivers of this movement toward regional Australia to extend the population settlement even further and supercharge the regions.

“Now is the time to work together with industry, government and regional communities to ensure regionalisation of the workforce,” Ms Ritchie said.

“As a country, we are an extremely mobile nation, and we have a propensity to change our address at twice the rate of people in most OECD countries. If location is no longer a barrier for employment, it’s possible that the trend line over the next decade could see an even greater swing to regions – and this is the RAI’s ambition,” Liz Ritchie said.

One of the key trends uncovered in the research was that most people who left a city for a move to the region, stayed in their respective state. Regional NSW drew the most people from capitals with a total of 159,328 moving between 2011 and 2016.

“Understanding the way the population moves around regional Australia is an important first step in identifying the reasons people are attracted to some places instead of others. This understanding can help to shape a population policy for regional communities,” Ms Ritchie said. 

The Big Movers also looks at the movement of millennials (20-35 year olds). It found that while 178,961 millennials moved to capital cities from regional Australia, more than 200,000 moved between regions.

“Sydney also saw a net outflow of millennials. Some 37,000 millennials moved from Sydney to regions, with 32,500 moving the other way,” Ms Ritchie said.

The top three regional destinations for millennials to move to during the last Census period were the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Sunshine Coast. Greater Geelong, Cairns, Toowoomba, Ballarat, Maitland, Greater Bendigo and Lake Macquarie were also popular.

As part of this report, the RAI included 4 case studies, which took a deep dive look at the characteristics of people who moved to and from four very different regional places:  Warrnambool, Kempsey, Gympie and Kalgoorlie.

“These case studies provide insight for regions into the kinds of people who are moving to regions. This is powerful market intelligence which helps regions decide what they need to do to prepare and to capitalise on a restless nation who is ready to make a move,” Ms Ritchie said.

Read the full report here.

Update on Council managed halls, centres and sporting grounds

Council managed Community Halls and centres are now available for hire and can occupy up to 20 people, or one person per 4 square metres for the entire building (not each room/area).

This includes the following:

•             Yass Memorial Hall (Main Hall & Kitchen annex only)

•             Murrumbateman Recreation Grounds Community Hall

•             Yass Community Centre

•             Sutton Hall

To hire any of the above halls or centres, a COVID-19 plan must be prepared and presented to Customer Service via email or in person at Council’s Administration Building, 209 Comur Street Yass, before booking.

A template for a COVID-19 Plan can be found here:    

The facilities will be operating under some restrictions in accordance with NSW Government guidelines. These include:

•             Capacity must not exceed one person per 4 square metres, including staff members.

•             Classes or organised events must not have more than 20 participants, not including the persons conducting or assisting in the conduct of the class or event, or parents, guardians and carers of participants.

Current training permitted at Yass Valley Council owned sporting facilities until 1 July 2020

As of this week, 20 people per field are now able to train across all Council owned sporting facilities.

This means at larger complexes like Walker Park, there can be four groups of 20 (total of 80 per site) at any one time, as long as they maintain social distancing and stay on different fields. The Netball Courts at O’Connor Park has two levels, which means 20 people can train per level (a total of 40 people at the facility at any time).

User groups are politely requested to collaborate with each other regarding training times to meet requirements. It is advised to stagger training times or days to meet the restrictions.

A template for a COVID-19 Safety Plan has also been developed by the NSW Government for community sport competition, training and contact activities, permitted to recommence from 1 July. Many sport and recreation organisations may have already developed their own plans and protocols for the resumption of activities. Organisations are still encouraged to check the NSW Government COVID-19 Safety Plan template, however, to ensure key considerations are addressed in the development of their plans and protocols. Find the template here:  

Organisations are reminded that until changes come into effect, they are required to comply with the current Public Health Order and follow the recommended physical distancing measures of 1.5 metres while training in groups of up to 20 people.

Weather outlook July-September

July to September is likely to be wetter than average for most of Australia, except western Tasmania and parts of the far north, which are likely to be drier than average. For northern Australia it is now the dry season, which means rainfall totals are typically very low.

The month of July is likely to be wetter than average across much of mainland southern Australia following a likely drier than average period through June. However, the July outlook does suggest that some parts of the southeast and southwest of the country have equal chances of a wetter or drier than average month.

July to September days are very likely to be warmer than average across most of Australia, except for SA, eastern WA, southwest NSW and northwestern Victoria, which have roughly equal chances of warmer or cooler winter days.

July to September nights are very likely to be warmer than average almost nationwide.

To Australia’s east, the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to cool over the winter months, establishing a La Niña-like pattern, while warmer than average waters are likely in the eastern Indian Ocean. In the shorter-term, higher pressure is likely to continue to dominate much of Australia during the second half of June.

Therapy for children with severe behavioural problems works online, trial shows

Families in regional and rural NSW have gained virtual parenting support through a live trial led by researchers at UNSW Sydney. The findings were recently published in the journal Behavior Therapy.

The trial was aimed at young children aged between 1.5 and 4 years old with ongoing behavioural problems, such as persistent tantrums, defiance, and aggressive behaviour. They had all been referred to the program by medical professionals or a community parenting service.
“This online intervention was powerful for improving child behaviour,” says Dr Georgette Fleming, postdoctoral research fellow at UNSW Science’s School of Psychology and lead author of the study. 
“Almost 90 per cent of children who completed treatment rated in the normal range of functioning by the end of the program.”
Parents also benefited greatly, with findings showing that online parent management training can lead to large and observable improvements in effective parenting skills.
The therapy took place over an average of 10 parent-child play sessions. The therapist – who was watching via a live video call – paid close attention to the child’s disruptive behaviours and the parent’s response. They then coached the parent in how to manage different negative behaviours as they occurred in real time via a wireless headset worn by the parent.
This is the first time online parent management training has been tested in a real-world setting – that is, delivered by community practitioners to families in regional and rural areas. The intervention was run in partnership with parenting service Karitane.
“It’s an exciting step in taking university-based research into the real world,” Dr Fleming says.
The findings couldn’t have come at a better time, with COVID-19 prompting many in-person psychological therapies to move online. 
“We hope this effectiveness study will be encouraging to practitioners and families at a time where anxieties and uncertainties are high,” says Dr Fleming.
The UNSW Parent-Child Research Clinic, which Dr Fleming works at, is currently transitioning its services online to comply with physical distancing measures.

Challenges in the Australian setting 

The trial gave the researchers an opportunity to assess future challenges Australians face in receiving mental health services. Access to funding is a key barrier.
“Medicare only offers 10 subsidised sessions per calendar year,” says Dr Fleming. “Many psychological interventions, including the intensive one we delivered, exceed this number.
“With limited subsidised funding, many people might stop intervention prematurely.”
The availability of online mental health services is another issue: subsidised Medicare funding for online psychological programs are usually only available to residents in certain areas of regional and rural NSW. Due to COVID-19, these guidelines have been expanded, with Medicare-subsidised services now available to those residing in metropolitan areas as well.
“While this is a promising step forward, it’s currently unclear whether the improvement to the accessibility of online mental health services will last beyond the pandemic. This is unfortunate, because treating problematic behaviours in the place where they actually happen – the home – is likely to be more powerful than treating them in artificial clinic settings,” says Dr Fleming.
The research team also had concerns about the whether the Australian internet could support the early-intervention program.
To curb any connectivity problems before they happened, study participants were given a wireless internet dongle where they didn’t have stable home internet. 
Fortunately, this approach meant that only one family needed to withdraw due to poor internet. However, Dr Fleming and her team have concerns for future programs – particularly with more Australians working from home than ever.
“The question of the Australian internet remains the black box of online psychological intervention for Australia,” she says. 

Scaffolding for future research

Dr Fleming notes that as a preliminary study, the research has its limitations – most importantly a small sample size (only 27 mothers and their children participated, 10 of which didn’t complete the study). She hopes to expand the study to build on the initial findings. 
“Next, we plan to expand the study to include a bigger sample size and compare the therapy to other interventions,” Dr Fleming says. 
“We also hope to follow-up with families involved in this trial to see whether the improvements they made were sustained over time.” 
Continued research and improved access to online services is particularly important in Australia, given the size of the country and its population spread.
“While families in metropolitan areas are currently facing barriers in accessing face-to-face mental health services, geographical barriers make this a constant challenge for those in regional and rural NSW,” says Dr Fleming. 
“We hope our research lays the groundwork for integrating online parent management training into community services-as-usual in the long term.”

NSW sport to resume

BREAKING: Community sports teams will be allowed to resume competition from July 1, as the NSW Government continues to ease coronavirus restrictions.

Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee thanked the community for their patience during the pause on local sports and welcomed its return on July 1.

“Sport is the lifeblood of our community and it gives me great pleasure to say adult sports can return to their competitions at the same time as 18 years and under,” Mr Lee said.

“We have reduced the spread of COVID-19 to the point where further restrictions can be lifted. It is only because communities have followed the strict social distancing guidelines that this announcement is possible.”

Food and beverage stalls at sports facilities will also be permitted to operate, as long as no more than 50 patrons are inside a single venue at any one time.

The State Government has previously announced that children’s sport competitions could return from July 1.