Rock Cats


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Margaret Bonnar spends every evening with a group of wild cats, but insists she's no moggie maniac.

"It's just magical," she says. "I come earlier and I just walk down and I sit in front of the fence, and they just come to me, and there's all the head-butting and nuzzling and nibbling, and all the things that your own cat does."

Charles Sturt Mayor Harold Anderson is definitely no a cat fanatic either.

"It becomes an imposed nuisance value and destruction problem to the people that live on the foreshore. And I've got every sympathy for them. Cats are known to be clawing and to create danger to people, particularly young people."

For up to 40 years, depending on who you talk to, a large mass of moggies has been multiplying and marauding along the shores of West Beach.

And that's prompted nearby residents get their claws out and demand action.

"No, it's not been a storm in a teacup at all," says the Mayor. "The rate-payers, and the local rate-payers had had enough of 50 or 60 cats involving their properties, getting on their cars, damaging cars and fences and whatever else. If you lived in the homes straight opposite where those cats are, and those cats (we counted 52 one night) went into your backyard then you wouldn't accept it."

Late last year the Charles Sturt Council received a raft of complaints from nearby locals who could no longer tolerate the spraying, wailing and general caterwauling from the colony, all through the night.

Far from being a blight on the foreshore, cat supporters believe the colony has actually become an attraction for tourists.

"People will come (particularly in peak tourist season) and stop and have a chat to us. And they'll say: 'this is like being in Rome'," says Margaret.

But unlike Rome's ancient decree protecting feline residents from harm, the Council issued its own to eradicate the colony, and used RSPCA policy to settle on a shoot-to-kill approach.

That landed RSPCA right in the middle of the cat controversy.

"As part of that process, the RSPCA's name was being used a lot and we still got drawn into the whole process, so it was important that um, I think we took a stand," says Ben Johns, from the RSPCA. He's been working for months to help bring the cat-fight to an end.

"This is a bit of a special case, and a unique situation," he says.

One of the contentious kitties who's been on death row is called Miss Pretty, and wild, she might be. Just don't use the "f" word to Margaret.

"They're not feral," laughs Margaret. "They're fed well; they're fed diligently; that maintains a healthy cat with a very, very glossy coat; just nothing like the traditional image of the feral cat. No danger, no spiky claws, no nothing."

The RSPCA's Ben Johns agrees they're more un-tamed than feral, and most of the rocks' renegade residents have actually been dumped there. Indeed, many of this lot are also neutered and micro-chipped.

"They're definitely not what would constitute a true feral cat," he says. "The RSPCA would like to see every animal given a chance at life. We don't want to see animals put down."

So a "cat-strophe" was averted when the Council gave the cats a reprieve, and chose banishment over the death sentence.

But the colony's days are numbered.

"I'm absolutely devastated," says Margaret. "Absolutely devastated. If the numbers are up to the 50 or over 50, that's not good. 12-15, which is what we were fighting for all along, is a manageable, sustainable colony which will prevent the ecological void which would bring the rats back."

Council staff have built a cage on the foreshore, in the hopes supporters would eventually trap the rock cats.

"When we thought we were walking them to their death, it was very, very hard," says Margaret. "Knowing we were walking them to a new life definitely makes that easier to contemplate."

The felines will then be transported to the RSPCA's Lonsdale pound, and the hunt for new homes for them will begin.

After all, Margaret says, it was humans who dumped the cats there in the first place, so humans should intervene again.

Anyone interested in adopting one of these cats should call Margaret on 0433 301 623 or email at