Cats missing, injured, hung in owners’ yards
BLUE Mountains pet lovers are terrified a cat-hating lynch mob is roaming the area, executing their animals to "protect" native wildlife.
At least 65 cats have been killed, while countless others have gone missing, been maimed or, even worse, been discovered hanging in their owners' front yards.
"Put it this way, I would never own a cat and live around here ... because they always disappear," one resident said.
The Blue Mountains is the only Australian city completely surrounded by a national park.
More than 50 per cent of domestic cats hunt live prey, according to Sydney University ecologist Professor Christopher Dickman, with possums, birds and lizards the most common victims.
Feral cats kill as many as 30 animals per day, have wiped out at least 20 native mammal species and are identified as a factor in the decline of at least 80 other threatened species.
Unlike dogs, it is not illegal for cats to roam free. It is legal to seize a cat that is threatening wildlife or in a wildlife protection area - hence how many cats in the Blue Mountains are trapped.
Cats that are caught must be taken to an impound facility or back to the owner, according to the RSPCA. However, many owners believe environmental vigilantes and "bird avengers" are simply killing the cats.
The Sunday Telegraph has spoken to five cat owners who are still searching for their missing pets.
Former vet nurse Tara Honeyman said she can never forget the day when a North Katoomba resident walked in to her animal shelter and said his "friendly and approachable" cat was missing.
"Two days later came back in to say he found his cat dead, hanging by a noose in his back yard," Ms Honeyman, 44, said.
"He was distraught. He could not understand why anybody would do that. It was such a friendly cat. That is pretty hideous and sadistic animal cruelty. I feel like someone was trying to send a message."
The Cat Protection Society member said Blue Mountains residents either love or loathe cats.
"A lot of cats go missing and a lot of cats go missing in North Katoomba," Ms Honeyman, a former City of Sydney companion animals officer and mother of two, said.
"There are definitely cat-haters here. There is a view out there that cats are responsible for every bit of environmental degradation."
Ms Honeyman keeps her cats in an enclosure and recommends all her cat-owning clients do something similar.
One of her clients, Faulconbridge woman Annie Souter, returned home one day in 2002 to find her cat Ned strung up to a tree by one leg.
The incident followed accusations that her 17-year-old feline had attacked a parrot.
Ms Souter, 60, said Ned still walks with a limp to this day.
Springwood police are still investigating a 67-year-old Blaxland resident after he posted comments on social media suggesting he had knowledge about the missing cats.
Police encourage the public to come forward if they have any knowledge about any acts of animal cruelty.
When The Sunday Telegraph spoke to the Blaxland man, he denied he was responsible for any missing cats.
"I simply wanted to let folks know that if they let their cats roam the neighbourhood there could be dangers out there," he said.
"No one I know has ever killed a cat.
"I really just said it to give people pause for thought before they let their pets roam wild."
All this has left many cat owners living in fear.
Rosalee Murray, 21, is still looking for four-year-old feline Charlie after he went missing October last year.
"A lot of cats around Faulconbridge have gone missing during the same weekend," she said.
"Maybe there is personal hatred that the cats are out and about.
"I pray that it is not the case that someone has taken him and killed him."
Ms Murray said she is fearful for her other cat Archie.
"You can't keep cats caged in when they are used to being outdoors all the time," she said.
"At the end of the day we would want some closure. We obviously prefer that it is a positive result."
A Blue Mountains Council spokeswoman said the council have not received any inquiries or reports of missing cats.
In September the council joined a University of South Australia study that will put a GPS tracker on 40 cats.
It is hoped the study will "better inform companion animal management and urban wildlife protection".
The state government is undertaking a statutory review of the rules around cat ownership, with the laws set to come in before June next year.
One of the areas of discussion is whether councils have sufficient powers to deal with nuisance cats.
RSPCA executive manager of animal care services Brendon Neilly said he is unaware of "heightened numbers of animals being brought in our care through inappropriate means" in the Blue Mountains.