All house cats of Walldorf—a small German town in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg—are being locked up until the end of August 2022.
In the past couple of years, we have all become used to lockdowns and quarantine measures. But while we were all forced to stay home, house cats were free to merrily scamper around the city. This time, the unlucky ones are kitties. Local authorities in the city of Walldorf decided to ban all cats from going outdoors in an effort to protect some local bird species that are in risk of extinction, including the crested lark—one of the most critically endangered bird species in Germany.
Crested larks are vulnerable birds because they nest on the ground, meaning that their eggs can easily be reached by predators like cats. Last year, Walldorf authorities recorded only six of the birds in the city. In 2016, the crested lark Galerida cristata was included in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species due to its declining population.
The decision to implement a lockdown for cats is part of a broader conservation strategy which includes other measures such as pausing construction work and laying traps for magpies and foxes.
But house cats in Walldorf won’t be kept indoors just for this year. Authorities are planning to implement other cats’ lockdowns from April to August for the next three years. All cat owners who do not comply with the new law will face a €500 fine. The fine could increase up to €50,000 if the cat kills a crested lark.
According to authorities in Waldorf, the survival of the threatened species depends on each chick. Cat owners, on the other side, are not enthusiastic about this new rule that they call a disproportionate measure.
Among other things, the survival of the species depends on every single chick.Walldorf authorities
Also animal welfare organizations spoke out against the outdoor cat ban. In a statement to the Regional daily Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, Deutscher Tierschutzbund, Germany’s largest animal welfare organisation, said that preventing cats from going outdoors can cause an immense stress to the animals. The animal welfare organization is in favor of measures to protect the endangered crested lark, but also believes that all animals must be treated equally.
The negative influence of cats on the population of songbirds is in any case controversial and, to our knowledge, has not yet been proven for the crested lark in Walldorf.Deutscher Tierschutzbund
The law has, however, some exceptions. Harmless cats can be exempted from the lockdown if the owner can prove they aren’t dangerous for the birds. Additionally, residents will still be allowed to take their cats out on a leash no longer than two meters. Finally, the new law only applies to a specific area in the south of the town, where the crested larks commonly nest.