COMMENT ON THE NEWS: Taranaki is a region in the west of New Zealand’s North Island. I’ve never visited but it looks beautiful and it is named after Mount Taranaki, an extinct volcano. The Taranaki Regional Council have a management plan to conserve native wild species. They want to manage the pests and vermin which attack native species.
Amelia Geary, a regional conservation manager of Forest and Bird Taranaki, wants the Taranaki Regional Council’s pest management plan to be adjusted to include unowned cats. They want unowned cats to be labelled as pests to be killed to protect wildlife.
Amelia Geary, based on my reading of the situation, is misguided because she is fudging the difference between feral and domestic cats. My understanding is that this conservation group wants to group together feral and domestic cats. They appear not to be distinguishing between one and the other.
Domestic cats are being abandoned in the area. They’ve not been micro-chipped or registered. They consider these animals to be a bigger threat to native birds than ferrets and stoats which are identified in the plan to be a threat to conservation.
Amelia Geary has said that since 2003 up to 170 cats per year have been trapped by volunteers. I presume that they were killed. Kiwi need to be protected under a conservation programme at South Taranaki. It’s a place where people dump unwanted cats apparently. But Geary goes on to say that one feral cat was trapped there weighing 10 kg.
Accordingly, on the one hand she is saying that people dump domestic cat at the place and then on the other hand she is saying that feral cats are being trapped. What is it? Domestic cats or feral cats? They don’t know how many feral cats there are there because they aren’t monitored.
The problem is that you can’t proceed with the idea of trapping and killing all cats roaming around the countryside in an area if you don’t know whether they are domestic or feral. If the cat is a domestic animal it should be rehomed. This must be the first step in dealing with the problem. To willy-nilly trap and kill without distinguishing one type of cat from the other is inhumane. Someone’s pet might be in there. If that happens you’ve got a criminal and civil matter on your hands.
This is the overriding problem with dealing with feral cats. You have to distinguish them from domestic cats which is far from easy at a distance. Indeed there is a wide spectrum of types of cat between those which are fully domesticated and those that are truly feral. Within this spectrum there are semi-domesticated cats, community cats and feral cats that could be domesticated.
To simply go around killing cats that appear not to have an owner or appear to have been dumped is far too blunt a method of dealing with the so-called problem. No doubt feral cats kill native species and this is a genuine problem but they need to be tackled in a much more refined way.
It may be illegal under local bylaws or state laws to abandon domestic cats. If that is the case controls should be in place to prevent this form of irresponsible cat ownership. Proactive steps tackling people rather than reactive steps killing cats is the better method. Why not monitor known sites where cats are dumped with CCTV cameras? Impractical? Please comment. Drive forward better standards in cat ownership through enforceable standards.
The SPCA quite clearly advocate humane and effective management of feral cats. This does not include imprecise and inhumane killing. It does include de-sexing, micro-chipping and proactive steps.