Too Many Cats in New Zealand

About a year ago Dr Gareth Morgan an economist more or less advocated the mass eradication of stray and feral cats in New Zealand on the basis that they were attacking wildlife and the usual other reasons which people who don’t like cats disseminate. There is a sizeable percentage of New Zealanders who want to eradicate feral and stray cats and it appears to be legal judging by the pictures posted by a pest control company called “Coastal Pest Solutions”….

Killing feral cats in NZ (pest control)
Killing feral cats in NZ (pest control)
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Dr Morgan is now saying that the New Zealand Veterinary Association as led by Dr Steve Merchant, agree with him. He says that the vets of New Zealand have woken up to the “cat problem” in New Zealand. He also says that the SPCA have not woken up to the cat problem and criticises them. The truth is that the SPCA are very sensible and knowledgeable. They also focus on a humane relationship with the cat and recognise that any problem that exists is of our making.

Since Dr Morgan advocated the eradication of a large number of cats he has been vilified and criticised by many people and quite rightly. He says that, “it has been a lonely couple of years and it is nice to finally have some mates again!”

I think Dr Morgan is holding on to what the veterinarians of New Zealand are saying for some sort of comfort. He is seeking a comfort zone and some reassurances from other people but the truth of the matter is the veterinarians recommend very well thought out, humane, sensible and scientifically backed methods and procedures to reduce the population of unwanted stray and feral cat in New Zealand. This is in stark contrast to what Dr Morgan was advocating about a year ago.

In addition, any numbers bandied around about the extent of the predation of stray cats upon native wildlife must be taken with a pinch of salt and referred to with extreme caution because the truth of the matter is that no matter how good the scientist, they don’t know how many birds and mammals are killed by stray cats in New Zealand. So when there are arguments about eradicating stray cats because they prey on native wildlife sensible people should query this.

Regrettably, Dr Gareth Morgan refers once again to estimated figures with respect to New Zealand’s pet cat populations preying upon wildlife. He quotes the veterinarians’ figures of 19 to 44 million animals per year with respect to pet cats and 15 to 33 million animals with respect to stray cat populations. I don’t like seeing these figures because they’re very easy to reproduce in an article but very much harder to prove that they are accurate. They are almost certainly very misleading.

In essence, the vets recommend focusing on responsible cat ownership. That must be the starting point because it is preventative action. Prevention is better than a cure as the saying goes.

Another recommendation that the veterinarians make is that there should be a strategy on the management of stray and feral cats which should be conducted at a national level. There should be coordination between local and national government and all relevant organisations including the SPCA.

It would appear that the vets do not believe that the conventional method of trap-neuter-return is viable on its own as a way of managing stray and feral cats in the long term. I would disagree with that because provided it is conducted extensively and to a reasonable level of intensity, it becomes effective in my opinion.

The big question is how to make irresponsible cat owners more responsible. This is a debate which incidentally is being conducted in America quite extensively. In Australia steps are being taken to force owners to be more responsible. There may also be an argument about keeping the domestic cat inside the home at night or for example at dawn and dusk which are the two moments when the domestic and is most active in respect of predation.

Compulsory micro-chipping and compulsory registration are also suggested and I suppose on these topics both Dr Morgan and the veterinarians would agree.

Personally, as the veterinarians would like any proposed cat management to be based upon hard and solid science, I would initially conduct a proper study into the effects that the domestic, stray and feral cat has upon native wildlife and this should not include any small-scale studies which are then extrapolated to represent the entire country. That method of working as been found to produce highly inaccurate figures. A proper study on domestic cat predation is, I believe, long overdue because it is one of the central arguments upon which scientists suggest cat eradication programs as solutions.

Personally, I would also recommend that any program to manage strength feral cats should be considered over a long period of time. This is a very long term project. It has to be that way because the problem has been a long time in the making. If the solution is considered to be a long-term project then that would encourage more humane techniques and discourage euthanasia of healthy cats which is in fact the killing of healthy cats. We need to minimise mass killings as solutions because they’re not solutions.

The conclusion of this discussion is that there is probably a cat problem of sort, as as described, in New Zealand but the cat management methods proposed by New Zealand’s veterinarians are far more sensible and acceptable than the suggestions of Dr Morgan.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

20 thoughts on “Too Many Cats in New Zealand”

  1. Its hard for me to read as being someone from New Zealand. I hate this man so much. I Don’t know where they get there data from. Its just like there is a rat Problem over here. So they use 1080 Poison. I hope they are sensible about it all. I do agree they need to do something like mandatory Spray/Neuter. Too many unwanted cats and Kittens end up as strays/ferels. Also with people breeding Cats all the time is not an ideal situition.

    1. Kylee, is it you who thinks that there is a rat problem in New Zealand or is it a general point of view? I think more work needs to be done on how feral cats and wondering domestic cats may be able to keep down the rat population. More work needs to be done on the benefits of what I call community cats (feral, straight and wondering domestic cats).

      1. There is in some of the national Park areas thats why they are spraying 1080. Well its been well advertised on tv over here. Yes I agree with what you say. Its very unsettling I guess for those who have feral and community Cats. Also for those cats that wander. I agree alot more needs to be done.

    1. This wild Black Beauty-I have received as many wound marks on her body as no other cat has received. She was the unwanted 10 years ago but now, she does not wander along the streets. She does not have to. She knows me and I know her. This is the way to deal feral cats. ๐Ÿ™

      1. Ahsan, she is beautiful and a shining example of how love and kindness can transform their lives for the better. Thank you for sharing those photos.

        I really hate the mentality some people have in thinking ferals/strays are vermin and somehow a different species than our pet cats. They are not. They are just unfortunate not to have the luxury of a home, and that’s not a justifiable reason to subject them to mass destruction and cruelty in the guise of “pest” control.

        Dr Morgan clearly doesn’t like cats, otherwise he would be in favour of more humane methods (TNR)to reduce feral/stray cat numbers. Awful to think that some vets allegedly support his “solution” to the problem. Then again we know from those American vets who declaw, that animal welfare isn’t always top of every vet’s priorities.

        Michael you hit the nail on the head when you said a problem which was a long time in the making, does not have an overnight solution. I totally agree with you that feral/stray cat management is a long term project. They need to tackle the problem at its source by getting everyone to neuter and spay. Until we stop producing more kittens than there are homes, the problem will never go away. There should be stricter controls on pet ownership too. I’m in favour of microchipping and registering pets. That way abandoned pets could easily be traced back to the culprit who can then be prosecuted.

      1. I enjoyed watching the video. Your wild black beauty is totally relaxed and confident with you. It is nice to see that. It is an image of tranquillity amongst what must be quite a harsh life for a true feral cat in Islamabad, Pakistan.

    2. There are basically two camps, meaning that there are two attitudes towards feral cats. There are those who want to look after them and neuter them so that they gradually decline in population numbers and there are those who simply want to kill them and the division is almost split 50% to 50% and that attitude and division is fairly prevalent throughout the world. In Australia I sense that there are more people who want to simply eradicate the feral cat than those who want to deal with the cat humanely.

      1. Michael you are right but you know what? EUTHANIZING (in decent words) and KILLING (in a cruel language). The aim is same. I hate such protective measures adopted by people/ shelters / concerns etc.

        I often think about the inner motives of such people from any race of life, what they are up to????

        I do not agree with any person who is in any aspect of logic in favor of such words. No…. Its as I am doing some act behind the curtains of legal law.

        Waoooo!!! how can we human being think like that????

        Michael! I am not sentimental person but sensitive towards these hot issues regarding any species of this planet. I mean any species, yes!

        I am really fed-up by the responses of the authorities and their neglected behaviors towards the wild life and the welfare ๐Ÿ™

        1. I agree with you. I know it will be harsh for me to say it but you have to come to the conclusion that in America, looking at it from one aspect, there is a complete failure in the relationship between people and the domestic cat because over 2 million and perhaps as large a number as 4 million unwanted cats in shelters are killed annually. That simple. stark fact undermines everything that people do with respect to the relationship with the domestic cat. It has to stop before people can say they love cats.

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