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”….
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.