Cat meeting goes feral

By Kate Shuttleworth

A sometimes heated public meeting has heard Gareth Morgan's ideas on how to clamp down on cats that kill birds.

The economist and environmentalist spoke to an audience of about 200 people at the Karori community hall tonight.

Dr Morgan said global data showed cats ate birds, and he disagreed with people who told him their cats didn't eat birds. "Let's do an autopsy and see.''

He said New Zealand had one of the highest rates of cat ownership - around 46 per cent of households own one or more cats.

The finger should be pointed at councils over wandering cats, Dr Morgan said. "We manage dogs, but not cats.''

He pleaded with cat owners to confine their cats or microchip them. "I don't want you to lose your cat, so chip it''.

If stray cats were found with chips they should be kept, if not they should be euthanised, he added. "I've had cats, when we had kids. We don't have one now.''

He encouraged people who did not own cats to trap and cage strays.

Dr Morgan said he would like to share his views with any area of New Zealand that uses a trap-neuter-release system, promoted by the SPCA, to control stray cats.

SPCA Wellington board member Emanuel Kalafatelis said after the meeting that the trap-neuter-release policy was used in small pockets in towns and cities throughout the country to control wild, stray cats.

Dr Morgan said there is no evidence that the policy had stopped wandering cats, and he suggested that - like dogs - stray cats should be euthanised.

Gareth Morgan opened his "cats to go'' meeting by saying Karori was the best place for the meeting for the obvious reason it has a bird sanctuary - Zealandia.

He hoped it could become the country's first cat-free suburb.

"I didn't just wake up one morning thinking we've got to get rid of cats.

"I opened the meeting in Karori for the very obvious reason that it's home to Zealandia, who are trying to reconstitute native New Zealand birds.''

Dr Morgan said ratepayers had put a lot of money into the sanctuary and deserved a cat-free suburb. "The Council should take action, and in my view are being negligent.''

He said the SPCA had found themselves with the role of cat control. "It's not their core business - their core business is to prevent cruelty.

"Council should control cat numbers.''

He said at present Zealandia was New Zealand's biggest cat-food factory.

Dr Morgan showed footage of children in the Karori area who thought birds were more important than cats, and he said making Karori a cat-free zone would be like being in the right school zone and would increase property values in the area.

The audience heard him play bird sounds, including the sound of the bellbird and the North Island robin.

He said the birds sounds were slightly more attractive than the sound of "meow''.

Dr Morgan said he was prepared to fund a not-for-profit organisation that would rent cages and cat traps to people, with the profits going to Zealandia.

Dr Morgan then opened up the floor for questions.

Dr Wayne Linklater, a restoration and ecology expert from Victoria University and a resident of Karori, said cats were the biggest problem because they were a social problem, whereas rats were not hard to control "because we're all disgusted by rats.''

Dr Morgan put up a wanted list of SPCA board members, and criticised their trap-neuter-release policy.

He included their contact details. "I am pleading with you not to give them another cent,'' he said.

Mr Kalafatelis stood up to object. "This has gotten personal.''

One woman left the meeting calling it a "bloody joke - get a life, mate''.

Cat-lover Heidy Kikillis and her indoor five-month-old cat Pancho Villa waited outside the Karori community hall before the meeting.

Ms Kikillis, who described herself as an ecologist, believed there was room for compromise. She said Pancho Villa is strictly an indoor cat and this could be a way to stop cats killing birds.

Dr Morgan called on people at the meeting to vote on three resolutions.

1. The SPCA stops its support for wandering cats.

2. The Wellington City Council reinstitutes pounds as the authorised agency to control wandering cats and dispose of strays.

3. Karori should strive to become Wellington's first cat-free suburb by requiring neutering, and prohibiting the introduction of new cats to the area.

The results of the votes, not scientific:

1. 61 for, 16 against
2, 63 for, 4 against
3. 46 for, 18 against.

Not everyone at the meeting voted.

- APNZ

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