Claws out for killer cats

By Hannah Norton

Cats: pets or pests? Pets, says the Whangarei branch of the SPCA.

The Whangarei SPCA follows the Royal New Zealand SPCA's stance against a suggestion by economist Gareth Morgan that domestic cats should be phased out of existence due to their destruction of native birds.

Mr Morgan launched a Cats to Go website this week that claims New Zealand's native birdlife is being destroyed by domesticated cats, and it encourages cat owners not to replace their cats when they die.

Whangarei SPCA branch manager and chief inspector Francine Shields said the problem stemmed from people ignoring the age-old message from the SPCA - desex your pet. "Rather than phasing out cats, it would be best to minimise damage by ensuring the community is proactive in desexing, particularly the strays," she said.

"The problem lies with the irresponsible people who don't desex," she said. "Cats breed and then become feral. We desexed 1500 animals last year, predominantly cats."

Ms Shields has a cat called Otto Blotto - "because he's so lazy".

"He's an indoor cat and I'd like to encourage that, as well."

Conservation organisation Forest & Bird has issued a nationwide information sheet promoting responsible cat ownership, such as "sterilising your cat; keeping the cat inside as much as possible; attaching a bell to its collar and seriously considering whether to replace your cat before it dies".

Chairman of the Far North branch of Forest and Bird Dean Baigent-Mercer said a lot of what Mr Morgan had pointed out was true.

"Last winter I would hear kiwi at night and then at the same time the next night I would just hear cats. There are wild cats all over Northland ... killing native birds, native lizards, native bats and native insects," he said. "And these are domestic and wild cats doing the killing."

Mr Baigent-Mercer pointed out that Mr Morgan said some species had been made extinct.

"Well, in Northland we've lost our native thrush, the piopio and native quails. They went early on when cats were first introduced."

- Northern Advocate

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