A pussy could be on the loose in a Northland nature sanctuary.

The cat vanished from a yacht moored at Moturua Island's Otupoho Bay (also known as Homestead Bay) last week. It was thought to have jumped or fallen overboard overnight.

When the boaties awoke to find their cat missing they alerted the Department of Conservation (DOC), which immediately sent Paihia man Brad Windust to the island with his trained cat-sniffing dog.

DoC Bay of Islands manager Rolien Elliot said no scent was detected and rangers could not find any cat scat or paw prints. Nearby Motukiekie Island was also searched.

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"We've put in quite a bit of effort trying to find it,'' she said.

The cat's owners said it was not a good swimmer. Given the tide at the time it was possible it had been carried to the mainland.

Ms Elliot said DOC's advice was to leave pets at home when boating to avoid the risk of losing them overboard or introducing them to pest-free islands.

Moturua and neighbouring islands are home to endangered species such as the tieke (saddleback) and have an ongoing detection and trapping programme to keep them predator-free.

In 2015 a cat named Missy fell off a yacht moored at nearby Urupukapuka Island and swam to shore. Its owner did not tell DOC and the cat was found four months later, thin and with a paw stuck through its collar, when it wandered in to the cafe grounds at Otehei Bay.

The fact a cat had avoided detection for so long sparked a review of biosecurity measures on the islands.

Moturua is part of the Ipipiri islands where an intensive, community-driven restoration programme called Project Island Song is under way. Pests such as rats and mice were eradicated in 2009. Since then endangered or locally extinct birds such as the toutouwai (North Island robin), popokotea (whitehead) and tieke have been reintroduced.

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) if you see a cat or other predator on the islands.