For a brief moment this week the Prime Minister's young cat was among the most famous animals in the world. Paddles, a ginger and white female, had more than 10,000 Twitter followers, an additional toe on each front paw but, as cat owners understand, no extra lives.

Jacinda Ardern's cat was struck by a vehicle near the Point Chevalier home that she shares with Clarke Gayford. The cat's death caused a global internet flurry as the news flashed that the short life of the "First cat" of New Zealand had ended.

Ardern, who got the animal from the SPCA, posted on Twitter "please be kind to the SPCA. They found her before we did, and we will always be grateful for that."
Sure enough, donations rolled into the SPCA, which will help the agency's work with neglected animals.

The one sour note in this episode was struck by Gareth Morgan, the Opportunities Party leader known for his unsparing views of domestic cats and the toll they exact on New Zealand's bird life. Forest and Bird calculates domestic cats destroy 1.12m native birds a year and millions of other animals such as geckos and skinks. Morgan charged in to say the Prime Minister could have saved her cat, and neighbourhood birds, by investing in a $200 cat fence.

Advertisement

Perhaps. But his catty rebuke, a day after Paddles' death, was ill-timed and tone deaf. Morgan is on the money about wandering cats and the price of their predation. But he ought to accept that cats bring immense pleasure to their owners and often are treasured companions. Paddles belonged to that category.