I support the proposals put forward by animal welfare and conservation groups to try to combat the impact pets are having on native wildlife.

It's likely many pet owners will react strongly against the plan and any restriction on their rights as pet owners.

Many will view their pet as part of the family, placid and adorable.They may be all those things but they are also natural predators, with an instinct to hunt.

This instinct is useful when it comes to keeping mice and rat populations under control, but cats, especially feral ones, also have a devastating impact on our natural fauna.


While cat owners have been strong in their opposition to suggested restrictions in pet ownership - especially when outspoken economist Gareth Morgan described cats as friendly neighbourhood serial killers - it appears pressure is building to bring our cat population under control.

This week the National Cat Management Strategy Group (NCMSG), made up of eight national organisations including the SPCA, the Department of Conservation and the Morgan Foundation, called for nationwide mandatory microchipping and de-sexing of domestic cats when ownership is transferred as part of an increased focus on responsible pet ownership.

It also raises the possibility of cat curfews in ecologically sensitive areas and proposed ways to manage strays. The strategy will be presented to government by the end of the year.

The plan has already been criticised for not going far enough when dealing with stray cats. According to a Radio New Zealand report there are close to 200,000 stray cats in New Zealand.

The strategy pushes for non-lethal ways to deal with strays, such as rehoming them, or trapping then neutering and returning them to where they were found, provided it's not in a sensitive wildlife area.

The co-director of wildlife hospital Wildbase at Massey University, Brett Gartrell, told National Radio even in urban areas that was not good enough.

"This document is actually setting it up to say that these are OK strategies in the New Zealand context, and if we want to have urban wildlife, with say grey warblers, kereru, lizards in your backyard, we can't do that with stray cats running around."

I agree. In my view this is about priorities. Either we allow cats to continue to devastate our native fauna or we take action. We either value our native species or we do not.

The fact is much of our native wildlife now only survives on off-shore islands that are free of introduced pests.

Cats are not entirely to blame. Introduced pests such as stoats and rats also feast on our birdlife but the threat they pose to wildlife is recognised through pest control programmes.

Wouldn't it be great to see these wonderful species, found nowhere else in the world, flourish again?