Rotorua SPCA says the cat colony in White St is only the tip of the iceberg, with stray cats in the region estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

The Rotorua Daily Post reported yesterday how up to 40 cats had been congregating at night in the industrial area, concerning a nearby business owner. She said she had approached the regional council and SPCA but she felt "no one will take responsibility for them".

SPCA centre manager Eve Johnson said it was restricted financially and legally with regard to what it could do with stray cats.

Ms Johnson said the number of cats at White St was small compared to other areas in Rotorua, including near Whakarewarewa Village, Koutu Rd and in Mamaku. She said there was also a small colony identified near Eat St. In the wider region there were an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 stray cats, she said.

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"Our concern at the SPCA is prevention of cruelty to animals. We are like police officers of the animal world. If a police officer sees children out walking the street, he can't just pick them up and keep them, and it's the same for us when a cat is owned, we have no jurisdiction under the Animal Welfare Act."

Ms Johnson said people thought it was up to the SPCA to deal with strays but the cats were actually pests.

"We are aware of this [White St] colony but really it's only the tip of iceberg. We're the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. We are engaging with the [Bay of Plenty] Regional Council to come up with the solution to manage the colony.

"Instead of people bagging the SPCA they need to lobby to the regional council. Animal control do not have jurisdiction, they're a pest, pest control falls under the regional council.

"We're fully funded by the public. If we had the money, we would work on colonies one by one, where it's located and, if need be, humanely euthanise, and trap, neuter and return them back to control the numbers."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer Dale Williams has said it had received a proposal from the SPCA for financial support to help resolve the issue which was being considered as part of the Long Term Plan. But he said while the council offered advice about managing feral cats, it didn't have a mandate to spend ratepayers' money on stray cats in urban or industrial areas.

Ms Johnson said strays were also caused by tenants moving out of rented properties and leaving cats behind. She urged landlords to check if cats were registered and microchipped before letting properties be rented by cat owners.