A Taranaki charity says it has both the problem and the solution when it comes to the number of stray cats in need of homes.
Daveena Taylor of the Taranaki Animal Protection Trust (TAPT) says the trust deals with hundreds of dumped cats and kittens, some of which live in colonies around the region. Daveena and the other volunteers feed, catch, neuter, foster and rehome as many of the cats and kittens as they can.
"Some of the cats we get in, however, we can't rehome because they have been feral for too long, or they are simply too scared and won't settle in a home with people around them all the time."
Unwilling to give up on these cats, but also unable to keep them permanently with the volunteer foster families as more kittens and cats come in almost daily, the trust is hoping to rehome some of them as "barn cats".
Daveena says the concept has been successful with other animal rescue charities in New Zealand and overseas, and she is hopeful it will work in Taranaki too.
"Cats are excellent pest controllers. They happily catch mice and rats and rodents are an issue for many farmers, as well as in stables and barns where people store grain, for example."
She says a charity in the South Island suggested the scheme to the team at TAPT, and she is hopeful they can replicate its success here.
"They have massive success rates down there, especially in the equine industry."
In return for the pest control provided by the cats, Daveena says farmers or other landowners interested in taking part in the scheme need to provide water as well as keeping a food station topped up with cat biscuits three times a week. As the cats come mainly from colonies where they have been living with other cats, the trust wants to rehome them on farms in pairs at the very least.
"We want them to go in pairs, but people can have more of course. They need to be in pairs at least so they have company."
All cats rehomed will have been neutered, breaking the cycle of unwanted kittens.
Once settled in their new home, Daveena says, the cats just need to be monitored from a distance.
"If anything seems wrong or out of place, just contact us."
Two cats the trust currently has ready to be rehomed through the barn cat programme are Milo and Otis. The two cats were trapped locally and were too feral for rehoming in a family home. Daveena says they were caught along with two kittens at the same site.
"The kittens we can rehabilitate, so they will hopefully go to family homes through our normal adoption programme."
Milo, Otis and their peers will be low-maintenance but efficient tools in pest control she says.
"They just need water, a bit of food, and they will catch their own dessert."
Anyone who wants to find out more, support the trust in any way or to apply for two or more barn / stable cats, can contact the trust on Facebook - Taranaki Animal Protection Trust or call Daveena on 021 143 5861.