The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) has added its voice to the concerns already expressed by the Central Otago community and Predator Free NZ about feral cats being released onto rural properties in an attempt to manage rabbit and rodent populations.
"We acknowledge that the intention of the programme comes from a good place. However, we share concerns about the impacts these cats will have on the native wildlife population," Dr Helen Beattie, the association's chief veterinary officer said.
There was no guarantee the cats would only hunt rabbits and rodents, Beattie said.
"Native species will also be hunted, as we know that cats are not specific in their hunting behaviour."
The association was also concerned that the welfare of both the "working cat" and other local cat populations could be impacted when they were moved to their target property.
If other feral, stray or domestic cats were already on the property, introduction of these "working cats" could cause fights which could result in injuries or transmission of serious infectious diseases.
Effective management of New Zealand's cat population was complex, Beattie said.
"This is a further example of where national level legislation for cat management would assist local government authorities to appropriately manage cats.
"Aotearoa/New Zealand needs a cohesive, comprehensive approach to ensure the best possible outcomes for our native wildlife and our cats."
The New Zealand Veterinary Association was a member of the National Cat Management Strategy Group.
This group drafted comprehensive recommendations for addressing all of New Zealand's cats - feral, stray and owned - in order to protect the welfare of both the cats and native species.
The recommendations also aimed to reduce the spread of diseases, such as toxoplasmosis, which had been linked to the deaths of endangered Maui dolphins.
National level legislation was critical in achieving a united, and all-encompassing approach, Beattie said.
"New Zealanders want to and are required to look after our cats and protect their needs and their welfare.
"That can be best achieved by keeping owned cats happy and safe at home, and using the recommendations of the National Cat Management Strategy Group to manage and look after the wider cat populations in Aotearoa/New Zealand."