Rehoming stray cats must be done according to established protocols, New Zealand Companion Animal Register manager Nygllhuw Morris says.

The register is based in Whanganui and operates a nationwide animal microchipping database with over 275,000 cats registered.

Mr Morris was responding to amateur cat rescuer Robyn Dandy who earlier claimed some stray cats in the city were being left to starve due to the SPCA's practice of fitting paper collars for seven days first. The collars include a message to a cat's owner and helps prevent pets being mistaken for strays.

"Many reported stray cats are not strays. The worst thing that can happen is when people remove these cats without doing proper checks," Mr Morris said. "We then have families trying to find their pets."


Mr Morris said cats often roamed, sometimes "many kilometres each day" and mother cats were known to move kittens to a safer place after earthquakes.

"This is why amateur cat rescuers can cause more problems. It is imperative that any cat rescue follow proper processes when looking to take an animal in."

The best first step when a cat was hanging around was to attach a paper collar with a name and phone number and explaining that the cat appears lost, he said. "In the vast majority of cases the owner will respond."

A second step was to have the cat checked for a microchip. "In Whanganui all vets, the SPCA and three cat rescues have chip scanners available." The register had donated over 600 scanners nationwide in the past year to make scanning more accessible, Mr Morris said.

The final step was to advertise and search for proper owners. "Very few cats are truly independent."

"The NZCAR strongly recommends anyone who is concerned about a cat hanging around to try the paper collar message first, and then contact the SPCA or a properly administered rescue if further help is needed," Mr Morris said.