With kitten season under way a group of two Whanganui women have set up a group to help stray and dumped cats.
But what is the most effective way to deal with the problem? Laurel Stowell reports.
Two Whanganui women want to mobilise volunteers to trap, treat and rehome unwanted cats and kittens dumped at North Mole.
They say people can bring unwanted cats to them and should never dump them.
The dumping of unwanted cats is illegal under the Animal Welfare Act, according to Horizons Regional Council environmental manager Rod Smillie.
"It's also irresponsible, and can have catastrophic impacts on indigenous species," he said.
Lou Nation (Precious Paws Paradise) and Joy Clark (Little Critters Rescue) add that it's also cruel.
They have a Facebook page called Trapping the Poor Dumped Cats at North Mole and want volunteers to guard traps, and others to provide food and drink.
They also want donations, to desex and vaccinate the cats before they go to "forever homes".
Nation said there were about 10 cats and kittens in the North Mole/Morgan St area - and people are reporting cats dumped elsewhere too.
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Nation and Clark fear the North Mole cats will become feral. Then the kittens will be too wild to be rehomed, and cats will prey on dune birds and lizards.
Nation loves animals but admits there are too many cats in New Zealand. She has about 20 at her house, waiting for new homes.
She's been trapping, desexing and rehoming unwanted cats for about five years, taking 20 to 48 kittens a fortnight to Wellington for rehoming.
She comes close to tears at the thought of killing them. "I just can't do it," she said.
The women are good hearted and taking action for the right reasons, New Zealand Veterinary Association chief veterinary officer Dr Helen Beattie said.
But New Zealand faces a huge problem with an unknown number of stray and feral cats and Beattie said trapping and rehoming a stray cat was not the best option.
Her best advice to people is to trap them, neuter them and return them - unless they are in a place where ecology needs to be protected.
"All the science tells us that's the right thing to do. Return them to a colony and have people look after them, monitoring from a distance, until they reach a natural death."
That way the cats will have a better life and there will be no more kittens.
Vets, the SPCA and others have a 200-plus page national cat Management strategy they would like Government to adopt. They want a law saying all cats must be registered and microchipped.
People say cats are different from dogs, but they're actually not, Beattie said.
Money from cat registrations would provide a fund to enforce the law.
Every cat would be loved and cared for - "Every Cat on a Lap" is the slogan. Cats would be valued as much as dogs and would have better lives.
Trapping and rehoming a stray cat with wild behaviour is difficult and time consuming - and when they lash out it can be dangerous.
It doesn't meet animal welfare standards either.
"The cat will be completely stressed out for six months in a cage, and then have six months of stress after that."
Sometimes it will be better to destroy the cat, for health reasons or for its psychological welfare.
"Vets don't enjoy that process either."
Conversations about New Zealand's cat problem can be emotive, Beattie said, especially talk about the "cat-shaped hole" in the Predator Free 2050 project.
Some councils have "cat caps" - limits to the number of cats a property can have. For Rangitīkei it's three, for Ruapehu four - and in Wellington all cats have to be registered and microchipped.
In Whanganui there has never been a cat limit, Whanganui District Council compliance operations manager Warrick Zander said. But council gets complaints about stray and unwanted cats, and is reviewing its bylaw about keeping animals.
People who were asked what number of cats per household is appropriate came up with a wide range of views. Public submissions and hearings are to come.
In Whanganui people who complain about a nuisance cat are advised to trap it, alive, and check whether it's a pet. If not they are advised to take it to a vet to be euthanised, or get it desexed and microchipped and release it.
The council can give advice, and lends out a small number of live catch traps.
When Horizons was developing and adopting its regional pest Management plan the public did not want it to get involved with cats, environmental officer Rod Smillie said.
If Horizons gets complaints about unwanted cats it offers advice and support to trap and remove them.