Local vets and cat rescuers see Whanganui District Council's proposal of limiting households to three cats maximum as a good call, but say it doesn't solve the greater issue.
Lou Nation, of Precious Paws Paradise cat rescue, said it's a good idea but it's not necessarily the number of cats that is the problem.
Stray cats have been an issue for a number of years, with Nation saying she and Joy Clark, of Little Critter Rescue, have found five kittens and cats dumped in the last three days.
"I thought it was getting better, but it's getting worse," Nation said.
"They are just in shocking condition."
Many of the cats found are starving and have various infections like ringworm.
The council proposed to introduce a limit on cats per household as part of a review of its Keeping of Animals, Poultry and Bees Bylaw earlier this year.
Clark said the council needs to be clear with its proposal so people don't panic.
Exemptions would be made for people who breed cats or rehome them and the limit still needs to get past a full council meeting.
The council's compliance operations manager Warrick Zander said responsible owners with more than three cats could apply for an exemption.
"We expect reductions in cat numbers would happen gradually over time and we'd use a graduated response to enforcement – starting with education," Zander said.
"Most cat owners typically have three or fewer cats and, while anecdotal, we're not expecting high levels of non-compliance.
"Where a responsible owner has more than three existing cats and they aren't causing a nuisance they'd have the ability to apply for an exemption from the council."
There is currently no cap and a four-cat limit was proposed in the draft bylaw.
Neighbouring regions have varying rules on the number of cats per household.
Forest and Bird said the Carterton, Masterton, Palmerston North, Rangitikei, South Wairarapa and Tararua councils limit cats to three per household.
Ruapehu, Hastings and Manawatu have a four cat limit, while the Far North, New Plymouth and South Waikato councils have a limit of five.
Clark said if desexing of cats was cheaper or even free, that would solve a lot of issues.
"It would be marvellous, absolutely marvellous. It would pay off instantly.
"I really think that would solve all the cat issues in Whanganui. It would be a matter of diverting funds in a different direction.
"There are people who are hoarding cats because they are not desexing and that's a completely different issue. If you have lots of cats, as long as they are desexed, receiving vet care and microchipped, there shouldn't be an issue."
Vets on Carlton manager Peter Scott said his personal opinion as a cat lover and owner was "three is a great number, I have three".
"If we really turn the conversation into what it's really all about, it's about trying to restrict the harm a lot of uncontrolled cats are doing to our native fauna and neighbourhood nuisance," Scott said.
Cats aren't necessarily the easiest animals to contain, he said.
"No one really owns cats, cats own us. They will choose whether they go to the neighbour's to poop in their garden and it's very hard for us to do something about it.
"It's advisable that all owners get their pets contained at night time as that's the time they are more likely to catch the lizards and birds and become injured on the road too - that's another thing from a veterinary perspective."
Nation said she supported a lower fee for desexing.
"I don't think it should be free for people to desex because if you want a kitten and you can't afford to desex it, how are you going to take it to the vets if it's sick? How are you going to worm and flea treat it through its life?"
Scott said initiatives like the SPCA's snip and chip can aid pet owners.
"There are some great initiatives run by the SPCA and financial help available to aid Whanganui people to get their pets desexed at a huge discount and that's great because Whanganui needs that.
"But one should never overlook the owners of pets have a real responsibility to take care of them properly and if the cost of getting them desexed is part of that responsibility it really should be theirs."