Cats: pets or pests?
Managing our feline friends has become a complex issue. Do we try herding cats? The ongoing furore initiated by Gareth Morgan’s Cats to Go campaign has raised a few interesting questions.
Are cats actually as big a threat to native birds as suggested? If they are, what could or should be done about it? Would micro-chipping all owned cats help? Should the SPCA and others continue ‘‘trap, neuter and release’’ programmes?
Firstly, depending on what you read and who is proffering it, there still seems to be some uncertainty about how many native birds are actually being killed by owned domestic cats in urban areas.
There is no doubt a reasonable proportion of our lovely feline pets do kill a variety of wildlife, but this includes competitors and other killers of native birds. The bigger problem seems to be the un-owned stray and feral populations of cats. If they are a significant part of the problem, what solutions are there?
The SPCA suggests a TNR – trap, neuter and release – policy helps maintain a status quo in certain areas. This may be so for the cat population, but what about the bird populations?
Should we just treat these cats as noxious pests, like we do for rats, rabbits – of which there are domesticated cousins as pets, possums, stoats, ferrets and weasels, and exterminate all stray and feral cats? I think a major question we need to ask ourselves is do we treat all animals equally, or decide if we are happy to classify some as pests?
How do we decide which is which? Simply get all catowning people to microchip their cat, as they are required to in many places in Australia. Who pays for this? The cat owners. If they want and love their cats the one-off cost of $30 to $50 is a smallish price to pay. But wait, I hear you say, who manages all this?
In Mr Morgan’s Karori it may be the council. Other areas, as with possums, it may be DOC. It may be the regional council as part of their pest management.
Will this stop the unwanted cat problem? I don’t think so but it may reduce the total numbers being dealt with.. So what is stopping any of this happening? Getting politicians to be brave enough to progress it.
That is where the real herding-of-cats challenge occurs. Dr Morgan for mayor, anyone?
Dr Ian Schraa is a veterinarian and the owner of Rappaw Veterinary Care.