Cats: pets or pests?

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS/OPINION - with Dr Ian Schraa

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.

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