Cats are part of life, cul­ture of NZ

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By NICK BAR­NETT

Acat-free New Zealand? I hope I never see it. Cats are our most pop­u­lar pets. We who like cats think they’re de­light­ful, amus­ing, in­trigu­ing, smart and beau­ti­ful. They’ve been with us for thou­sands of years, and we’ve bred them to have those ex­act char­ac­ter­is­tics. They bring im­mea­sur­able ben­e­fits to peo­ple through af­fec­tion and com­pan­ion­ship.

All of this counts. It has weight when we try to mea­sure our right to own cats against other pos­si­ble goods, in­clud­ing mak­ing our na­tive species safer.

When­ever I’ve blogged about this sub­ject, I’ve stressed how im­por­tant it is to steer away from ab­so­lutism – to be real­is­tic, balanced, and pro­gram­matic. I’m against talk of erad­i­ca­tion and pro­hi­bi­tion. (This piece sums up my thoughts.) Per­mit me to quote my­self:

‘‘Hav­ing pets has deep roots in the way we live. It’s a big part of our cul­ture. At a per­sonal level, ban­ning cats or dogs would have an im­pact on a par with al­co­hol pro­hi­bi­tion or end­ing the use of pri­vate cars: all would have good ef­fects, all would make the var­i­ous cause-ab­so­lutists walk a lit­tle taller, and all would be hideously de­struc­tive of free­doms while in­tro­duc­ing mas­sive costs and prob­lems in en­force­ment. Pro­hi­bi­tions of this kind don’t work.’’

So I’m not much of a fan of Cats To Go, the web­site and move­ment backed by Gareth Mor­gan. The web­site tells us that cats ‘‘do a mas­sive amount of dam­age to our wildlife’’, say­ing that ‘‘Your domestic cat is not in­no­cent’’. There’s a pe­ti­tion try­ing to get coun­cils to re­quire reg­is­tra­tion and mi­crochip­ping of cats ‘‘and to fa­cil­i­tate the erad­i­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties for un­reg­is­tered cats’’.

Let’s do all th­ese things, it says, and ig­nore the value and cul­tural place of cats, be­cause ‘‘get­ting one step closer to be­ing a pest-free New Zealand would most cer­tainly be a step in the right di­rec­tion’’.

If the cat-de­mon­is­ing mes­sage is still not clear, there’s a photo of a kit­ten with horns and sa­tanic eyes to en­sure that your in­tel­li­gence is fully in­sulted.

Still, a poll on the site that asks if you’d ‘‘con­sider not re­plac­ing your cat with a new one when it dies’’ is run­ning more than 7-to-3 for the pro-cat ‘‘no’’ side of the ar­gu­ment. (Yes, I voted.)

I’m all in favour of what Mor­gan him­self says are stan­dards of re­spon­si­ble cat own­er­ship – such as mak­ing sure your cat is de­sexed and keep­ing it in­doors as much as pos­si­ble and putting a bell col­lar on it. But I’m not in­ter­ested in talk of erad­i­ca­tion, or pro­hi­bi­tion. I’m not im­pressed by this drive – far from the first in his­tory – to de­monise cats, turn peo­ple against them, while leav­ing aside the re­al­ity that the species that most threat­ens our na­tive species is the two-legged one.

And un­der­stated in all this is the No 1 is­sue: de­sex­ing. We have an over­pop­u­la­tion of cats in New Zealand, and the best, first way of tack­ling it is through the de­sex­ing of as many cats as pos­si­ble – feral and domestic. When this hap­pens, the num­bers will fall, shel­ters will be able to fo­cus on other prob­lems, and a glut of kit­tens need­ing homes will be less and less likely.

Wel­fare groups and lo­cal ini­tia­tives around the coun­try are work­ing hard on this, rais­ing money to sub­sidise de­sex­ing op­er­a­tions, form­ing al­liances with vets and char­i­ties, and striv­ing to shift the em­bed­ded be­lief that de­sex­ing is some­how un­fair on the an­i­mal. I very much hope that Mr Mor­gan, who seems gen­er­ous and imag­i­na­tive in us­ing his wealth, will find ways of sup­port­ing the de­sex­ing move­ment.

I don’t want a cat-free New Zealand. Cats are part of life. I want to be able to own a cat, and for oth­ers to be able to do so too. Let’s pur­sue so­lu­tions that will pre­serve that right while help­ing keep na­tive species safe.

ISO­LA­TION: When be­ing treated by vet­eri­nar­i­ans ca­nine’s suf­fer­ing from the of­ten lethal disease par­vovirus will be kept in iso­la­tion.

CATS TO GO?: No

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