Stray cat carer defends her actions

19:43, Feb 27 2013

The stray cat colony in Paihia is being targeted unfairly, the woman credited with looking after it says.

The cats have drawn attention from Bay Bush Action, a conservation group, that says supporting a cat colony in Paihia - one of the most biodiverse residential areas in New Zealand - threatens one of the best selling features of the town.

Betty Chapman says the work done by Bay Bush Action in neighbouring Opua State Forest is laudable but ought to end in urban settings - that birdlife in New Zealand has been under threat since the arrival of humans, and cats are a part of people's lives.

There are threats in the area aside from the cats in the colony, the size of which she says has been overstated.

"If they're so intent on increasing the birdlife, do like they did in Wellington and fence it off and make it predator-free."

She says the islands are a good place to focus conservation efforts but that since humans have arrived in New Zealand the birdlife has been compromised.


"How can they say which cats did what? There are houses all around," she says.

Ms Chapman says she lives closer to the forest - with her cats - than the cats in the reserve in the town centre do.

"I would hate to see people laying traps and trying to catch my cats.

"Where do you stop? We are coping

with a situation of homeless cats.

"They've got nothing to do with us, they've just come about.

"You've got to strike a compromise and basically, I hope we're doing a public good and something sensible and in time, hopefully, everyone else will learn how to be sensible and how to behave if they get a pet cat."

Ms Chapman says that trapping cats and returning them to the Far North District Council recreation reserve adjacent to the central business district in Paihia was not something she entered into lightly - and she says it's a matter of making the best of an otherwise bad situation.

Since 2004 Ms Chapman has had 37 cats desexed, she says, but the size of the colony has never risen above 12 and typically consists of nine or 10 stray cats. Some have been homed, some have been euthanased and three have been run over.

Originally there were others leaving food so Ms Chapman found out the names of two of the people who were feeding the cats and the three made a feeding roster so they weren't doubling their efforts.

Then Ms Chapman asked the Bay of Islands SPCA for help and advice.

"Because the cats were not diseased or injured they didn't want to do anything," she says.

"But it was suggested to me, a solution was to catch them, have them desexed and then return them to where they were picked up."

She says that the idea didn't appeal to her but it was seen as a last resort.

She started with eight cats in the area, she says, and had four desexed.

The SPCA paid for the first three cats to be desexed but Ms Chapman and others, now the Cat Coalition in Paihia, have paid for the rest.

The original feeding site at the fire station was deemed unworkable for the fire brigade, she recalls, and so the site on the council reserve became the new feeding station.

Ms Chapman says that the idea was to keep the area low profile because they "don't want the general public using it as a dumping ground" for unwanted cats.