Gareth Morgan's crusade against cats is receiving little support from the public - until they are told just how many native birds are killed by cats every year.
Market research firm UMR asked New Zealanders as part of its monthly online survey what they thought of Dr Morgan's proposals to keep cat numbers down.
Two of the campaign's main recommendations - not to replace existing pets and to keep cats indoors at all times - were deeply unpopular, with only 12 per cent and 7 per cent of respondents agreeing with them.
Even the vast majority of those who do not own cats were against these policies - only 1 in 5 believed cats should not be replaced when they died, and just 1 in 8 supported enclosing pets.
But when told that cats kill an estimated 1 million native birds a year, the majority of respondents agreed with policies to curb their future numbers.
Two-thirds of non-cat owners agreed, as did 42 per cent of cat owners.
Dr Morgan said he found this result "pretty encouraging".
"This would correspond pretty well to the reaction I got myself. In the first instance it was pretty heated . . . but now I get an awful lot of people saying: 'I agree with you'."
He believed the survey, if run again now, would show even more support for such proposals, as people realised there was no easy answer to protecting native birds.
"People want the result - less wildlife being killed - but they just cannot bring themselves to prescribe the method."
Once presented with the facts, people often changed their viewpoints, he said.
The survey also found a majority supported neutering cats and banning them from areas near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks.
Forced microchipping and registration, or requiring cats to wear a bell, strongly divided cat owners from non-cat owners.
Among non-cat owners, 64 per cent backed microchipping and registration, but among cat owners support ran at only 43 per cent.
Fifty-six per cent of non-cat owners supported making cats wear bells, while only 27 per cent of cat owners backed the idea.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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