Cat capping, cat chipping and cat curfews proposed for Wellington

Wellington is keen to get tougher on cats that are killing the city's native wildlife.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington is keen to get tougher on cats that are killing the city's native wildlife.

Cats owners beware – Wellington City Council is getting ready to pounce.

The council is pondering new laws to stop felines from killing the city's native wildlife.

It has proposed limiting the number of cats per household to three or less, public education to keep cats inside from 7pm to 7am, and tagging cats with microchips.

Wellington's existing Animals Bylaw does not place any restrictions on cat ownership. But the council is aware of reports of domestic and feral cats killing native birds and other native animals across the city.

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Cats are this country's most popular companion animal, with almost half of all households owning an average of two, leading to a total cat population of 1.4 million.

Dr Gareth Morgan, who has been a staunch campaigner for tougher controls on cats, applauded the council's move, saying it was "sheer madness" to have regulations for most other domestic animals, but not cats.

Research from his 'Cats to Go' campaign suggested most properties were visited by trespassing cats twice per day. In Wellington there were 42 million "cat invasions" per year.

"They're not just heading out for a Sunday stroll for the hell of it. They're born to kill, these animals. They're mini-tigers, really."

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It was no coincidence that Wellington's wildlife sanctuary Zealandia had been reporting slow growth rates of Saddleback and Stitchbird, Morgan said.

"They're dead meat when they fly out of there … they fly out and then fly back in - in a body bag."

Wellington SPCA chief executive Steve Glassey said there was some sense in limiting the number of cats per household, given owners of multiple animals were less likely to evacuate during emergencies because of their pets.

But any new rules needed to be weighed up against the rights of people to own cats, he said.

"We know a lot of cat owners view their pet as a member of the family, and it's important the council comes up with a policy that respects that."

Iona Pannett, chairwoman of the council's Environment Committee, said the city was not "out to get" cats or their owners, but did want to figure out the best way to curb their "adverse impact".

The council also planned to review its dog policy, with the main issues being the adequacy of dog exercise areas, registration fees, dog faeces, and access to public places.

Pannett was also keen to see the feeding of pigeons banned in certain areas, or possibly city-wide.

The Animal Bylaw and Dog Policy review will involve a four-week public consultation in May. Any new rules are expected to be in force by September.

TRAINING MR PUSS

Cat behaviour specialist Lynne O'Malley said the majority of cats can be trained to spend the night indoors within a few weeks as long as you are firm. Adjusting them during cold winter nights might prove easier than warm summers eves, but she recommends the following steps:

  • Make it worth their while. Offer them a tasty treat at a set time in the evening, to entice them inside. Make sure you are fairly regular, as cats prefer routine.
  • Tire them out. To get rid of any pent up energy, offer them favourite toys or play games with them after they come inside. A laser pointer is a good option.
  • Offer them a safe sleeping space. A nice, comfortable pet bed or igloo in a set spot should do the trick.

 - Stuff

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