Three cat cap purrfectly fine - but breeders disagree

A proposal to rein in Rangitikei's feline population has rubbed the cat community the wrong way and has councillors concerned it could make the district the "laughing stock" of New Zealand.

Rangitikei District Council is reconsidering its animal control bylaw, including a three-cat cap on the number of felines that can be kept in an urban household.

The suggestion was met with concern in council chambers yesterday.

Councillor Ed Cherry said people around New Zealand might view such a restriction as ridiculous.

"We're going to be the laughing stock of the country in my opinion. Nobody's told the cats, they can't read."

Cr Lynne Sheridan said it could cause undue stress to feline fans. "I'm just mindful there are a lot of people out there who do take a lot of comfort from their pets."

Cr Andy Watson said it could fuel neighbour disputes. Chief executive Ross McNeil said the intention would be to ensure the prevalence of cats in the district did not create a nuisance or endanger health. Animal officers would use their discretion when enforcing the rules.

But Palmerston North Cat Club president Denise Grace said the bylaw would punish good pet owners for the actions of bad ones.

She questioned how the bylaw would be policed without asking people to dob in their neighbours and said it would make it even more difficult for breeders by landing them with paperwork to apply for an exemption.

"Councils can make it very difficult for hobby breeders by making it too difficult for them to comply, but everybody would be affected.

"What the council, the SPCA and everybody should be doing is educating people about looking after animals, caring for them and keeping them under control.

"It's the people that take good care of their cats that are going to be penalised here."

Manawatu SPCA manager Danny Auger said the bylaw's purpose wasn't to punish pet owners but to help combat New Zealand's over-crowded cat population.

"It gives the council some teeth and allows us to help them more on the problem of cats.

"It's a small minority that the bylaw is being brought in for, but that small minority can cause a lot of problems for the people around them."

Auger said there was no limit on how many cats a person could own, but putting a cap on it made it easier for owners to ensure their pets' physical health and behaviour was managed properly.

Massey University veterinary ethologist professor Kevin Stafford, an expert in animal behaviour, said the more cats there were in a household the more problems, like spraying, owners would have.

"From a cat behaviour perspective, three cats is maybe too many."

Palmerston North City Council already has a three-cat rule.

The Manawatu District Council's animal control bylaw says that council officers may impose conditions or take actions if cats are causing a nuisance, hazard, or injury to health, property or safety.

Rangitikei's bylaw would allow exemptions to be made for vets, the SPCA and accredited breeders or catteries.

The draft bylaw will go out for public consultation next week, with oral submissions to be heard in September.

Manawatu Standard