Cats a small part of the environmental equation

23:17, Feb 02 2013

You can bet your bristling whiskers Betty Slocombe would have had something to say about celebrity economist turned celebrity cat-exterminator Gareth Morgan.

The Grace Brothers department store character in the widely loved comedy series Are You being Served? was always gossiping at work about her pussycat back in the 1970s when double entendre on our TV screens was seen as daring.

The late Mollie Sugden played Mrs Slocombe in the British TV series that spanned a couple of decades and made household names of actors like John Inman (the camp Mr Humphries).

Whether or not the series tickled Mr Morgan's sense of humour is not known - but cats definitely do not appeal to the philanthropist and conservationist's kinder side.

His Morgan Foundation's new website, Cats to Go, makes it clear that all cats, as "serial killers", should be phased out by neutering or eradicating them.

While acknowledging many people have an "emotional connection" with their cats, he believes the greater good, preserving our birdlife and other vulnerable species, is for cats to go the way of stoats and the like.


Cat lovers, rising to the challenge, have accused him of using his name and status as a commentator on all and sundry, a go-to for a controversial quote, to sour the cream. However, even a cat-lover like the writer of this editorial agrees he makes some good points.

Feral cats should indeed be eradicated. People who "dump" or maltreat their cats should have the lawbook thrown at them. There should be a limit on the number of cats per household, even for a registered breeder.

All cats should be microchipped to ensure their owners can be traced - and, as per our accompanying story, desexed.

Kittens simply would not be dumped, thus endangering birdlife further, if their mothers were desexed in the first place.

It is worth remembering that cats like company. A well-fed cat in a loving home where someone is always around is less likely to stray, if my mother's late monster-sized Dodo - who had no interest in chasing birds - and our neighbour's cats are anything to judge by.

Some cats do not fit the stereotype. Remember Midweek and South Taranaki Star articles on Charlie, the famous cat from Warea who stood guard over his "chicks"?

But he had it in for intruding sparrows wanting the chicks' food - until he met his demise on the road.

By coincidence, on the same day Mr Morgan made his cat-cull call, broadcaster and fellow conservationist Sir David Attenborough was reported as saying mankind is a "plague on the Earth" and faces a stark choice between limiting population growth or letting famine cut numbers.

"It's not just climate change; it's sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now."

He said he had never seen a problem that wouldn't be solved with fewer people and which was made harder to solve with more.

It's a dire warning - whether or not one believes changes in weather patterns are primarily cyclical over millennia, or accelerated by the impact of mankind's industrialisation and laying waste to the environment. In the bigger picture, therefore, cats are a small part of the environmental equation. What pet hate will we be asked to exterminate next?

We should not victimise our furry felines.

In the memorable words of Mrs Slocombe: "They're not having my pussy! And I am unanimous in that!"