Cats are natural born killers

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 07:55 23/01/2013
Lexie and family
Joseph Johnson

PART OF THE FAMILY: Lexie is cuddled by Georgia Davis, 11, with mum Lisa Davis.

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When your beloved moggy uses up its nine lives, should it be replaced?

The cat is the comforting weight at the end of the bed in more than a million Kiwi households, but the future of the furry feline has been put in jeopardy.

A website called Cats to Go has been established by economist and businessman Gareth Morgan, who has branded the cat a "friendly neighbourhood serial killer".

"That little ball of fluff you own is a natural-born killer," his website says.

Morgan wants owners to make their current cat their last to protect New Zealand's native birds and environment.

His controversial stance has outraged some Canterbury cat owners, but Morgan is not alone in his belief.

Major conservation organisations have lambasted the cat for its predatory instincts.

Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell agrees Kiwis need to "seriously consider whether you are going to replace your old cat".

Hackwell is a cat owner and admitted felines were "wonderful companions", but said when his moggy's time was up, there would be no more meows in his house.

"I would rather have fantails and tuis," he said.

Morgan's contentious website had helped "raise some important issues" about what responsible cat ownership really meant, Hackwell said.

Herb Christophers, of the Department of Conservation, said feral cats were a "threat to wildlife" and considered a pest on conservation land. The cat was in the same category as stoats, rats, possums and ferrets.

"When you're a native bird fighting a battle on many fronts, the last thing you need is another predator, and cats are one of those."

However, Christophers was "not talking about the urban situation or an average domestic moggy".

Despite the support for Morgan's campaign, Annie Potts, co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal studies at the University of Canterbury, said it would never work.

"Cats are part of New Zealand now as much as native birds are; Kiwis love cats - we only have to see how people responded to missing cats post-earthquake to see how much these animals are a part of our families, our culture and our heritage."

Canterbury Cats Protection League president Robin Thomson acknowledged "cats are killers" but said they also offered companionship, love and comfort to their owners.

"Cats are very therapeutic and good for mental health," she said.

The issue Morgan highlighted involved feral and unwanted cats - not domestic cats, she said.

SPCA Canterbury chief executive Barry Helem said Morgan's views were "a bit extreme".

He advised pet owners to desex their cats to limit overpopulation but said some people believed felines were "more of a benefit than a threat" to native birdlife as they were an effective population-control measure for rodents.

Morgan said his website was designed to deal with "some of the myths and white lies we tell ourselves" to justify owning a cat.

LEXIE IS PART OF THE FAMILY

A cat-loving Christchurch family is horrified at a call for all felines in New Zealand to be eradicated.

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Rangiora woman Lisa Davis, 41, said she loved her cat and thought Morgan's idea was "crazy".

"Anyone asking for cats to be eradicated from New Zealand needs to take a step back and realise the joy they bring to families," she said.

"There are far worse things in this country that should be removed."

The Davis family adopted their cat, Lexie, from the Cats Protection League three years ago.

"She's very much a part of the family. We couldn't imagine not having her."

She said Lexie "very rarely" brought in a sparrow to the house and most could be safely rescued and returned to the garden.

"The small animals they [cats] do catch are usually classed as vermin and have diseases."

 

- The Press

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