Is it time to keep our cats at home?

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Cats, both feral and domestic, are killing our native fauna. We need to keep them confined, writes Anna Yeoman on the The Spinoff.

A couple of weeks ago, on the outskirts of the Central Otago town of Alexandra, a pile of 28 dead native lizards was found. They’d been regurgitated by a cat, which had caught and eaten all 28 in just several hours, writes Yeoman, a science communicator.

Yeoman highlighted that New Zealand is unusual among cat loving nations in allowing cats to roam.

She found wide evidence of the damage cats do, and widespread support for their containment both from scientists and animal welfare groups.

Cats are killing our native fauna

“It can certainly seem strange to consider the enormous amount of work and expense going into the Predator Free 2050 campaign when we have cats roaming freely in towns, cities and countryside,” Yeoman wrote.

“Many people think their pet cats aren’t a problem. They think feral cats do that damage, and their pet cats don’t. But they do. They’ve got the same instincts, they’re hunters,” said Dr Grant Norbury, an ecologist with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, who has spent 38 years researching predator-prey dynamics.

Professor Yolanda van Heezik, an urban ecologist from the University of Otago, has found from her cat tracking studies that cats can roam up to 28 hectares, much to the surprise of their owners.

Dr James Reardon, a herpetologist and science advisor at the Department of Conservation said New Zealand is unusual in that we let our cats roam.” He explained that in Australia, and in large parts of America, it’s much more the norm to keep cats indoors, rather than have them out hunting.

“It’s like we’re a decade or two behind those other parts of the world in terms of our cat regulations. So we need to move in that direction,” said van Heezik.

The major animal welfare groups are also calling for cat registration and containment.

Read more: Is it time to keep our cats at home?

NB: Under the Waikato District Council Keeping of Animals By-law all animals, including cats, are required to be confined to the owner’s property.

The by-law states that “any person keeping an animal shall ensure the animal is confined to the boundaries of the premises where the animal is kept.”

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