New Zealand Economist Wants To Eradicate Island Of Domestic Cats
January 22, 2013

New Zealand Economist Wants To Eradicate Island Of Domestic Cats

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

It´s a common fact that the worldwide domestic cat population has exploded in recent history. And in many countries around the world programs have been launched to try and halt and perhaps reverse the population explosion. These include extensive spay and neuter campaigns, those which have been supported by ex-'The Price Is Right' host Bob Barker, who used the familiar tagline “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered” at the end of every episode of the popular daytime game show.

But now, one conservationist is going a step further in the quest to not only reduce the burgeoning cat population, but also to protect and preserve the natural environment from these feline “predators.”

Philanthropic economist Gareth Morgan, who runs a campaign entitled CatsToGo, claims that New Zealand´s native birds are being decimated because of domestic cats, referring to the frisky felines as “natural born killers.” His campaign encourages cat owners to not replace their furry little friends when they die in order to protect native bird species.

While he is not recommending owners to euthanize their loved-ones, he does admit that it is an option. He said owners should at least spay and neuter their pets and not replace ones that go by the wayside.

The news has not been taken lightly by some.

New Zealand´s SPCA chief executive Bob Kerridge said the scheme was offensive, and although he understood Morgan´s call to action, he said the conservationist is attempting to “take away the civil liberties we all have to choose who we want in our home."

And Morgan´s campaign is not likely to take on to highly in a nation that boasts one of the highest cat-ownership rates in the world.

"I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives," Kerridge said on the television show Campbell Live. "Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family."

Morgan´s campaign has not gained much acceptance from the general public either. As many as 70 percent of visitors who have taken a poll on the CatsToGo webpage voted that they would not consider “NOT” replacing their pets when they die.

But Morgan maintains that eradicating cats from NZ is necessary to protect the natural wildlife. His website states that a New Zealand without cats is “a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife".

Morgan´s site claims that the average household cat will bring home 13 pieces of prey each year. A video on the site also makes other claims, such as: "Some cats will kill over a thousand birds each year," "Every year, hundreds of millions of birds are murdered by cats," "Cats are the only true sadists of the animal world," "Cats torture their victims slowly and without mercy," "Cats are serial killers, cold and without compassion," and "Cats are undeterred by cries of pain."

New Zealand´s birds flourished with no natural predators for thousands of years. One species, the kiwi, evolved to become flightless because of this. But with the introduction of the domestic cat, the now apex predator of the country, birds are being exterminated at an unprecedented rate. Some native bird species have already been wiped out and many others are endangered.

Morgan has also suggested other ways to reduce the impact cats have on native bird populations in New Zealand.

"I am advocating responsible pet ownership, not for people to bop their pets on the head. To me a responsible pet owner has their cat neutered, keeps it well fed and indoors as much as possible, and puts a bell on them.”

Councils need to step up their efforts and manage cats like they already do with dogs. Live capture traps should be placed on properties to catch feral and lost cats, which can be turned over to local authorities. And owners should have their cats registered and chipped, Morgan maintained.

Scientific evidence remains unclear on the impact cats are having on bird populations. Some studies suggest cats are keeping the rodent population, which feed on bird eggs, down to a minimum.

But Morgan disagrees that cats are making any positive impact. And has previously labeled cats “as much a predator as stoats, rats and mice. It has to go."

He said native fauna will not flourish until all predators are removed from the island nation.

Kerridge said Morgan´s logic was “a bit radical, over the top and completely wrong.”

He also questioned the validity of Morgan´s research.

In the video, research shows that “if you put a small animal next to an eating cat, it will pause, kill it, then return to its meal.” But the 1975 study quoted, as referenced on the website, shows that of 44 subjects, 26 did not attack the prey (more than 50 per cent), and many who did kill presented defensive postures.

Kerridge said that SPCA surveys have shown that fewer than half of NZ´s domestic cats killed other animals, and those that did, caught far more rodents than birds.

"Gareth Morgan is way out of line because very few native birds fall at the hand of cats, domestic cats," Kerridge told the NZ Herald.