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Conservationists back anti-cat campaign

Published: 8:06AM Tuesday January 22, 2013 Source: ONE News

Some conservationists are showing support for a campaign that calls for the numbers of domestic cats to be drastically reduced.

Economist Gareth Morgan claims New Zealand's native birdlife is being decimated by domesticated cats, which he refers to as "natural born killers".

His Cats to Go campaign encourages cat owners not to replace their cats when they die in order to protect native bird species.

The website says a New Zealand without cats would be "a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife".

Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says owners should take more responsibility as research shows well over a million native birds are killed a year including Robins, Saddlebacks and even the endangered Weka.

"Do you need to have three or four cats? And if your cat goes and dies, do you need to replace that?" he asks.

Almost half of New Zealand families own a cat.

Gareth Morgan's site claims on average cats bring home 13 pieces of prey each year and although killing cats is not necessary it is a valid option. But cats have some high profile defenders.

But SPCA Chief Executive Bob Kerridge said that many people consider their cats to be members of their families.

"Is Gareth Morgan going to tell us who is going to be in our family? I don't think so," he said.

Kerridge also questioned the validity of Morgan's research as the SPCA's surveys show fewer than half of New Zealand's domestic cats kill other animals.

"Bad cattitude"

Cat lovers have taken to social media to express their anger at the campaign.

The majority of commenters on the ONE News Facebook page were not keen on the idea, with many suggesting rats and possums are a much bigger threat to native birds than their cats.

Beth Martinovich posted: "Gareth concentrate on being an economist, not a cat eradicator, would be far better to eradicate rats and possums wouldn't it?"

"Mess with my cat and I will mess with you," said Brooke Gardner.

Rosie Matthew said her cats were her children: "I'll never get rid of them!!"

Amanda Easterbrook responded to the comments a little less seriously, saying that Morgan has a "bad cattitude".

But not everyone is against Morgan's campaign.

"I'd be all for that. Makes a lot of sense," said Adam Taylor on the ONE News Facebook page.

Regan Gibbons tweeted: "Despite going about it completely the wrong way, Gareth Morgan is highlighting a massive issue that Kiwis prefer to ignore #catstogo"

"Serial killers"

Morgan's campaign cites research which claims the average cat brings home 13 pieces of prey each year.

Cats to Go adds that this prey represents only a fifth of all the animals it kills.

It also offers evidence against claims that cats only kill rodents or do not hunt if they are well fed.

"In one study, six cats were presented with a live small rat while eating their preferred food. All six cats stopped eating the food, killed the rat, and then resumed eating the food," the website says.

A video on the site goes further and labels cats as "serial killers" who "torture their victims slowly and without mercy".

The site says cat owners can support the cause by not getting any new cats, fitting their pets with a bell and keeping them indoors at all times.

Claims from the website:

The website features a YouTube video, made two years ago, which makes the following statements:

"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"

"Cats are undeterred by cries of pain"