That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer

Every year cats in New Zealand destroy our native wildlife. The fact is that cats have to go if we really care about our environment.

Take a look at where colonies of roaming cats are located in New Zealand



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inofgraphicbannerNew Zealand is the last refuge of a huge range of bird species, we’re famous for our claim to be clean and green, and some of us have recognised the huge economic benefit, let alone the ecological dividend, from achieving a Predator Free New Zealand.

But the vision is flawed. Almost half of Kiwi households have a cat (or two) making New Zealanders the world’s biggest cat owners [1] . Cats are incredibly effective hunters and are wiping out our native birds.

askacatquestionIf you are reading this there is a good chance that you are a cat owner and you are probably upset at the thought of getting rid of your beloved pet. Before you fly into a rage, have a read of some of the facts below and get educated on why cats need to go.

Straight to the Facts

Kiwis own the most cats per capita with 1.4 mil cats in New Zealand [2]. - TWEET THIS FACT 

Cats have contributed to the extinction of 9 native bird species [3].

Cats impact on 33 endangered native bird species [4].

One feral cat killed 102 endangered native short tail bats in a week [5].

Cats kill native birds. In our cities domestic cats kill native birds faster than they can possibly breed [6].

Around 40% of New Zealand’s native land-birds are already extinct, and of the ones remaining 37% are endangered. [7]

 

 

 

 

 

Like the parent of a bully saying that their little Johnny would not behave like that, if you’re a cat owner reading this, you are probably thinking that the above statistics don’t apply to your cat. The fact is that your furry friend is actually a friendly neighbourhood serial killer.

Statements like “My cat only brings me gifts and they are mice and rats. He never gets the natives” or “My cat is well fed and has no need to hunt” are just huge misconceptions. The fact is that your cat is not innocent and here are some stats to back that up.

askacatquestionWhat your killer kitty really gets up to

  • Cats just don’t kill rodents. They are indiscriminate; here in New Zealand they kill native birds, introduced birds, rodents, skinks and invertebrates (like insects) [8].
  • Just because your cat does not bring home natives it does not mean they are not killing them.
  • The average cat brings home 13 pieces of prey each year [9]. But this is only one in five of their kills. Cats eat a third of what they kill, and leave half of them to rot [10].
  • If they are not bringing home native birds it’s because there are none around left to kill.
  • Domestic cats living on the edge of wilderness areas seem to do the most damage and can wander huge distances; covering up to 69 hectares [11].
  • Before you say it, even well-fed cats kill. The fact is that cats kill on instinct, not because they need to eat, it is one of their most pleasurable activities. 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 [12].

 

Imagine a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife, penguins on the beach, Kiwis roaming about in your garden. Imagine hearing birdsong in our cities.

Sure, we are seeing more tui and kereru these days, thanks to some good work on rat and possum control in some areas. But many other species are still endangered; such as the cheeky kaka, beautiful kokako and curious weka. These birds once ruled this land. Some species can’t coexist with cats and rats at all, such as mohua, saddleback and robins, so they rely on a few pest free refuges for their survival [14].

The returns are not just beautiful but there are also economic advantages as well. New Zealand has an image of being 100% pure. In reality this marketing tag line could not be any further from the truth and the world is finding out. In order for us to continue being a premium clean, green tourism destination we actually need to start making steps in this direction. Whilst there are many issues to address, getting one step closer to being a pest free New Zealand would most certainly be a step in the right direction.

 

Under their ‘Saving Lives’ campaign [1] , the SPCA have stopped euthanizing feral cats and instead trap, neuter and release (TNR) them. In some areas these colonies are even being fed.[2]

The result is that large cat colonies are being established, sometimes very close to sensitive wildlife areas. SPCA argues these cats have a right to life. What about birds? The fact is that even neutered cats still have teeth and claws. They still kill.[3]

SPCA argues they aren’t helping feral cats – they have advocated for renaming such cat colonies “stray” cats. These are cats are no-one’s companion pet, but survive in part off humans, either from rubbish scraps or being fed, as opposed to ferals that live totally self-sufficiently. So if you feed a feral it becomes a stray. All clear now?

SPCA’s theory is that the feral cat colony will eventually die off if they can’t breed. The only problem is that for TNR to be effective all cats have to be neutered and people can’t abandon new cats. This doesn’t happen, so under TNR these cat colonies actually grow. TNR costs more to do than euthanasia, and doesn’t work.[4] While the SPCA frets about being a ‘No Kill Nation’, our birds are being systematically slaughtered. All in all, TNR is about as effective as herding cats.

TNR doesn’t work overseas – the Australian SPCA have publicly stated so [5] . Areas with TNR operating have fewer birds than other areas [6] . Why then would it work here in New Zealand where we have no native mammal predators? Cats have no place amongst New Zealand’s wildlife, and cats and native birds don’t mix.

SPCA claim to be interested in the prevention of cruelty to animals. This clearly isn’t the case, they only care about cats and don’t give a stuff about birds. They have been totally captured by crazy cat ladies and should stop the false advertising and rename themselves the SPCC – Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Cats.

The fact is that the cats living this wild life are not that happy anyway – they are plagued by disease and starvation. They are not living the high life like your sweet moggie, and they are a different beast as a result.

It is time for the public to tell the SPCA (or should that be the sPCa?) to get real. They have led us astray – we need to stop pussyfooting around and fry the ferals.

Cat colonies in New Zealand

A mapping project pinpointing the location of stray and feral cats in New Zealand. Members of the public are encouraged to add data to this map via the button below

Get involved and report roaming cats in your area

Report a cat colony now!

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We don’t suggest you knock your favourite furry friend on the head. We do suggest you think about the consequences on the bird population of domestic cats, and make this cat your last.

If we are serious about conservation, protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s native fauna, even supporting a predator free New Zealand, then we must overcome our denial and acknowledge that we are harbouring a natural born killer.

The key things you can actively do RIGHT NOW to minimise cats impacts on the environment are

  1. Get a bell for your cat. They may be less than 50% effective but every bit counts [15]
  2. Get your cat neutered if it has not been already
  3. If you have a cat, keep it inside from now on.
  4. Overcome your denial, domestic cats are an environmental threat, don’t replace your cat.
  5. Sign this petition now lobbying local governments to require registration and micro-chipping of cats, to provide eradication facilities for unregistered cats, and encourage people to trap and turn in unwanted cats on their property


Let's register and chip all cats!

Sign this petition now lobbying local governments to require registration and micro-chipping of cats and to facilitate the eradication of unregistered cats.

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  • So are you suggesting that I just go out and have my cat euthanised?

    Not necessarily but that is an option. We appreciate the fact that you have an emotional connection with your pet and that pet ownership is a rewarding experience. But there’s a real problem with cats – they kill for pleasure, and most of that killing is out of your sight so probably out of your mind. If you think NZ’s native species are precious and should be fostered then it’s important you be a responsible cat owner. That means keep them inside 24 hours a day and if that’s impractical then when the time comes ensure this is the last cat you ever own.

  • Some of these facts are pretty shocking. Where did you get your data from?

    Here are our data sources for your reference:

    Domestic cats

    http://www.wspa.org.nz/latestnews/2011/NZ_survey_a_nation_of_animal_lovers.aspx

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/publications/conservation/native-animals/birds/saving-our-kiwi/threats-to-kiwi/

    Dowding, J. E.; Murphy, E. C. 2001. The impact of predation by introduced mammals on endemic shorebirds in New Zealand: a conservation perspective. Biological Conservation 99: 47-64.

    Veitch, C.R. 1985. Methods of eradicating feral cats from offshore islands in New Zealand. ICBP Technical Publication 3: 125-141

    van Heezik, Y. et al Do domestic cats impose an unsustainable harvest on urban bird populations? Biological Conservation 143 (2010) 121–130

    Metsers, E.M. et al Cat-exclusion zones in rural and urban-fringe landscapes:how large would they have to be? Wildlife Research, 2010,37,47–56

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/kitty-cam-uga-research-national-geographic-killing_n_1757070.html

    Adamec, R.E. Wedge-tailed Shearwater: David G. Smith 1976. The interaction of hunger and preying in the domestic cat (Felis catus): an adaptive hierarchy?  Behavioral Biology 18: 263-272

    American Bird Conservancy, Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife.

    Feral cats

    http://rnzspca.org.nz/saving-lives/what-is-saving-lives

    Dauphine, N et al. Pick One: Outdoor Cats or Conservation. The Wildlife Professional, Spring 2011 pp 50-56.

    Lohr, C.A. et al.; Costs and Benefits of Trap-Neuter-Release and Euthanasia for Removal of Urban Cats in Oahu, Hawaii. Conservation Biology Article first published online: 25 Sep 2012 DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01935.x

    Butchart, S.H.M. Red List Indices to measure the sustainability of species use and impacts of invasive alien species. Bird Conservation International (2008) 18:S245–S262.

    Medina, F.M et al. A global review of the impacts of invasive cats on island endangered vertebrates. Global Change Biology (2011), doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02464.x

    Powlesland, R.G., Roberts, A., Lloyd, B. D. & Merton, D.V. 1995. Number, fate and distribution of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) found on Stewart Island, New Zealand, 1979 – 92. N.Z.J.Zool. 22: 239 – 248.

    Dowding, J. E.; Murphy, E. C. 1993. Decline of the Stewart Island population of the New Zealand Dotterel. Notornis 40: 1-14.

    Harper, G.A. Habitat selection of feral cats (Felis catus) on a temperate, forested island. Austral Ecology Volume 32, Issue 3, pages 305–314, May 2007

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/about-doc/news/media-releases/2010/cat-nabbed-raiding-the-mothership/

    Fitzgerald, B.M. 1988. Diet of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations. In: Turner, D.C.; Bateson, P. (Editors), The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour, pp. 123-147. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. 222 pp.

  • I live in the city and I see birds all the time. Is there really a problem?

    Yes there is. You are seeing a small percentage of what there should be. If you are Wellington you are seeing an increase in the bird population from Zelandia Sanctuary. Thanks to cats you could call this the most expensive tax payer funded cat food supplier in New Zealand.
  • Don’t cats help control rats and mice?

    Yes they do, and rats and mice are also a threat to birds. But the fact is that we need to get rid of cats and rats if we are to achieve our vision of a pest free New Zealand. We are controlling the rats in some areas and in these areas it seems the cats switch to killing birds.

    The fact is that we don’t need cats to control rats any more – we have traps. In cities cats alone are killing native birds faster than they can breed – never mind the rats. We need to control cats and rats together.

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