Morgan's anti cat crusade | The Jackal

23 Jan 2013

Morgan's anti cat crusade

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Yesterday the Herald revealed a campaign by economist Gareth Morgan to eradicate domestic cats.

Dr Morgan's website, Cats to Go, advises cat owners to keep their pets indoors 24 hours a day, fit them with a bell, and not replace them when they die.

Although Gareth Morgan's heart is probably in the right place, all he's really doing is ruffling people's feathers. Cats have been domesticated since at least Egyptian times, and to expect that to change anytime soon is simply delusional!

Yes! We all know that native birdlife needs to be better protected, but there are a number of other factors that impact more than family friendly felines.

Other readers said cats controlled pests like rats and mice, and the real threat to birdlife was herbicide, agricultural chemicals and humans themselves.

Rats as it so happens are caught by cats, and cats are therefore protecting birdlife from a far more rapacious predator. By ensuring rats and mice numbers are kept low, cats have an important role to play within human society.

It's been speculated that an unbalanced diet resulting from native birds eating human foods has a detrimental impact on their health. There's also stoats and weasels that should be the focus of any genuine environmentalist before cats are even considered.

Advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said responsible dog ownership had been highlighted in recent years, and the same needed to happen for cats.

That included neutering cats, keeping them inside as much as possible, and fitting a bell to their collar - shown to reduce by half the number of native birds killed by domestic cats.

Mr Hackwell, a cat owner himself, said his Wellington family were giving serious thought to making their current moggy their last.

University of Otago research showed domestic cats killed at least 1.1 million native birds a year, he said.

"It's not insignificant ... no matter how well you feed them, they still want to come and show you the bird they have caught. There's no question that cats have an enormous benefit as companion animals ... I own a cat, I like cats ... but I am aware of the damage they do."

I couldn't find the Otago University study that showed 'domestic cats killed at least 1.1 million native birds a year'. However I did find this Otago University article (PDF) from October 2010 about cats wearing bell collars:

Previous studies have shown that domestic cats kill tens of thousands of native birds each year in New Zealand.

Suddenly tens of thousands turn into millions in order to promote Morgans anti-cat crusade.

The real problem is feral cats, which are often the result of uncaring humans that don't properly feed or abandon their pets. A feral cat can have a hugely detrimental impact on wildlife, and an education campaign as well as government funding for neutering cats would go a long way to resolve the problem.