Cat Management Working Party gets stuck in
Cat welfare, community education and protecting indigenous wildlife are on the Gore District Council’s Cat Management Working Party agenda.
The working party, comprised of councillors and four community representatives, held its first meeting earlier this month, and members are keen to get on with the job.
Working party chair Cr Glenys Dickson said she had been amazed at the extent of the problem with stray cats. It was not only about cat welfare but also the impact cats had on the environment.
“On one hand, there’s a focus on removing rats, possums and other pests from our indigenous forests, while on the other, people are dumping unwanted litters of kittens and cats. Those that survive become feral and a real threat to our wildlife.”
The working party was also aware of problems in urban areas. Anecdotal evidence suggests the perceived issues include:
- Public health concerns, such as toileting in neighbours’ gardens, getting into rubbish and spreading toxoplasmosis
- Nuisance behaviours, such as fighting, running across roads, entering other houses and stealing other pets’ food, and uncontrolled breeding resulting in unwanted kittens
- Cat welfare issues associated with hoarding, poor owners and stray cat colonies
- Financial and emotional impacts on people who find and try to rehome the unwanted kittens
“We know people are spending their own money on feeding and desexing stray cats,” Cr Dickson said.
She said the four community members on the working party brought a lot of experience and knowledge to the table. Some had been caring for and desexing feral cats at their own cost for several years.
The working party wants to also take the conversation to the community to help quantify the extent of problems with cats and how can people work together to manage these.
“Among the questions, we will be asking is ‘what barriers are there, real or perceived, to desexing cats?”.
The Council has set up a project page on its engagement portal Let’s Talk Kōero Mai. As well as featuring information about cats and the working party’s aims, there is an ideas forum where people can share their stories and ideas.
The Council was not the only local authority in New Zealand tackling the cat question. Eight councils were calling on central government to make nationwide rules around regulating cats, Cr Dickson said.
“Some councils have already introduced mandatory microchipping and desexing of cats.”
Cr Dickson believes community education will play an important role – “our work is about finding solutions with our community, not just imposing regulations”.