Veterinary Association echoes concerns about feral cats used for rabbit control

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) has added its voice to the concerns already expressed by the Central Otago community and Predator Free NZ about feral cats being released onto rural properties in an attempt to manage rabbit and rodent populations.

"We acknowledge that the intention of the programme comes from a good place. However, we share concerns about the impacts these cats will have on the native wildlife population," says Dr Helen Beattie, NZVA’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

"There is no guarantee that the cats will only hunt rabbits and rodents. Native species will also be hunted, as we know that cats are not specific in their hunting behaviour."

Additionally, the welfare of both the ‘working cat’ and other local cat populations could be impacted when they are moved to their target property. If other feral, stray or domestic cats are already on the property, introduction of these ‘working cats’ could cause fights which could result in injuries or transmission of serious infectious diseases.

"Effective management of the cat population in New Zealand is complex," says Dr Beattie. "This is a further example of where national level legislation for cat management would assist local government authorities to appropriately manage cats. Aotearoa/New Zealand needs a cohesive, comprehensive approach to ensure the best possible outcomes for our native wildlife and our cats."

The NZVA is a member of the National Cat Management Strategy Group, that drafted comprehensive recommendations for addressing all of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s cats - feral, stray and owned - in order to protect the welfare of cats and native species, and reduce the spread of diseases such as toxoplasmosis, which has been linked to the deaths of endangered Maui dolphins. National level legislation is critical in achieving a united, and all-encompassing approach.

"New Zealanders want to and are required to look after our cats and protect their needs and their welfare. That can be best achieved by keeping owned cats happy and safe at home, and using the recommendations of the National Cat Management Strategy Group to manage and look after the wider cat populations in Aotearoa/New Zealand." says Dr Beattie.