Position Statement: Stray cat euthanasia or destruction

Policy type: Position statement
: 9j
: Current
Date ratified
: May 2018

Position Statement

The NZVA advocates for the euthanasia of cats experiencing pain of suffering that cannot be managed or minimized. Veterinarians should strive to euthanise an animal within its physical and behavioural comfort zones and, where possible, prepare a calming environment. The term ‘euthanasia’ should not be used in reference to the killing of stray, unsocialised, frightened, and distressed cats; ‘destruction’ is more appropriate for this process.


Many veterinarians in New Zealand are presented with the scenario of a stray cat being brought to the veterinary clinic for euthanasia, often by a member of the public. The legalities around the decision-making process are complex and require careful consideration and adequate due diligence before euthanasia or destruction is undertaken.

It is important for veterinarians to familiarise themselves with the definitions of cats as this is fundamental to the decision-making process regarding treatment and euthanasia or destruction of stray cats.


  • Veterinarians should familiarize themselves with the relevant definitions and legislation pertaining to the euthanasia of cats. This includes the Animal Welfare Act (1999), the Code of Welfare (Companion Cats) (2018) and the NZVC Code of Professional Conduct.
  • Veterinarians should be familiar with and competent in current euthanasia and destruction practices and procedures.
  • Veterinarians should be aware of the roles other organisations (such as the SPCA) may have in this process.

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