Monday, January 21, 2013

'Cats must go,' says Dr Gareth Morgan.


Wow--- that statement from Dr Morgan will have thrown the cats amongst the pigeons. With 48% of New Zealand households owning at least one cat, I can hear the clarion calls for Gareth’s blood. He is adamant that cats kill many native birds and that we must begin to eradicate these ‘pests’ by not letting them reproduce and keep them in doors permanently until they die. He even wants them all to wear bells. Is that our future in NZ; a nation with the sound of indoor twinkles gradually diminishing as our feline friends die out?

'Outrageous!' cat owners will say and the argument on the danger to our environment from our moggies is going to rage from North Cape to Stewart Island. Is there any middle ground or are we going to scratch ourselves to oblivion?

OK, some sanity. Maybe we do need to look at making our native birds and other small animals ‘safe’ from cats. Surely there is a clever person out there who can come up with a Kiwi technological/ gene-altering breakthrough that can lead to manipulating our cats’ natural instinct to hunt and kill.

I am sure you have all seen how a cat seems to take pleasure in hunting, playing with and finally killing their ‘prey.’ No doubt you were horrified when your gentle, loving ball of fur, who was one second sitting by you on the couch and then the said ‘family’ member morphs into a nasty sadistic brute. Would it not be so much better for your sensibilities if that didn’t happen? Of course your rat and mouse population may increase as a result and I doubt whether you could all handle a Jack Russell to fill the void!

Now, to avoid any accusations that I am a cat hater, let me state that I too have a cat. I am actually on to my third one in five years because there are other predators out there that kill cats, especially black male cats----yes I am talking about cars and other vehicles that do the killing. I know what it is like to lose a beautiful cat and how hard to was to bury them. I am in the process of seeing my latest (much more sensible female cat) slowly withdrawing from our house; only visiting now, rather than living with us. Can you guess the reason? Yes, you are correct--- my Jack Russell delights in chasing my cat, leading her to consider moving house. She has found an elderly neighbour and now the best I can say about my cat is that she is a ‘shared cat.’

Is ‘our’ cat dangerous to birdlife? Yes she is. She may be quite portly, but she still manages to chase and catch (and eat) any bird that decides to come within a cat’s paw. If she was anywhere near the bush, I suspect that we would be on the receiving end of countless ‘gifts,’ just like she delivered to us when she and her departed brother used to hunt in unison.

So Gareth Morgan is not wrong about the tendancy for cats to destroy birdlife. The problem along with ‘out of control’ dogs in our native forests is not an imaginary one. It is a problem that we all need to discuss rationally. That 48% of us have cats means that we must take away the emotion we are feeling with this debate and contribute to a study that sets out to explore the full nature of the issue and one that attempts to find a solution, no matter how hard that seems right now. In the meantime, we must not set out cats on to Gareth? He knows (and I suspect you do too) that there is truth behind his claims.

OMG--- my cat is looking at me strangely, on one of her rare daytime visits.