The stray cat debate resurfaces

While it may be “unusual” for a council to ask people to keep their cats off limits, a predator-free organization says there are good reasons why we should keep them confined.

Marlborough District Council recently sent a letter to Blenheim’s wife, Brenda Green, telling her that her cat Milo would have been a nuisance to her neighbour.

Milo had been missing for eight days and had returned home to Blenheim with a badly injured tail.

“He had clearly been framed because he had the skin on his hind leg worn to the bone and his tail was a mess,” Green said.

The council’s letter said the bylaw required Green to ensure his cat was not a nuisance – which meant he was not allowed off the property.

The council said it took an “educational approach” to the settlement and asked pet owners to resolve any issues themselves.

Green was happy to have her stray feline home, but upset to receive the council’s letter alleging her cat had been a “nuisance” to a neighbor.

The council said Milo had destroyed flowers and vegetables and defecated in the neighbour’s garden.

He said that under the municipal animal by-law, an animal “cannot wander” off the property where it was kept or damage someone else’s property.

Milo isn’t Green’s first cat to come home injured. A former cat came home one morning with what he thought was a broken leg.

We took him to the vet and in fact he had been shot in the shoulder and his shoulder was broken, and he must have even been put to sleep.

“Now we have this cat two years later, and it feels like the same scenario again. Someone in this neighborhood doesn’t like cats. It’s very upsetting.”

So Green decided to call the council to find out more about who had complained.

“I said, ‘How am I supposed to keep the cat away from the section? Cats have been roaming for years. It’s their nature,” she said.

She asked what property Milo went to, but was told the council couldn’t release that information for privacy reasons.

The incident happened before Christmas. Milo was still recovering from his injuries and was currently only allowed out in a small, confined area of ​​the property.

“My biggest thing is these people hurting these cats, they have to realize that this could be an elderly person’s only companion. It could be a child’s beloved pet.

“Don’t hurt them, approach people, or buy a squirt gun that you can grab if a cat comes into your section.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the council said it had the power to act on complaints under its animal by-law. Between 2018 and 2022, she received 26 complaints about cats.

Last year, the number of complaints was only three, but this year he had already received five.

Predator Free New Zealand Trust chief executive Jessi Morgan understood that around 20 councils across the country had cat provisions in place – but this was often linked to the number of cats a household might have, or microchipping and desexing.

Meanwhile, some councils, such as the City of Hamilton and the District of Horowhenua, had animal nuisance bylaws. This meant that anyone who owned an animal had to ensure that it was kept in conditions that were not a nuisance to others.

Others had regulations on the keeping of animals, bees and poultry. Dog management regulations were also common.

“It is unusual that they [council] asked the owner to keep the cat from wandering off,” Morgan said.

“In New Zealand law, cats are really interesting because there’s nothing that really captures them, so I understood there was very little you could do about a stray cat. on your property.”

This was why some called for a national cat law, so New Zealand had general rules regarding the confinement of cats.

Morgan said it seemed there had been a shift in the discussion of what responsible cat ownership meant in New Zealand.

“For generations we have let our cats roam…because there is very little that harms them when they are free.

“While in many countries around the world, their owners don’t let them roam freely because they get eaten by coyotes or snakes, or there are other predators that kill or injure them.

“We are seeing this shift in New Zealand where people are realizing the impacts cats have on our biodiversity. But also that it’s actually healthier and safer for cats to stay home.”

She said there were certain steps people could take in the meantime to prevent a cat from leaving their property, which would help protect native species.

“Cats are very unusual because they hunt for pleasure. They don’t necessarily hunt for food. So even a well-fed cat will always hunt.

“Now the SPCA actually recommends that when you raise a kitten, you raise it like a housecat, because that’s the best thing for a cat, and it’s the best thing for wildlife.

“Cats have been raised in apartments all over the world for years, and they’re perfectly happy, and I think as long as their owners give them lots of petting, and they have some stimulation, they can live a perfectly happy indoor life cats This is not unusual.

-By Maia Hart
Local Democracy Journalist

Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air