Cat registration good but comes with price tag

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Chasing cats . . . A recent proposal by Local Government New Zealand to better manage the country's cat population could see cats like Poppy, from SPCA Timaru, being monitored on a database. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

Better control of New Zealand’s cat population is important, but cost could be an issue, Timaru animal care representatives say.

The registration and control of the country’s cats has come up for discussion again after a proposal for cat control at the recent Local Government New Zealand conference won the day when 51% of delegates voted for it.

The remit, proposed by Dunedin City Council, asked LGNZ to lobby the Government to implement the final version of the national cat management strategy which included identification, cat desexing and responsible cat ownership.

Timaru’s Family Vet practice manager Jamie Crilly said while he thought it was “a great idea” to have cats registered, he did not think it was a local government issue.

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen. PHOTO: NZ HERALD

He said keeping registration at a national level, like the New Zealand Companion Animal Register, would mean owners only incurred a one-off registration fee rather than an annual charge.

“[Cat owners] would be reluctant to register them every year.”

Mr Crilly said he knew he had current clients who did not register their dogs due to the cost or other factors, so putting a similar burden on cat owners once a year was not likely to improve the situation.

He believed the “key issue” for better cat management was desexing animals, because that would help prevent litters of unwanted kittens and the growth of cat colonies.

Karen Sole, from stray cat rehoming organisation Street Cats South Canterbury, also believed desexing cats was an important part of cat control.

She said registration was a “good idea” but the policing registration would be a “concern”.

South Canterbury SPCA referred any comment on the matter to its national office, which supported any legislation that encouraged “responsible cat ownership”.

SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said almost half of all New Zealand households had cats and the “value of cat ownership to society” could not be understated.

The presentation of this remit to LGNZ and the support for it from seven councils was “a very positive and encouraging step forward”.

Even before any legislation was imposed, cat owners were encouraged to microchip and register their cats, update contact details if they moved, desex their animals unless they were a registered breeder and use anti-predation devices to limit the impact of their cats on wildlife.

A Timaru District Council communications manager said the matter had been discussed by the council.

Registering cats would require “significant” infrastructure, like the national dog database, including keeping records, monitoring and enforcement, meaning cat owners would “incur a cost similar to dog registration”.