Yolanda van Heezik
Animal experts in the Otago region are calling for
compulsory microchipping of cats in order to control stray cat
populations and streamline the return of lost cats to their
SPCA Otago animal manager Grace Hepburn said she believed it
was a proposal with no downsides.
''It's obviously extremely beneficial; 80% of the cats we
receive are owned but only 20% of these cats are returned to
''If these cats were microchipped we could simply enter their
details into a database and return them to their owners
It would also allow the city to deal with the many stray cats
in Dunedin, as handlers could distinguish between cats with
and without an owner, she said.
Dr Yolanda van Heezik, a senior lecturer in the University of
Otago's department of zoology, said many states in Australia
already had compulsory microchipping for cats, and such a
system was already in place for dogs in New Zealand.
However, many people did not seem to think that such controls
were necessary for cats in New Zealand, she said.
''New Zealanders have an attitude that people should be able
to own cats without any sorts of controls and the cats should
be able to roam freely doing whatever they want.''
Dr van Heezik studied Dunedin's pet cat populations in 2010,
and found there were 220 cats per square km across the city.
Of those, 30% caught a bird once a week, meaning 1700 birds
were being killed in each square kilometre of the city each
However, very little was known about the impact of stray cats
on the city's bird population, she said.
A separate international study of people's attitudes to the
impact cats had on wildlife, at present being reported on by
Dr van Heezik, concluded most people were ignorant of the
damage being done.
''The research has indicated that most people don't think
that they have an impact on wildlife or think it's very
Last year, Dunedin city councillor Kate Wilson established a
''cat committee'' bringing together different interest groups
in the city to discuss the stray cat problem.
The committee met twice last year and Dr van Heezik said it
was a significant step in the right direction.
''It's been a really great move by Kate Wilson to get
everyone together talking, when in the past there has been a
real lack of communication between groups.''
However, committee members did not always agree on how best
to deal with stray cats in the city, and it remained a
controversial issue, Dr van Heezik said.
She said she had even received hate mail after backing Gareth
Morgan's campaign to highlight the impact cats had on
Concerns were raised microchipping costs, but Dr van Heezik
and Miss Hepburn believed not to microchip cats was
Miss Hepburn said microchipping could be bundled with
vaccinations and desexing operations, reducing the cost to
By Liam Macandrew.