He's branded them "the friendly neighbourhood serial killer",
but not everyone in Gareth Morgan's neighbourhood shares his
concerns about cats.
One neighbour who owns two cats laughed off the businessman's
campaign to rid the country of the popular pets, saying it
would never succeed.
Gina Hubbard, whose home overlooks Mr Morgan's house above
Wellington's Oriental Bay, said tui and fantails were common
in the area at the foot of Mt Victoria, and neither of her
cats brought home birds.
"The only thing I've seen mine catch is mice."
Mr Morgan this week launched a website Cats to Go, which
advises owners to keep their pets indoors 24 hours a day, fit
them with a bell, and not replace them when they die because
of the threat they pose to native birdlife.
Ms Hubbard, 26, dismissed the campaign, saying: "Good luck,
it's never going to happen. It's like saying I don't want
dogs because they pooh on the grass or something."
However, another of Mr Morgan's neighbours who would only
give her first name, Alison, said Mr Morgan's campaign had
made her think.
The self-confessed dog person said she had seen less birdlife
in the neighbourhood in the past few years and Mr Morgan's
campaign had made her wonder why.
"I think good on him because it's going to make everybody
start to think. If there's a declining rate of birds I think
something should be done."
Mr Morgan's arguments have drawn some support from the
Yolanda van Heezik, a senior lecturer of zoology at the
University of Otago, said Australia was among countries with
regulation around cat ownership and movement, and New Zealand
should consider whether to follow suit.
"I suspect that most people have never given the issue much
thought, or they think that the one or two birds caught by
their own cat makes no difference ... even though individual
cats may catch few birds, cumulatively the total of birds
killed is large."
Dr van Heezik has studied the prey caught by domestic cats in
Dunedin and found cats were catching native species such as
fantails and bellbirds, with fantails particularly
"My study identified that about one third of cats did not
bring any prey home, about a half brought back prey
infrequently, but that about 20 per cent were frequent
Mr Morgan's recommendations were reasonable, she said, and
research showed that putting a bell on a cat reduced their
catch by 50 per cent.
John Innes, a scientist in biodiversity and conservation at
Landcare Research said the impact of cats on wildlife was
controversial because it was site-dependent and ecologically
Cats alone could not be blamed for the loss of any species in
New Zealand, but they were "undoubtedly" key contributors to
the decline of some birds in some places.
"For example black stilts, black-fronted terns and wrybills
in braided rivers and other shorebirds trying to nest on
beaches, but so potentially are hedgehogs, ferrets, stoats,
four wheel drive vehicles, people walking dogs and
fishermen," he said.
In New Zealand the major prey in native forests was the ship
rat, which ate many more birds than cats did, he said.
- Hana Garrett-Walker of APNZ