Bengal cat rule claimed unfair

Dunedin cat breeder Teresa Richards considers Bengal cat Chrystal Cleopatra poses no more danger...
Dunedin cat breeder Teresa Richards considers Bengal cat Chrystal Cleopatra poses no more danger to native birds than other breeds. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A Dunedin breeder of Bengal cats, Teresa Richards, believes the breed is being treated unfairly by Environment Southland.

The Invercargill-based regional council has singled out the breed for tighter regulations, insisting owners must now get a permit for their cats and have them microchipped.

They are already required to be neutered.

Environment Southland biosecurity officer Sherman Smith said the rules were designed to prevent escaped Bengal cats interbreeding with feral cats to produce "super-sized felines" that would be a danger to birdlife.

"The large cats are known to be unafraid of water, and their size means that they are able to hunt larger prey than other cats.

"Kiwis that are a year old, and big enough not to be so much at risk from a feral cat, would still be easy meat for a Bengal cat or a hybrid."

However, Ms Richards said yesterday the cats were no bigger than other breeds. The biggest she had seen was 7kg.

She also believed Bengals were no more of a potential problem than other breeds.

"Any cat is going to defend itself when it's in the wild or catch its supper. It's their natural instinct."

She imported four breeding cats from Australia three years ago.

All her kittens were neutered before they were "adopted out".

Ms Richards said her "moggie" was more likely to bring home a bird than her Bengals and the fact that some Bengals liked water made them no different from other breeds, like Siamese and Abyssinians.

"I don't think a Bengal cat is any different to any cat."

In 1996, Maf chief veterinary officer Barry O'Neil allowed Bengal cats to be imported.

He considered Bengal cats did not differ significantly from domestic cats already in New Zealand and there were other breeds that were bigger.

He acknowledged concerns about the impact of feral cats on native birds, but did not consider regulating one breed of cat would be "effective or rational".

Ms Richards said one of her nine current kittens was due to be sent to Southland soon and it would comply with the new Environment Southland rules.

Bengals are a cross between the wild Asian leopard cat and domestic cats.

They are valued for their markings and are unrelated to Bengal tigers.

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