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Tereariki Moses (37) originally denied the charge of ill-treating an animal but yesterday - the day his judge-alone trial was scheduled at the Dunedin District Court - he admitted culpability.
Despite that, counsel Andy Belcher said he had rethought the case after watching his neighbour's cat at the weekend.
While Moses admitted killing the animal, there was no inherent cruelty "if the first whack over the head dispatched the cat'', he suggested.
Judge Bridget Mackintosh asked whether there was any reason for the bludgeoning.
"Does there have to be a reason for it?'' Mr Belcher said. "It is perhaps morally barbaric.''
The court heard there was a suggestion the feline in question had been hit by a car.
While the defendant mentioned that to police upon arrest, the summary of facts he admitted was devoid of that detail.
Moses was at his Great King St home on the evening of October 20.
The cat, court documents stated, was a tabby that often visited the boarding house.
The defendant tried to hand feed the cat in his room.
It was pressed up against the window and wanted to go outside.
Soon after, Moses and the animal were outside and the man began striking it with a 1m piece of wood.
He "swung it above his head hitting the cat on the ground'', the court heard. "The defendant continued to strike the cat numerous times causing it to die.''
Moses threw the lifeless body into nearby bushes.
Judge Mackintosh said it appeared from the man's criminal record he had an alcohol problem.
"It is important to note, animals are vulnerable and deserve to be treated with care, and it's not acceptable, obviously, to do what you did on this occasion,'' she said.
The judge noted Moses had no record of animal abuse.
Mr Belcher said his client had been out of jail for some time and "has been doing OK''.
He urged the judge to impose community work and she agreed.
Moses was sentenced to 100 hours.