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Founded during last year’s Covid lockdown, QT Community Cats provides rescue, adoption and rehoming services, as well as education and support for cat owners.
Its trustee secretary, Mel Gold, says it has created a "working/barn cats programme" with the twin goals of helping prevent a boom of feral cat breeding while using cats to control other pests.
The group decided a few months ago this winter would be an opportunity to set up the programme before the next kitten and rabbit season.
By focusing on trapping and desexing more feral cats during the winter, there’ll be fewer kittens born in the summer months, she says.
"If we can get it to take off, it might be a way to solve multiple problems in Queenstown."
Once they’ve recovered from desexing, cats showing signs of enjoying humans and an indoor life will be put into foster care.
Truly wild cats will be taken to a rural property or farm.
Gold, who’s not aware of any similar programme in New Zealand, says working cats are "effective and low maintenance", needing only a warm, safe place to sleep and a regular source of food.
Two cats have already been released on a volunteer’s property, and more are about to be transferred to three more properties.
She says the group, which has three trustees and a team of volunteers throughout the Whakatipu, "continually needs financial support", and would welcome sponsorship and donations.
The focus on trapping during winter means they have to check traps more regularly, which means more volunteer hours and higher food costs.
People interested in having a working cat on their property can find a link on the group’s website (qtcommunitycats.com) to a document explaining the working cat programme in greater detail.