Caught cats put to good use catching rabbits

QT Community Cats trustee secretary Mel Gold with a friend. Photo: Scene
QT Community Cats trustee secretary Mel Gold with a friend. Photo: Scene
A non-profit Queenstown cat welfare group’s trialling a programme in which wild cats are trapped, desexed and released on rural properties to manage rabbit and rodent populations.

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 ( to a document explaining the working cat programme in greater detail.


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Good bye to remnant bird life, skinks and geckos and wetas. This was tried on uninhabited atolls in the Pacific--of course the cats were not desexed. Yes all the rats were killed but so were birds. Letting them go on farmng lands is crazy.

Trap neuter and return does not lower either feral cat numbers or pest numbers. But don't let science get in the way of catching toxoplasmosis.

This can't end well.

And what of free-range chickens (or other fowl) people have - what becomes of them when these cats are hungry? What about these cats inviting themselves inside and helping themselves to housecats' food? What about these cats fighting with the housecats and the owners having to take their cat to the vet - who pays for that?

Yikes...say goodbye to the lizards. What a shocking decision.

This is the definition of crazy.

Unless it's a very small / young rabbit, the cat may well come off second best. I've seen a cat - granted it wasn't a feral one - catch a full-grown rabbit and get gutted ... literally. The rabbit turns on its back and uses its hind legs and claws against the belly of the cat ... funny thing is, cats have the same reflex defence mechanism as most people who have played with a kitten or cat will know.

I have to agree with both comments that have already been made. Birdlife will still suffer losses, rats & mice may decline, stoats will have a cat for breakfast and look for another one before lunch.

Volunteers don't usually get paid and I'm pretty sure there'd be a butcher willing to offer some "over-aged" Angus ribeye as bait for the cats. As for the traps, DOC may be worth approaching, however, I'd suggest they would be OK for the capture part, not so much on the release side of things. SPCA or a local vet may help out with free de-sexing, but I have a feeling they'd also not be too happy about them being put back in the wild.

To date, how many rabbits have each of the two released de-sexed wild cats killed?

Toxoplasmosis - look it up QT Community Cats

Great plan — used to do something similar in the US and it worked well. Some very strange, and uninformed, comments...

A totally stupid thinking process, How can you possibly think that the cats will not kill anything but rabbits,they are hunters and will kill the EASY prey first before tring to chase a rabbit that is as heavy and very exlusive as most cats. The reason there is ample wildlife in rural areas is mainly due to lack of wild cats.Keep your STUPID thinking processes in TOWN with you and SUFFER your own DUMB results.
Have you not realised by now that cats are killing native birds not only in towns but all over the countryside right up to the snowline.

It's a TRIAL. If any of the above concerns become a problem this programme can be stopped. At the moment it seems a fair solution to help with the pest problem in Central Otago. The rabbit population is getting close to mid-90's level.

This is literally the worst idea i have ever heard. There is no way to control what the cats will be eating once they have been released. Native animals have it tough enough without people like this encouraging predation and spreading misinformation.

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