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SPCA, Gareth Morgan at odds over cat ownership

Monday 21 Jan 2013 1:30 p.m.

The website is called Cats To Go and it’s part of a privately-funded national education campaign calling on Kiwis not to own cats.

If you do, the website suggests you don’t replace your current feline.

The man behind the campaign is Gareth Morgan – economist, philanthropist and, increasingly, social activist – and he wants to phase out cat ownership.

“My request to every cat owner is to make this cat your last,” he says.

Not surprisingly, the SPCA has called on Mr Morgan to back off – something he refuses to do. The issue, he says, is just too important.

The Morgan family is determined to be the catalyst for a national debate on the right to own cats in a country where – let’s face it – much of our indigenous wildlife is struggling to survive the onslaught of introduced predators.

So would you give up cat ownership for the sake of our native birds, skinks and geckos?

Per capita, New Zealanders own more cats than any other country. Nearly half of all Kiwi households have at least one cat – many have more. There are in excess of 1 million cats in the country, all genetically coded to kill.

Morgan is challenging Kiwis’ cute and cuddly image of cat ownership and taking on powerful lobby groups like the SPCA, who steadfastly support cats and cat ownership.

“A cat-free anywhere is not a good area,” says SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge. “I love birds and I love cats and I believe in nature doing its thing – why interfere with that? I think as soon as we start to interfere with nature, we start to interfere in an area we really shouldn’t.”

But Mr Morgan says saying ‘leave it to nature’ is risking extinction for our native species. He says contrary to the cute, cuddly image we have of kittens and cats, they “just love killing things”.

But Mr Kerridge wants Mr Morgan to back off.

“Butt out of our lives, don’t deprive us of the beautiful relationship that a cat can provide individually and as a family.”

Morgan wants local authorities to start treating cat ownership the same way they do dogs: with micro-chipping and regulation of owners.

“I’m saying your cat does a lot of damage, so if you want to love him, fine. But keep him in your house,” he says.

“If you let him onto my property I want to have the right to trap that cat and get rid of it, because I would rather have the skinks, the geckos, the lizards, the birds anytime over your cat.”

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