NZCAC supports local councils push for national cat management legislation

New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC)
Media Release 17th July 2017

The New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) is pleased to see local councils coming together to discuss the issue of cat management in New Zealand. The NZCAC’s Manager, Dr Jessica Walker, is optimistic about progress in this area, however, cautions local councils that national legislation must promote responsible cat ownership rather than solely focusing on controlling cats. “National legislation must provide a carrot rather than a big stick approach to cat management in New Zealand” says Dr Walker. “Producing legislation that incorporates responsible cat ownership practices supports the cat-owning community in being responsible owners. The majority of cat owners rightly consider their cat one of the family and want to do what is right for the welfare of their cat.”

According to the most recent Companion Animals in New Zealand survey produced by the NZCAC cats are the most commonly owned pet in New Zealand with over 44% of all households owning at least one cat.

From the NZCAC’s perspective the 4 key elements of responsible cat ownership are:

  1. All cats are microchipped and registered on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register;
  2. All cats and kittens (except those appropriately registered for breeding purposes) are desexed at around 8 weeks of age;
  3. The health and welfare needs of the cat are provided for the duration of the cats life and;
  4. Cat owners are considerate of the impact their cats have on the local community and environment (e.g. owners work to minimise nuisance behaviour and prevent opportunities for their cat(s) to predation upon wildlife).

According to Dr Walker, microchipping and registration of the microchip details on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register is a key component of responsible ownership and she is particularly supportive of the recent Bylaw changes in Wellington City that make this compulsory. “The NZCAC would like to see all councils across New Zealand adopt compulsory microchipping bylaws for all cats over the age of 12 weeks.  Microchipping is the most reliable form of identification available and unlike collars a microchip cannot be removed or lost”. She says “the majority of cats that become lost and end up in a shelter environment are never reunited with their owner as their owner is unknown. Microchipping can significantly improve the likelihood that cats will be reunited with their owner. For example, during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake 85% of owners of microchipped companion animals were able to be contacted within 3 hours by the New Zealand Companion Animal Register. In comparison, only 25% of non-microchipped animals were reunited with their owners within a 7 day period.

The NZCAC owns the New Zealand Companion Animal Register and will work with local councils to assist with the management of microchipped animals and promote the advantages of microchipping and registering cats within the local community.

Early desexing of all cats is a message the NZCAC readily promotes. Responsible cat owners must ensure their cats are desexed early (around 8 weeks and a minimum of 1kg body weight) to prevent unwanted litters of kittens being born and ending up in already overflowing shelters. Also early desexing prevents owned cats from interbreeding with unowned stray cats and furthering the growth of these populations. Dr Walker says “cats are exceptionally prolific breeders.” She also wishes to dispel the myth that allowing a pet to have one litter of kittens (or puppies in the cause of dogs) is good for the welfare of the animal. “This is an old wives tale, there is no benefit to the health and welfare of a cat by allowing her to have a litter of kittens – in fact the opposite is true that this can lead to a decreased life-span and increased risk of health problems including mammary cancer, uterine and ovarian tumours and pyometra in female cats.”

Animals are sentient beings with emotions and feelings and health and welfare needs that must be meet for the duration of the animal’s life. Pet owners must consider how they will meet the pet’s needs before they embark on ownership. Examples include considering the cost of veterinary care, food, and cost of care for the cat when the owner is away on holiday and how the owner will meet the behavioural needs of the cat. Dr Walker states “it is a privilege to own a cat or any other pet, it is not a right. Prospective pet owners need to carefully consider whether they are sufficiently able to care for the pet for the duration of its life”. 

The NZCAC also encourages responsible pet owners to be considerate of the community in which they live, and be mindful that although cats are the most popular pet in NZ, 66% of New Zealanders don’t own a cat and may choose not to for good reasons. Pet owners therefore must take responsibility for the behaviour of their animals and if nuisance behaviours are occurring owners must seek to address this.

For more information contact:

Dr Jessica Walker – Manager, New Zealand Companion Animal Council
Mobile:        021 555 285
Email:        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the New Zealand Companion Animal Council

The New Zealand Companion Animal Council is a national not-for-profit organisation that lobbies and advocate on behalf of companion animals. The NZCAC working to encourage New Zealand to become a nation that values, respects and responsibly cares for companion animals.
The NZCAC is funded via profits raised from the New Zealand Companion Animal Register.

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