The Companion Animal Diary - A Science Update October 2017
According to the lasted Companion Animal Report produced by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council there are currently an estimated 1.134 million companion cats in New Zealand, making them the most popular companion animal in New Zealand, and with predation of wildlife by cats being a contentious issue, national cat management legislation is currently being considered.
This new study by Walker et al (2017) investigates public concern regarding wildlife predation by both owned and un-owned cats, and evaluates public support for the implementation of a National Cat Management Strategy and potential methods of controlling cat populations.
1011 face to face questionnaires were completed in five North Island locations representing a blend of urban, suburban, and rural environments. Findings showed strong public support for cat legislation, with 78% of those surveyed agreeing that a National Cat Management Strategy should be implemented to control cat populations in New Zealand.
Participants demonstrated concern for predation of both native and non-native wildlife, however a greater level of concern was shown for native wildlife, and 60% supported the idea of cat exclusion zones.
In relation to companion cats, a surprisingly low 58% of people demonstrated support for mandatory desexing, 66% supported compulsory microchipping, 60% agreed cats should be registered with local councils, and 70% supported a limit to the number of cats that can be owned.
Findings showed a high level of public support for management of unowned cats. Unowned cats were broken down into three categories; colony cats, unmanaged stray cats, and feral cats (definitions are provided in the full article which is available via the below link).
31% of participants favoured a Trap Neuter Release (TNR) program for colony cats, while TNR and lethal control methods were equally favoured at 26% for unmanaged strays, and 33% supported lethal methods for feral cats.
Limitations of this study revolve primarily around the definition of TNR. The authors highlight a possible bias in the results caused by the fact that participants may have favoured TNR over other control methods due to interpreting the definition of TNR as a reliable control method for all categories of cats, when in actual fact, literature suggests that TNR would be unsuccessful for unmanaged strays or feral cats (as categorised by the present study).
Future research in this area should consider mitigating this limitation by expanding the definition of TNR so that it can be more accurately presented as a management strategy requiring intensive and ongoing management.
In conclusion, the results of this study demonstrate a strong level of public support for a National Cat Management Strategy in New Zealand. This research provides valuable insight into public opinion of various population control methods and should be considered during the development of cat management legislation.
The full article is available here http://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/7/7/49
Walker, J.K.; Bruce, S.J.; Dale, A.R. A Survey of Public Opinion on Cat (Felis catus) Predation and the Future Direction of Cat Management in New Zealand. Animals 2017, 7, 49
 The New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc. Companion Animals in New Zealand 2016. Retrieved from http://www.nzcac.org.nz/images/downloads/Companion%20Animals_in_New_Zealand_2016_Report_web.pdf