Cats & dogs

Cats are natural hunters

Birds, lizards, bats and insects are all food and toys for our pets. Cats and dogs have strong instincts to hunt, chase and kill.

Though we love our pets, it’s important to remember our responsibility for their actions. Our local council can control wild pests but it’s up to us to control our domestic pets.

Studies by Victoria University of Wellington show that 70% of dead banded birds, returned by the public, were killed by cats. It is not uncommon for cats to consume over 30 lizards in one hunting session. Dogs have been known to kill little blue penguins, as well as kiwi in other parts of New Zealand. North Island saddleback, tomtit, tui and red-crowned kakariki were eliminated on Cuvier Island, off the Coromandel coast, mostly through predation by cats.

Enhancing the Halo by the Morgan Foundation aims to increase Wellingtonian’s knowledge about cats and their effect on native wildlife. They offer cat owner advice and suggest how problems with stray cats could be managed.

Why should I keep my cat in during the day?

New Zealanders have more domestic cats per person than anywhere else in the world, with little to no regulation or monitoring. Studies have shown that cats take an average of six birds a year. This means that 12 million birds a year die due to cat predation, including many native species.

Cat curfews exist in parts of the USA and Australia to bring back and protect their native wildlife. If they can do it, so can we – but… keeping cats inside at night is a mammal protection scheme, not a bird one. Most of our vulnerable birds are more active during the day. If a cat is kept inside during the day the bird life is safer, though not completely safe, from these predators.

How can I be a responsible cat or dog owner?

The best way to ensure that your pet doesn’t kill wildlife is to make sure they never meet.

  • Keep your cat indoors, preferably all the time but especially during the day.
  • Keep your dog indoors at night, and on a leash by the shore and at reserves.
  • Have your cat neutered or spayed so it cannot produce unwanted kittens.
  • Plant thickly so cats and dogs have reduced access to your garden.
  • Consider not replacing your cat when it dies.
  • Feed your pets regularly.
  • Put on a bell or two, which hopefully will warn birds about approaching cats.