Ricky Gervais mocks New Zealand's cat killing competition as world reacts to news of the proposed feral cull

UK comedian and actor Ricky Gervais has poured scorn on the North Canterbury Hunting Competition's plan to get young children to hunt feral cats for a prize of $250.

The competition idea provoked outrage amid fears someone's pet could die during the proposed event. Organisers withdrew it following the backlash, saying they'd been swamped with "vile and inappropriate emails and messages sent to the school and others involved".

Gervais, a recognised animal lover, shared online the BBC coverage of the story, with a tongue-in-cheek tweet saying: "Right. We need some new PR ideas to make the world love New Zealand. Maybe something involving kids & kittens. Yes, Hargreaves?"

Many of his followers shared pictures of their own felines, with some even recounting tales of how they'd tamed feral cats into beloved house pets.

The story itself has also received wider coverage across the globe, with many outlets appalled that the idea would even be considered in the first place.

"Fury over competition for children to kill CATS," blazed a headline from the Daily Mail, with hundreds of commenters joining in the outrage. "This is disgusting and I am absolutely horrified that people would even consider doing this!" one said.

The Guardian reported on the "uproar" caused by the proposal, but also reported that: "Feral – and domestic – cats are a serious threat to biodiversity and native wildlife in New Zealand. They eat endangered native birds and eggs, lizards, bats and insects. The issue of their control has previously been a heated political matter." It also repeated the controversial claims made by Gareth Morgan in 2013 when he called for all cats to be eradicated.

Australia's ABC also reported on the story, repeating the SPCA's comments that they were "both pleased and relieved" the competition had now been scrapped.

The New York Post published a piece reporting on the outrage under the opening salvo of, "They'll hath no furry," adding in commentary from a professor who claimed most people wouldn't know the difference between a feral cat and domestic kitty.

UK network Sky News shared the story as well, reporting commentary from those in favour of the eradication of feral cats due to the fact they "carry disease and disrupt the lambing season".

The BBC shared the backlash, publishing comments from hundreds who'd expressed their anger over the original story.

However, on Wednesday, Newshub journalist Patrick Gower said he agreed with the competition.

Speaking on AM, he said feral cats "need to be shot", "run over" and "wiped off the face of Aotearoa" and called for the cancelled children's wild feline killing competition to return.