Inside the mission to trap and desex Auckland's stray cats

Kitten season is in full force, leaving shelters overrun and more born on the streets every day.

Many of the kittens will end up spending their lives on the streets themselves, but a few may end up finding loving homes.

All over the city volunteers are trying to stem the problem via a series of trap and return programmes.

Trap and return programmes are where volunteers use traps to capture stray cats, desex them and return them to where they were found.

Anne Batley-Burton, known to most as a former cast member of the Real Housewives of Auckland and champagne importer is one of those people, as the founder of the New Zealand Cat Foundation and committee member of the Community Cat Coalition.

"Its aim is to go out... desex community stray cats and if they're in a healthy state they return them back to where they came from," she told Newshub.

Ms Batley-Burton would not call stray cats a problem, but said many cats ended up living on the streets after bad choices from irresponsible owners.

"You do get certain members of the community who have the attitude 'oh it would be so nice to have some little kittens for the children or would it be lovely for the mother cat to have some babies, you know wouldn't that be nice'.

"But it's a very stupid irresponsible idea because there was no way we want to have more and more cats in the community that people are usually not equipped to take care of, then they end up dumping them."

Eventually groups of cats make a colony, and things could get dangerous if they're not taken care of.

"If they haven't been vaccinated they could be subject to getting various diseases, I mean the calicivirus is one that a lot of cats get and they get the cat flu and so on," Ms Batley- Burton said.

"If they're doing a lot of fighting and of course they can transfer diseases for example if FIV, they could transfer it to another cat."

FIV is the feline version of HIV and any cat that contracts it will need on-going medical care.

There's a dark cloud on the horizon for stray cats though, as Auckland Council is currently considering a change to pest management that could see a lot of them put down.

Under the plan any cat caught without a microchip near an "ecologically significant site" would be culled.

Ms Batley-Burton doesn't like that idea and would like to see more support for trap and return.

"We're out there desexing... and what we want is for councils to come on board rather than think they're going to start killing stray cats because they see them as a problem."

Members of the public can trap stray cats if they want, and then organise for them to be desexed via charities like the SPCA.

It's best to contact your local SPCA if you have found a group of stray cats first and see what it recommends doing, but here are some tips Newshub learned about running trap and return.

Get yourself a good trap 


Don't kid yourself and believe that you can sneak up on a cat, grab it and run away with it. They're tricky and won't enjoy being held.

Ms Batley-Burton told Newshub it's a good idea to get a trap with a cover that a cat can appear to see through on both ends.

No touching 


Stray cats caught in a cage will be scared, and when they're scared they will lash out and kick, scratch or bite.

Cat mouths are dirty and if one does get into you it could lead to a nasty infection or a course of antibiotics.

It's best to not give it the chance.

Have a good plan for containment


Trapped cats are going to be very desperate to get out and that can be a risky exercise.

Sometimes it's best to keep them in the cage until you can get it to a vet, provided that isn't too long.

Make sure it can have access to some food and water as needed, and keep the trap covered to keep it calm.

You might also consider placing a towel or some newspaper underneath in case kitty decides to go to the bathroom.

Put that thing back where it came from


The R in T&R is for return, not release as its important the cat goes back to where you caught it from.

The SPCA advises putting a cat back away from where it was caught could be an act of cruelty and Ms Batley-Burton agrees it is of the utmost importance to return the cat to where it's familiar.

"That's very important they don't just release them willy nilly."

Don't forget about it


Returning the cat to where it came from is not the end of the story, if you want to help you need to ensure nothing bad happens to them and there's food available.

Set up a feeding station for them, a small area where you can give them access to food and clean water, and that way keep an eye on the colony for any new additions that will also need desexing.