Study reveals 30 percent of New Zealand cat owners oppose keeping them inside despite wildlife harm

Thirty percent of New Zealand cat owners are opposed to keeping their cats inside despite the harm roaming cats cause to native wildlife.

However, cat welfare advocates say it's not practical or affordable for most owners to contain cats and that Government funding for desexing and microchipping is a better solution to bring down cat numbers.

NZ Cat Foundation founder Anne Batley-Burton is the saviour for some 'pensioner pussies' that no one wants anymore, and she believes not all cats are killers.

"Certain cats are good hunters and others just like lying in the sun. They don't really give a damn," she said.

There are about 1.2 million domestic cats in New Zealand, and research using camera tracking shows they are prolific hunters.

"The trouble with domestic cats is they still have a really strong hunting instinct, so even a really well-fed cat still has that instinct to go out and prey on native species," predator ecologist Helen Blackie told Newshub.

Roaming cats also transmit diseases - including the parasite which causes toxoplasmosis.

But a new study says these negative impacts are overlooked by Kiwi cat owners.

It surveyed 395 cat owners to understand the barriers to cat containment:

  • 6 percent already keep their cat inside
  • 17 percent are open to it
  • 48 percent are ambivalent
  • 30 percent are opposed.

Cat containment ranges from keeping a cat indoors at all times to keeping cats in an escape-proof fenced yard or 'catio'.

Councils across Australia have introduced cat containment policies where feral and roaming cats have pushed 27 native animals to extinction.

"A lot of other countries have much better regulations in terms of containing your cat," Blackie said.

Batley-Burton said cats living near busy roads should be kept inside but otherwise they should be allowed to roam.

"That's just part of their nature," she said.

However Blackie said: "We know that overseas that there's a lot of research that actually says cats have higher welfare themselves when they're contained."

Batley-Burton and her volunteers care for about 350 cats. Most of them are old and many of them are unwell.

She says it costs about $3000 to $4000 per cat to take care of them, and on any given day she might get 10 phone calls from people asking her to take their cat.

Batley-Burton has spent thousands on cat-proof fencing but says that's not realistic for most people.

"The last thing they can afford is to start building catios onto their property."

Batley-Burton said if the government is serious about conservation it will fund desexing and microchipping.

"What will happen is gradually over time the numbers will reduce until one day there's hardly any strays," she said.

"We know that if we get really high rates of desexing we can really rapidly stop the move from cats being domestic cats through to stray cats to feral cats," Blackie added.

Stemming the flow of unwanted cats is something all sides can agree on - but agreeing to stop cats roaming remains a work in progress.