Auckland gym-goers launch campaign to stop cat being evicted after complaint

  • 19/03/2024
MPAL has been a companion to some when they have been going through hard times, one of her supporters says.
MPAL has been a companion to some when they have been going through hard times, one of her supporters says. Photo credit:

Gym-goers have started a campaign to save their "silent cheerleader" who is threatened with eviction on the back of just one complaint, they say.

MPAL doesn't just have a name inspired from the gym she has made her home for the last five years - the Manurewa Pools and Leisure Centre in south Auckland - she is also a familiar and much-loved sight to the hundreds of members.

However, Auckland Council which owns the gym, has decided MPAL's time is up because she could be upsetting some of the patrons and its facilities need to be accessible for everyone.

The decision has angered members such as Jayde Matai, who is among those who have set up a petition and started a social media page.

Matai has known the cat for two years, she told First Up.

"She loves people, she's used to people and that's why we want to keep her here. She's friendlier than my cat at home."

MPAL has also been a source of comfort to people going through hard times, including one gym-goer who was diagnosed with cancer last year, Matai said.

"She's a huge companion to many ... so she's done a lot of good and we owe it to her to stand up for her basically."

In her own case a severe knee injury had meant she was unable to walk for a year and when she joined the gym for physiotherapy sessions she soon realised what the cat represented - "resilience, companionship, and hope".

"For many people like me who are battling physical or mental health issues or simply trying to stay fit amidst their busy lives MPAL is our silent cheerleader."

The community and gym staff all chipped in to care for her. She has three beds and no shortage of her favourite food - chopped chicken.

The gym opens each day at 5:30am and Matai said MPAL was usually among those queuing to be let in.

"She's just part of the family and that's when she comes inside."

Matai said some people would join her in cancelling their membership if the council followed through and removed her.

The council was proposing the change because just one person had complained, Matai said.

She was disappointed it had made its decision without an investigation or any consultation.

A petition started on Friday has already gained almost 2000 signatures and there has been a lot of supportive messages for a Facebook group.

In a statement, Auckland Council said it recognised MPAL had become a much-loved friend to many of the centre's visitors.

"However, we are aware that some of our valued customers may not be able to tolerate cats.

"Our pools and leisure centres belong to everyone to enjoy equally, and it is important for everyone to be able to access these services."

Therefore, it was considering alternatives, including possibly finding her a new home.

"We will be carefully managing any change to ensure her welfare remains a top priority."

As for how MPAL became a gym resident in the first place, Matai said it was believed she was either dumped there with her mother and other kittens or the mother came to the site to have her litter.

The SPCA was called and managed to remove the mum and most of her kittens.

"But MPAL decided she wanted to stay and kept hiding from them and she's been here ever since."