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Cat Policy Adopted By Forest And Bird

Forest and Bird adopted a Cat Policy at its recent June Council Meeting in Wellington. Feral cats are a real threat to many native bird species.

Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer, Karli Thomas, said that the Cat Policy has been well received. "We have had positive feedback from Forest and Bird members, branches and other organisations such as the SPCA."

The goal of the Forest and Bird Cat Policy is to promote the protection of native species by minimising the impact of cats on native wildlife, while recognising the role that cats play as companion animals.

"Ideally, this goal would be achieved through ensuring that every cat in New Zealand is a responsibly owned and cared for domestic cat," Ms Thomas said.

Forest and Bird hopes to work with other organisations involved in the management of cats. "I believe we share this goal with many other organisations including the SPCA, Veterinary Association and Companion Animal Council," Ms Thomas said.

The development of a Cat Policy allows Forest and Bird and other organisations to clearly set out their policy before working together on issues of mutual concern. "We know there are areas of disagreement, but we also realise the benefit of working together on issues that we agree upon," Ms Thomas said.

Areas of agreement include raising public awareness to encourage responsible cat ownership, and the control of feral cats.

ENDS

Forest and Bird Cat Policy

Goal

The goal of this policy is to promote the protection of native species by minimising the impact of cats on native wildlife, while recognising the role that cats play as companion animals. Ideally, this goal would be achieved through ensuring that every cat in New Zealand is a responsibly owned and cared for domestic cat.

Objectives

To reduce the impact of domestic cats on native wildlife by encouraging people to follow the principles of responsible cat ownership.

To reduce the impact of stray and feral cats on native wildlife by removing them using humane and environmentally sound methods.

To work constructively with other organisations involved in cat management to reduce the impact of cats on native wildlife.

Policies

1. Categories of cat

1.1 Forest and Bird recognises three categories of cat; domestic, stray and feral (see definitions pages 2 - 3) which are consistent with the categories recognised by other organisations involved in cat management.

2. Domestic cats

2.1 Forest and Bird recognises the role of cats as companion animals, and advocates responsible ownership of domestic cats based on the principles of responsible cat ownership (page 3).

2.2 Forest and Bird seeks that in or near areas where the indigenous wildlife are at risk of predation by cats, "wildlife friendly" status should be given to private land through Resource Management Act tools (including, where possible, plans, policy statements, and resource consent conditions). Wildlife friendly status prevents the ownership of cats and other predators by occupiers as pets.

2.3 Forest and Bird advocates greater legal responsibility by cat owners, including legislation requiring registration, identification and desexing* of domestic cats. * Except for breeding cats, which should be registered as such and kept in compliance with the standards of New Zealand Cat Fancy.

3. Stray cats

3.1 Forest and Bird supports the removal of stray cat populations from both urban and rural areas, and advocates greater responsibility from councils in dealing with stray cat problems in their area. Stray cat populations can be removed by domesticating, desexing and finding suitable homes for the cats or by humanely euthanasing the cats. Programmes to remove cats should be accompanied by control of prey species such as rodents.

4. Feral cats

4.1 Forest and Bird supports the eradication of feral cats from all areas of habitat, ensuring that trapping is carried out in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act and cats are killed humanely, and that eradication programmes include pest species that are prey of cats. Forest and Bird advocates greater responsibility from councils in dealing with feral cats, through their inclusion as pests in Regional Pest Management Strategies.

5. Conservation programmes requiring predator control

5.1 Predator control, including cat removal, should be carried out humanely, efficiently and effectively, in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and Forest and Bird's guidelines for branches involved in trapping and control. 5.2 Where conservation programmes include predator control, a statement on the aims and methods for control should be produced to act as a guide for staff and volunteers and ensure compliance with Forest and Bird guidelines.

6. Other organisations

6.1 Forest and Bird acknowledges the benefit of working with other groups involved in cat management, and will seek to work alongside other groups where goals for cat management are shared.

Further information

Definitions of cat categories

Domestic cats are owned and cared for by humans. They rely on humans for their basic needs including food, shelter and veterinary care. Even well fed domestic cats retain and use their hunting instinct, however responsible ownership can minimise the impact of a domestic cat on the local wildlife.

Stray cats are unowned cats, which live in or around human populations. They include abandoned domestic cats and cats born to strays. Stray cats rely on human populations for some of their needs, most of their food being scavenged from or provided by people. Stray cat populations often breed with and are added to from the population of domestic cats. It is possible to domesticate stray cats, thus reducing their impact on wildlife and improving their quality of life.

Feral cats are essentially wild animals that do not rely on humans for any of their needs. They live in the wild, often far from human populations, and survive through hunting and scavenging their food. Feral cat populations are self-sustaining and have the greatest impact on native wildlife. Feral cats may exist through necessity in colonies, although this is an unnatural and stressful situation for a territorial animal such as the cat.

Principles of responsible cat ownership

* Being committed to caring for your cat throughout its life
* Not giving cats or kittens as gifts
* Desexing your cat
* Never abandoning a cat
* Providing proper care for cats while on holiday
* Using identification, either a secure collar and tag or a microchip
* Ensuring your cat is able to exercise and play (e.g. with moving toys)
* Keeping your cat inside at night
* Feeding your cat indoors, and not leaving food out for stray or feral cats
* Protecting wildlife in your garden (e.g. preventing cat access to bird feeders and trees with nests)

(NOTE: Evidence suggests that neither bells nor warning collars are effective in reducing cat predation.)

<<...>> Forest and Bird Cat Policy Background Information

Introduction

The objective of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is the preservation and protection of the indigenous flora and fauna and natural features of New Zealand, for the benefit of the public including future generations.

New Zealand, as an isolated country with a long evolution history has a unique flora and fauna. Having evolved free of mammalian predators, our bird and insect life is unique - and vulnerable to introduced predators.

New Zealand's environment is under threat from a wide range of introduced species, many of which have been brought to New Zealand intentionally. Forest and Bird recognises the need to protect our native wildlife from introduced predators and competitors.

Domestic cats in society

Cats have been domesticated for over 3,000 years, originally from the North African and Asian wild cat. The domestic cat, Felis catus is now found world-wide and is a central part of human society, their role as a companion animal having been long recognised.

In New Zealand, cats are the most popular domestic pets with 47% of households owning at least one cat. Our cat per human population is one of the highest in the world, and New Zealanders keep around 4 - 5 times more cats than dogs.

Effects of cats on native wildlife

Feral cats are genetically identical to domestic cats, and feral cat populations have become established in many countries, particularly where there are few native carnivores. Cats are natural hunters, and prey on small mammals, birds, lizards and insects. A highly efficient predator, cats have contributed to much extinction world-wide, including 26% of extinctions of birds from islands.

New Zealand native wildlife is particularly vulnerable to predation by cats. Having evolved without predators, many of our bird species nest on the ground, and are flightless or poor flyers. Although cats are good climbers, the majority of their hunting is done on the ground.

Purpose of Forest and Bird's Cat Policy

In order to achieve the objective of the Society (above), it is necessary to protect our native wildlife from introduced predators. In the case of cats, the important role of domestic cats in society must be recognised.

The goal of this policy is to promote the protection of native species by minimising the impact of cats on native wildlife, while recognising the role that cats play as companion animals. Ideally, this goal would be achieved through ensuring that every cat in New Zealand is a responsibly owned domestic cat. Achieving this means reducing the populations of stray and feral cats, and promoting responsible ownership of cats.

Benefits of producing a Cat Policy

In order to work effectively together, it is important that Forest and Bird and other organisations involved with cats, clearly set out their policies. By doing so, we can identify where our goals are the same, and where we hold different views. Identifying shared goals will help us work cooperatively towards these goals. Where policies differ, organisations are able to set out the reasoning behind their policy, and prevent counter-productive misunderstandings.

Definitions: domestic, stray and feral cats

While all cats belong to one species, Felis catus, they fall into different categories that need to be considered separately. Recognising this, Forest and Bird has developed appropriate policies for each of the following categories of cat.

Domestic cats are owned and cared for by humans. They rely on humans for their basic needs including food, shelter and veterinary care. Even well fed domestic cats retain and use their hunting instinct, however responsible ownership can minimise the impact of a domestic cat on the local wildlife.

Stray cats are unowned cats, which live in or around human populations. They include abandoned domestic cats and cats born to strays. Stray cats rely on human populations for some of their needs, most of their food being scavenged from or provided by people. Stray cat populations often breed with and are added to from the population of domestic cats.

Feral cats are essentially wild animals that do not rely on humans for any of their needs. They live in the wild, often far from human populations, and survive through hunting and scavenging their food. Feral cat populations are self-sustaining and have the greatest impact on native wildlife.

Other organisations

The best way to protect native wildlife from cats and to promote responsible cat ownership is through cooperation. Forest and Bird will work wherever possible with other organisations seeking the same or similar goals. These may include:

The Department of Conservation (DoC) New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) Regional Councils and Territorial Local Authorities Conservation organisations Animal welfare groups

References

Forest and Bird advice on conservation programmes requiring trapping (currently being developed)

New Zealand Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) Cat Policy

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Auckland (SPCA) Cat Position Paper

New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) Cat Policy

Animal Welfare Act 1999

King, C. (editor) 1990 - The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals. Oxford University Press.

King, C. 1984 - Immigrant Killers - Introduced predators and the conservation of birds in New Zealand. Oxford University Press.

Christine Andricksen Secretary to Conservation Manager Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc Central Office 172 Taranaki Street PO Box 631 WELLINGTON

Ph: 04 385-7374 Fax: 04 385-7373 e-mail: c.andricksen@wn.forest-bird.org.nz www.forest-bird.org.nz


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