As we work towards our goal of Predator Free 2050, it is becoming clearer that our native birds, lizards, and bats are in many cases severely threatened by cats. Cats are our much loved pets, but what about pest cats? There is more and more discussion about how New Zealanders can strike the right balance between protecting our unique biodiversity as well as appreciating the pets which many Kiwis enjoy - that's Kiwi with a capital K.


The fate of two of Aotearoa New Zealand's rarest species, the critically endangered Māui Dolphin, numbering just 54 individuals, as well as the endangered Hector's Dolphin are also now hanging in the balance due to cat-faeces-transmitted toxoplasmosis.

Local government cannot solve the cat problem alone. It will take a whole-of-government approach as well as funding if we are manage our cats and improve the way we look after our native species. 

As many councils invest more effort and funds into conserving our valued natural habitats and protecting our native biodiversity, our laissez-faire approach to cats comes into increasingly sharper focus. The Dog Control Act 1996 has obviously been around for some time, yet we currently have no equivalent legislation pertaining to cats. It's most certainly a polarising topic and often a politically hot potato.

Regulating breeders

One of the solutions being proposed to the Government is to regulate the breeding of domestic cats in order to avoid unwanted litters. Limiting breeding to registered breeders could help stem the numbers of cats that become stray or feral. 

Many councils have partnered with other organisations, such as the SPCA, to run cheap snip-and-chip programmes.

Registration of cats

Another proposal is mandatory registration of cats. Some councils have passed bylaws requiring desexing and registration. Many have passed bylaws limiting the numbers of cats allowed at each household. However, enforcement of cats has problems, as the saying goes – 'it’s like trying to herd cats' – controlling them is a challenge. 

More tools are needed if NZ Inc. wants greater cat controls. Those tools should include support for cat owners.

Education could be key

Responsible cat ownership needs to become a new cultural norm if we are to protect our native species. Education and communication to change attitudes towards cats are vital in the fight to protect our biodiversity.

Reducing the number of feral and stray cats

There is little contention about reducing stray and feral cat numbers, even though some stray cats are loved. 

There are councils undertaking work on reducing stray cats in urban areas, and regional councils are working to reduce feral cats in the bush. But there is more that needs to be done to reduce the impact of household cats on our biodiversity.

Petition to Parliament

The Government is looking at what can be done at a national level and has picked up some momentum from a petition from ecologist Erica Rowlands. Parliament's Environment Committee is considering evidence relating to the petition.

Get in touch

Please email Susan Haniel our Senior Advisor, Sector Improvement for further information.