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Could keeping cats at home become the norm in New Zealand?

Milo the cat has returned home after being missing for eight days with injuries.
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Anthony Phelps/STUFF

Milo the cat has returned home after being missing for eight days with injuries.

While it may be “unusual” for the council to ask people to keep their cats from roaming, a predator-free organization says there are good reasons why they should be contained.

Marlborough County Council recently sent a letter from a Blenheim woman, Brenda Green, stating that her cat Milo was a nuisance to her neighbour.

The letter said the council’s bylaws required Green to ensure her cat was not a nuisance – meaning she was not allowed to roam outside the property.

The council said it had taken an “educated approach” to the regulation and asked pet owners to sort out any issues themselves.

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Jesse Morgan, CEO of the Predator Free New Zealand Trust, realized that there were 20 councils across the country that had cat-specific provisions — but often this had to do with the number of cats a household could have, or exact shipping and sex removal.

Meanwhile, some councils, such as the City of Hamilton and Horowhenoa District, had bylaws regarding animal nuisance. This means that anyone who owns an animal must ensure that it is kept in conditions that will not cause discomfort to others.

Abigail Dougherty/Staff

New Zealand wheels are in danger at Snells Beach in Auckland. A local resident caught a cat on camera picking up blob eggs from a nest and playing with them.

Others had regulations about keeping animals, bees, and poultry. Dog management regulations were also common.

“It’s unusual for them [council] I asked the owner to stop the cat’s wandering,” Morgan said.

“In New Zealand legislation, cats are really interesting because there’s nothing really to catch them, and so I was understanding that there isn’t much you can do about a cat wandering around on your property.”

Predator Free New Zealand Trust CEO Jesse Morgan.

New Zealand Predator Free/Supplied

Predator Free New Zealand Trust CEO Jesse Morgan.

This is why there have been calls from some for a national cat law, so that New Zealand has some blanket rules about containing cats.

Morgan said there appears to have been a shift in the discussion about what responsible cat ownership means in New Zealand.

“For generations, we’ve let our cats roam … because there are very few things that will harm them when they roam free.

“While for many countries around the world, owners don’t let them roam freely because coyotes or snakes are preying on them, or other predators are killing or injuring them.

“We are seeing this change in New Zealand as people become more aware of the impacts of cats on our biodiversity. But it is also healthier and safer for cats to stay home.”

In the meantime, she said, there are some steps people can take to prevent a cat from leaving her property – which would help protect native species.

“Cats are very unusual because they hunt for fun. They are not necessarily looking for food. So even a well-fed cat will still hunt.

After he went missing, Milo's owner received a note claiming he was a nuisance to a neighbor.

Anthony Phelps/STUFF

After he went missing, Milo’s owner received a note claiming he was a nuisance to a neighbor.

“Now the SPCA actually recommends that when you are raising a cat that you raise it as an indoor cat, because it is the best thing for the cat, and it is the best thing for the wild.

“Cats have been growing up in apartments all over the world for years, and they are perfectly happy, and I think as long as their owners give them lots of pats, and have some stimulation they can live perfectly happy lives as indoor cats. This is not unusual.”