Example Conversation.


Topic: Should domestic cats be eradicated?

Emine Saner: Do you think owning a cat should be made more difficult?

Tom Cox: All cats should be chipped. A cat licence could work, definitely.

Emine Saner: The study in the US published this week showed stray and feral cats were the bigger problem than domestic cats, although these contributed to the killing of birds and mammals, too. Gareth, are you concerned about domestic cats as well?

Gareth Morgan: For me, it’s all cats. I would love New Zealand to have no predators at all. Well, that’s a bit extreme – what I mean is no non-confined predators. I’m fine with dogs on leashes. I’m happy with cats as long as they’re confined. Our cat population is exploding, and it is ferals and strays who are free to roam.

Tom Cox: It’s that question about what nature is. You could say it’s not natural for cats to be here killing so many birds, but that’s part of nature in itself – the fact that, however many thousands of years ago, we realised cats were good at hunting rats and mice, and it’s evolved into this thing where they’re now wonderful companions to people. It’s part of the question of what is natural.

Emine Saner: Cats are responsible for the deaths of wildlife all over the world. Do you think other countries should consider getting rid of their cats?

Gareth Morgan: That’s not for me to say. That’s a national conversation. I did this to spark the national conversation in New Zealand – I didn’t expect it to go all around the world.

The problem is that you get swamped with the numbers of cats, that’s the issue. Let me put this another way – we do this with stray dogs, but not with cats. Why the discrimination? I think it comes down to the strength of the cat lobby.

Tom Cox: There’s the cliche of the crazy cat lady, and people who don’t like cats say cat-lovers are weirdos. That’s not true – cat lovers are mostly people with a lot of compassion, but there is a minuscule percentage of people who are a little bit over-the-top about cats. I imagine that would be a challenge you might face, Gareth. Have you ever had a cat?

Gareth Morgan: Absolutely. We have cats in the family now – my daughter has one. But it is confined, and that’s the issue, really.

Emine Saner: Could you see a point where cats become indoor-only pets?

Tom Cox: That’s never the way I’ve lived with cats, apart from a short period when I lived in a flat in London. I didn’t feel they were happy. Sometimes I feel, when I meet some people’s indoor cats, they seem a bit dopey, like they’re not properly having the life they should.

Gareth Morgan: I suppose I’d put it another way: do we wait until all our endemic species are extinct and then wonder what we’ve done? That’s up for the public to decide. There is a trade-off here. I’m asking for them to be confined. We’re at a tipping point in New Zealand. We have the highest rate of cat-ownership in the world – 48% of households have one or more cats. It’s a different situation elsewhere, which is why I’m reluctant to translate the New Zealand experience anywhere else. What I’m advocating, policy-wise, for local councils is to trap wandering cats, and if they’re chipped, they go back to the owner. Whether they fine the owner or not – that’s none of my business. I’m not talking about any euthanasia of owned cats.

Emine Saner: But you have said that people shouldn’t replace their cats when they die naturally?

Gareth Morgan: There are people who would find it far too hard to confine them, either physically, or they wouldn’t feel right about it. In those instances, I’m saying make this cat your last, because you owe it to the New Zealand fauna not to let your cat roam.


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