As the story on Gareth Morgan’s call for a cat genocide is staying topical, I thought I’d elaborate on why it is such a near sociopathically bad idea.
First of all, I think most would agree that yes cats eats birds. And as far as I know you can not train a cat to only eat exotic birds and leave native birds alone, so cats eat native birds and it is bad for biodiversity if a species is wiped out.
I would certainly dispute that non-feral cats alone have killed any species, as do experts.. As almost all cats live in urban areas, any impact from domestic cats is geographically limited. It is estimated 25 million birds are killed annually by predators (possums, stoats, cats feral and domestic). It is also estimated that 1 million birds are killed annually by power lines, so maybe someone will advocate we get rid of electricity to help native birds. And wind turbines are a massive killer of birds overseas – around 1,000 per wind turbine.
Now most would agree it is beneficial to not have native birds killed. But do we as a country ban wind turbines and ban electricity lines, to protect birds? Of course we don’t. Why? Because the benefits from wind turbines and power lines exceed the detrimental impact on birds.
So the question is do we get benefits from domesticated cats? Now I absolutely accept not everyone likes cats. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether people should be allowed to have a cat as a pet because they do want one.
And this is where I think Gareth Morgan and others who advocate NZ should rid itself of domestic cats have something wrong with them, and are lacking in some basic human empathy. Cats can and do play a huge role in quality of life for many New Zealanders, especially more elderly New Zealanders. The companionship they get from cats is incredibly powerful, and the bond a human can have with a pet can be incredibly strong. If you are a elderly New Zealander living by yourself (and a dog is not an option as they need exercise), a cat can make a huge difference to quality of life. And to be honest anyone who thinks a few birds are more important than the happiness so many people get from their cats, has a warped sense of priorities.
Cat owners should of course be responsible. Stick a bell on your cat and get it spayed. But advocating that NZ become the only country (except maybe Antarctica in the world that has no cats is just bonkers, and anyone who seriously advocates it has what I regard as very warped values. Nothing wrong with not liking cats yourself, but something very wrong in advocating no one should have a cat.
, Gareth Morgan