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Cat lovers slam campaign to eradicate pets

09:31 Wed Jan 23 2013

New Zealand's cat lovers have reacted with scorn to an economist's campaign to rid the country of their beloved feline pets.

Economist Gareth Morgan is calling on Kiwis to keep their pets indoors 24 hours a day, neuter them and do not replace them when they die.

He claims these measures are the best way to save the country's unique bird species.

Dr Morgan's website, Cats To Go, depicts a tiny kitten with red devil's horns and tells visitors: "That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer."

But the backlash has been equally fierce.

"Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family," said Bob Kerridge, president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Even on Morgan's website, 71 percent of respondents were voting against his proposal to make their current cat their last.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper said it was "flooded" with feedback, "most of it from cat-owners who said the campaign was misguided."

Readers claimed the real threat to birdlife was herbicide and agricultural chemicals, and insisted that cats controlled pests like rats and mice.

Forty-eight percent of households in New Zealand own at least one cat and the total cat population is 1.4 million, according to a 2011 survey.

However, the Herald cited University of Otago research showing that domestic cats killed at least 1.1 million native birds a year.

"No matter how well you feed them, they still want to come and show you the bird they have caught," a spokesman from the Royal Bird and Forest Protection Society was quoted as saying.