New Zealand Economist: Abolish Pet Cats to Save Birds

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If New Zealand businessman Gareth Morgan has his druthers, it could all be over for Fluffy and pals: The economist and environmental proponent wants to see his country rid of pets that pose a danger to native birds — namely cats.

“That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer,” reads the Cats to Go campaign section of Morgan’s website. “Every year cats in New Zealand destroy our native wildlife. The fact is that cats have to go if we really care about our environment.”

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New Zealand plays home to an enormous array of native birds species, but the island nation’s human inhabitants have the highest cat ownership rate in the world: 28% of households have one cat; another 20% have two or more. Since those cats are preying on the country’s native birds — in many cases to the point of extinction, says Morgan — one or the other has to go. Morgan’s voting cats, though he’s aware that won’t win him any popularity contests. At present, 72% of respondents are voting no to a poll on Morgan’s site that asks the question “In the interest of protecting native species would you consider not replacing your cat with a new one when it dies?”

“If you are reading this there is a good chance that you are a cat owner and you are probably upset at the thought of getting rid of your beloved pet,” writes Morgan, urging readers to consider the relevant statistics. Like: New Zealand’s record cat ownership rates, as noted, but also that cats have so far contributed to the extinction of nine native bird species, and presently threaten 33 more.

“New Zealand is the last refuge of a huge range of bird species, we’re famous for our claim to be clean and green, and some of us have recognized the huge economic benefit, let alone the ecological dividend, from achieving a Predator Free New Zealand,” he adds.

How far would he go? Should New Zealanders consider euthanizing their feline friends? Morgan isn’t calling for the immediate liquidation of pet cats, but in his site’s Q&A section, he does say euthanasia “is an option.”

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But no, he’s generally advocating that people take an informed approach to a serious problem: “We appreciate the fact that you have an emotional connection with your pet and that pet ownership is a rewarding experience … If you think NZ’s native species are precious and should be fostered then it’s important you be a responsible cat owner. That means keep them inside 24 hours a day and if that’s impractical then when the time comes ensure this is the last cat you ever own.”

If your cat never goes outside, in other words, consider Snowball, Max and Missy off the hook.