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Pest cats

Pest cats

Updated 25 June 2020 4:19pm

For many people a cat is an adored companion, but unowned cats can have devastating impact on our native animals. 

Why are pest cats a problem?

The term pest cat covers feral and stray cats that are unowned and live independently from people, and are not companion or pet cats. These cats can:

  • Kill native birds and their eggs, native lizards, fish, frogs and large invertebrates
  • Cause a nuisance by spraying and defecating, scavenging rubbish
  • Fight and injure, or mate with, domestic cats
  • Carry Bovine Tb and a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis

See the Regional Pest Management Plan 2019-2039 for more information about pest cats. 

Brown Kiwis, Banded Dotterels and Saddlebacks are some of the species that need protection from pest cats. To protect these and other native species we undertake pest cat control in Key Native Ecosystem sites and work with local councils. 

What to do if you see a pest cat

A cat that appears to be unowned may in fact be missing from its home. Cats wander long distances, particularly if frightened by something or confused by injury or illness.

If you suspect a cat is someone’s pet:

  • Ask around to check if anyone knows who the cat belongs to
  • Contact the SPCA for advice and help - see the SPCA's Found an animal guide 
  • Use the Lost Pets website to post a found cat notice or view lost cat listings free of charge.

Do not touch, pick up, feed or provide shelter to a pest cat. They can be aggressive and can spread disease. See a doctor if you have been scratched or bitten by a feral or stray cat.

For advice on pest cats in your area, contact:

Approach to pest cat control

In areas where domestic cats are present, specially designed cages must be used to capture cats safely and alive.

If a domestic cat with a microchip is caught by mistake then it can be released or returned to its owner.

All live capture traps must be checked daily within 12 hours after sunrise. Find out more about Animal Welfare requirements for live trapping.

More information

Be a responsible cat owner - Caring for cats and cat owner requirements in Wellington City 

Feral and Stray Cats: Monitoring and control, A preliminary guideline towards good practice

Research by NIWA on the effect of toxoplasmosis on Maui and Hectors dolphins

Bionet - information about pests and disease in New Zealand