The capital’s cats are cavorting through Wellington properties at a rate of 49 million trespasses a year, according to a new study by anti-cat campaigner Gareth Morgan.
Island Bay and the rest of the Southern Ward turned out to be cat central with properties in the southern suburbs recording a “staggering”; average of four visits a day, closely followed by 2.5 visits in the central city, Morgan said.
Over four months the philanthropist economist and his researchers put five motion sensor cameras on 40 properties across the city and spotted 613 cat trespasses, averaging two infringements per day.
Given there are more than 68,000 dwellings in Wellington City, Morgan has concluded the feline wanderings work out to 49 million trespasses a year.
“We knew cats wander, but we never thought it was this bad. It’s incredible really, especially considering we were just photographing one tiny section of each property. The worst thing is that property owners have no way to stop cats from entering their property to spread disease, kill at will and generally digging up people’s gardens.”
Morgan’s concerns about cats being the major urban predator and threat to Karori’s Zealandia wildlife sanctuary were confirmed by the study.
The motion-activated wildlife cameras captured 17 times more visits by cats than all other roving predators combined.
“This confirms what we always knew; we are going to have to do something about cats if we ever want to see birds spreading out from Zealandia. Otherwise it will never attain its full conservation potential, and will be just another expensive wedding venue.”
Also captured were 27 visits by hedgehogs – which are also avid predators – nine by dogs and one by a rat.
However, despite all these visits Morgan said wandering predators were dwarfed by cats with one property clocking 17 cat visits in a single day.
Morgan undertook the study as part of his Enhancing the Halo project, which aims to turn Wellington into the “natural capital”; by encouraging people to make their backyards safe for native wildlife. Over 1000 households are taking part in activities like trapping for rats, possums and hedgehogs, however wandering cats clearly remain an issue.
Morgan is lobbying for a bylaw change to help people protect their properties from cats. Morgan said the only solution appears to be buying for a dog. The study found properties with a pet dog were less likely to be visited than others, although even those properties were by no means immune, he said.