New Zealand environmental activist wants to ban cats as pets

In a country that's crazy about their cats, economist Gareth Morgan has his work cut out for him. Concerned about the threat that cats are placing on New Zealand's native bird population, he has launched a campaign to make the country free of felines. But given that New Zealanders own more cats per capita than most other parts of the world, it's very unlikely that Morgan's wish will be granted.

To make it happen, Morgan set up a website called Cats to Go that encourages people to make their current cat their last.

New Zealand environmental activist wants to ban cats as petsS

"That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer," he writes. "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."

Morgan is hoping that people will gradually phase out the cat population — and all in the name of saving New Zealand's native bird species.

He does not advocate for euthanasia (though the website states: "Not necessarily but that is an option"), and would rather that the cats be neutered. He also wants to see cats kept indoors and a mandatory registry created.

But the hisses of outrage have already begun. Most New Zealanders aren't taking kindly to Morgan's plan. As the Associated Press reports:

New Zealand environmental activist wants to ban cats as petsS

A 2011 survey by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council found that 48 percent of households in New Zealand owned at least one cat, a significantly higher rate than in other developed nations. The survey put the total cat population at 1.4 million.

In the U.S., 33 percent of households own at least one cat for a total of 86 million domestic cats, according to a 2012 survey by the American Pet Products Association.

As to the environmental impact of cats, scientists say Morgan has a point, and that cats have likely contributed to the extinction of at least half a dozen New Zealand bird species.

Sources: Cats to Go, AP, The Atavism, Stuff.co.nz.

Top image: Pete Pahham/Shutterstock; Image via Stuff.co.nz.