Cat lovers might want to start avoiding New Zealand, as a local village debates banning feline friends. For increasing numbers of people, pets are family - whether those pets are dogs, cats, lizards, or any other variety of creature. Even those who don’t go quite so far as to call their furry friends their ‘children’, pets are hugely important to most, and the benefits of pet ownership have been well documented. Studies have shown that having cats can lower the risk of heart disease, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and a host of other health benefits.


However, legislation surrounding pets is nothing new, with many cities requiring four legged friends to be registered with the city. Some areas also have rules on leashing, microchipping, and breeding, as well as limiting the number of pets permitted per family - but a New Zealand village is taking this kind of legislation to the extreme, and debating banning cats altogether!

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The village of Omaui, on the coast of Southland, New Zealand, is considering a ‘pest plan’ proposal that seeks to make the area cat free by the year 2050. Should the proposal pass, it will require residents who have cats to have them sterilized and microchipped, and will make it illegal for anyone to acquire a new cat. Once an animal passes away, they cannot be replaced. Residents are being given two months to comment on the proposal before a decision is made.

Those who support the ban say that cats are simply too damaging to the local wildlife, and to the nature reserves and bush reserves nearby. The Omaui Landcare Trust claims that they are all for ‘responsible pet ownership’ but that Omaui is not a suitable place for cats to live. However, resident cat owners are upset about the proposal, who feel that it is unfair. Some residents who use cats for rodent control have even said that it would be unhealthy for them to live without a cat.

The issue of domestic cats as invasive species who cause harm to wildlife is nothing new, but this proposal is certainly a drastic response to the problem. It also only applies to pet owners who allow their cats outside unsupervised - which increasing numbers of pet lovers do not do. The increasing popularity of leash-training cats and outdoor ‘catios’ (wire mesh enclosures and perches attached to the inside of a home) show that more and more cat lovers are moving away from the feeling that cats should be free to come and go as they please. For Omaui residents who keep their cats indoors, this new ban would seem to be a punishment for a crime that they are not committing.

There may also be other issues with the plan to make the village ‘cat free’ in the next few decades; feral cat colonies also exist here, and are certainly a part of the problem, but they cannot simply be legislated away. A concerted trapping effort would have to be made, and many would consider it cruel to do away with the wild cat population. Many cat owners may also simply choose to flout the ban and keep their cats in secret. It remains to be seen if this proposal will pass, of course, but if it does, cat lovers may end up having to choose between keeping cats as pets, and keeping Omaui as their home.

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Source: Travel & Leisure