Cats have nine lives too many for Kiwi economist

Domestic cats are cute, and killing machines

Gareth Morgan thinks New Zealand should wean itself off its cat addiction.

The economist says he has nothing personal against felines, but claims the “natural-born killers” are slaughtering native birds across the country—some of them endangered—and must be stopped.

Now, a prominent science journal is giving Morgan’s crusade new life. Nature last month published research accusing domestic cats of killing a staggering four billion birds in the U.S. every year, and more than 20 billion small mammals—far more than previously thought.

Morgan, for his part, is urging government to require that cats be registered, chipped and neutered, and is asking owners to keep their cats indoors and not to replace them when they die. “I like lions and tigers, too, but they shouldn’t be running around freely,” Morgan says. The New Zealander’s proposals aren’t without precedent. Since Australia enacted similar rules in the mid-1990s, the country’s domestic cat population has dropped by 20 per cent. He’s up against some mighty opposition: 48 per cent of New Zealand households own a cat, the highest proportion in the world.

“You’d think I was the devil incarnate for suggesting this,” he jokes.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.