SAYit Blog
Cats

Some of you may have seen some of our research commented on in the media earlier in the week. The research has been interpreted as supporting Gareth Morgan's campaign on cats, but I don't think it's anywhere near as clear cut as that.  This blog gives SAYit members the chance to see the results of the full poll, including some information that wasn't in the news reports.  The results are from a SAYit poll asked in January, and weren't commissioned by Gareth Morgan or any other third party.

The media reports focussed on one statistic: the fact that 54% of New Zealanders supported some form of controls that would reduce the future population of cats, once told that an Otago University study estimates 1.12 million native birds are killed by domestic cats each year in New Zealand. The question cannot, however, be treated in isolation: the other questions in the survey make clear that the sorts of controls people are actually prepared to have are actually pretty mild.

  • 62% believe that all cats should be neutered or spayed.
  • 57% think that cats should be banned from areas near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks
  • 53% believe that all cats should be registered and microchipped
  • 42% consider that all cats should wear bells
  • Just 12% believe that cat owners should not replace their cats when they die
  • Only 7% think that cats should be kept indoors at all times of the day.

Care is needed when interpreting some of these results.

  • In the question on banning cats from near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks, I suspect that many people would have used a reasonably narrow definition of the word 'near' (e.g. within a few streets of the park boundary).  It would be stretching the case to say that the poll supports banning cats from whole suburbs or towns (like Karori, which is adjacent to the Zealandia wildlife reserve, or Ohakune, which is near the boundary of Tongariro National Park).
  • I've frequently seen support for initiatives like registration and microchipping fall once people found out how they would work in practice.  From what I've heard it frequently costs around $100 to get a dog registered and microchipped (sometimes more), and you'd have to imagine that getting a cat registered and microchipped wouldn't be too different from that.  Because the cost of registration and microchipping aren't known we can't really put them in the question.

The level of support for cats wearing bells interests me because it's lower than support for microchipping or banning cats from certain areas, despite the fact that the cost would almost certainly be much lower. Is the resistance due to the fact that it's often hard to get a cat to wear a bell (which they frequently lose anyway), or to a belief that it wouldn't do much good?

While 54% of us do favour some sorts of controls, it seems likely that many favour milder measures like ensuring that cats are neutered and wearing bells, but not the stronger measures like keeping them indoors at all times.

We also asked New Zealanders how many cats they had:

  • 51% had no cats
  • 30% had one cat
  • 14% had two cats
  • 6% had three or more cats.

The research showed big differences between people who owned cats and people who didn't on these questions, but the number of cats people had didn't seem to matter that much. We'd thought that maybe people with three or more cats might be less keen than people with just one cat on methods to reduce the cat population, but the differences aren't as big as we'd expected.

  • 66% of people who do not have a cat believed that cats should be banned from near wildlife reserves etc., compared with 48% of those with one cat, 43% of those with two cats and 38% of those with three or more cats.
  • 64% of those with no cats thought that all cats should be registered and microchipped, compared with 44% of those with one cat, 42% of those with two cats and 37% of those with three or more cats.
  • 56% of people who do not have a cat thought that all cats should wear bells, compared with 38% of those with one cat, 25% of those with two cats and 18% of those with three or more cats.
  • 11% of those with no cats believe that cats should be indoors at all times, compared with 2% of those with one cat, 2% of those with two cats and 2% of those with three or more cats.

It's been pointed out that our poll didn't include one of the other options suggested by Gareth Morgan:

  • if someone else's cat comes onto your property, should you be allowed to trap it and take it to a pound or the SPCA? 

For completeness, we'll make that this week's SAYit Facebook poll - visit http://www.facebook.com/sayitnz to vote on that.