Cats in lockdown

Meisha and Sharma discussing an escape plan. Photo: John Borren.


The Western Bay Wildlife Trust say it’s time to give cats a curfew.

They may hiss and moan about it like a socialite teenager with the same fate, but keeping them inside will help Mount Maunganui’s Little Blue Penguin population survive.

The penguin dating scene is in full swing, so locking the cat-flap now will give pets plenty of time to acclimatise to a cosier nightlife before the penguins start laying their eggs.

To make the transition easier, Western Bay Wildlife Trust chair Melissa McLuskie has some tips.

“It's really a matter of litter training, which most cats take to easily,” says Melissa.

“Setting up an environment they’re comfortable in can also make the transition easier – there are lots of products available to set up for indoor cats.

“If you need assistance with training or getting your cat adjusted to their new routine, asking your local vet clinic for advice is a great option.”

Assuming Snuggles is far too sweet and full of Fancy Feast to prey on unborn Little Blue Penguin chicks is a dangerous game.

“Cats are extremely good hunters, even if they’re well fed!

“They’re more active at dawn and dusk and some throughout the night. Having less activity and people around makes it the perfect time to hunt.”

The Little Blue Penguin population was unknown until the Rena oil spill in 2011. After catching, cleaning and releasing 350 penguins affected by the spill, it was estimated that around 1400 penguins in total live in the area, mainly on Mauao, Moturiki and Motuotau.

“Because of the urban environment our penguin population is in and the high visitor numbers we encounter, we really rely on the community to help protect our local wildlife by being responsible pet owners.”

Looking at the local penguins available to sponsor on the Western Bay Wildlife Trust website is great incentive to refuse Snuggles’ persuasive, big-eyed stare.

Nola’s profile shows her next to an empty egg shell and reads that she’s “been through some pretty tough times, losing her two chicks to a dog last year, just a few weeks before they were due to leave the nest”.

The money raised through penguin sponsorship goes towards monitoring, habitat restoration, education and advocacy efforts.

“The public can also help our Little Blue Penguins by backyard trapping to reduce rats and mustelids.”

Melissa says keeping cats inside at night year-round gives the Little Blue Penguin population the best shot at survival.

So sit down with your cat, and tell them to think about the vulnerable in their animal community. Staying home, in their domestic-cat team of 1.4million, could save lives.

All cats we spoke to decline to comment.

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