New Zealand to eradicate pet cats?Purr-ish the thought!

Pet cat

Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of pet cats that threaten native birds. But the environmental advocate has triggered a claws-out backlash with his anti-feline campaign.

Morgan called on his countrymen Tuesday to make their current cat their last in order to save the nation's unique bird species. He set up a website, called Cats To Go, depicting a tiny kitten with red devil's horns. The opening line: ``That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer.''

He doesn't recommended people euthanize their current cats _ ``Not necessarily but that is an option'' are the site's exact words _ but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die. Morgan, an economist and well-known businessman, also suggests people keep cats indoors and that local governments make registration mandatory.

Morgan's campaign is not sitting well in a country that boasts one of the highest cat ownership rates in the world.

``I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives,'' Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the current affairs television show Campbell Live. ``Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family.''

For thousands of years, New Zealand's native birds had no predators and flourished. Some species, like the kiwi, became flightless. But the arrival of mankind and its introduction of predators like cats, dogs and rodents have wiped out some native bird species altogether and endangered many others.

``Imagine a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife, penguins on the beach, kiwis roaming about in your garden,'' Morgan writes on his website. ``Imagine hearing birdsong in our cities.''

But many New Zealanders are against the campaign. Even on Morgan's website, about 70 percent of respondents were voting against making their current cat their last.

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