Responsible cat ownership

Responsible cat ownership

In Whangārei, if your cat is six months or older, it is mandatory to desex and microchip it, and register the microchip with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register. These procedures are considered part of being a responsible pet owner.

Cat owners are responsible for the cost of these procedures.

If you're a registered cat breeder, or your vet gives your cat an exemption for a medical reason, you will not have to desex your cat.

Why should I microchip and desex my cat?

Desexing and microchipping is good for our cats and good for our native wildlife!

Female cats can start reproducing from the age of five months and have up to four litters of six kittens every year.

Desexing benefits include:

  • less unwanted litters and strays which prey on wildlife like native birds and lizards to survive
  • your cat is less likely to roam and be a victim of a road accident
  • your cat is less likely to fight with other cats which can lead to injury and infection

Microchipping and registering your cat means vets, animal shelters and councils can easily contact the owner of lost cats. It's especially important during a civil defence emergency or if the cat is sick, injured or disorientated.

Cats are often presumed to be strays and are taken to shelters by well-meaning people, but may belong to people nearby. Microchipping and registering your cat means they can be easily reunited with their family.

What is microchipping and how do I register my cat?

A microchip is a permanent method of identification. The chip is about the same size as a grain of rice and is placed under the skin by a vet by injection. It is the same as having an injection, although the needle is slightly larger. Cats tolerate the procedure well.

Each chip has a unique identification code which can be read by an electronic scanner. The code is recorded alongside the owner's contact details on a national database, the New Zealand Companion Animal Register, operated by Companion Animals New Zealand, a registered charity.

In addition to the microchipping costs there is a one-off registration fee of $15 when you register pets online yourself. Most commonly this is done for you at the time of your vet visit (cost will vary) or by SPCA or cat rescues at the time of adoption.

Owners can access the database and update their personal details if their phone numbers or address change.

New Zealand Companion Animal Register (animalregister.co.nz)

What is the minimum age to get my cat microchipped or desexed?

Our Animals Bylaw requires all cats more than six months old to be microchipped and desexed.

Your vet or local desexing clinic will be able to provide advice on the best time for your cat to be desexed and microchipped.

How much will it cost me to microchip and desex my cat?

Desexing cats in Whangārei costs from $60 for male cats and $80 for female cats.

Microchipping costs around $60, and the one-off registration fee with Companion Animals NZ currently costs $15.

Vets determine their charges, so costs will vary. Whangārei also has a desexing clinic that offers desexing and microchipping.

It's also good to check in with local cat welfare organisations or the SPCA if you are on a low income to see what help they may be able to give towards desexing.

How will Council be able to tell if cats are microchipped and / or desexed?

Cats can be scanned to see if they have a microchip.

Vets can provide a desexing certificate to owners if they've completed the surgery.

Will Council fine me if I don't follow the rules?

There are currently no fines.

However, if we find out you have a cat that isn't desexed, we'll contact you to remind you of the requirement to desex and microchip your cat as well as provide some guidance on how to achieve that.

An owner who repeatedly refuses to microchip and / or desex their cat may be prosecuted for breach of the Animals Bylaw.

Why has Council introduced mandatory desexing and microchipping?

During the review of our Animals Bylaw the public told us they wanted greater controls for cats. We received 1304 submissions about cats and there was strong support for cat microchipping and desexing.

Along with mandatory desexing and microchipping we’re also establishing a new role for an Animal Compliance Education Officer focusing on cats and $15,000 per year to support the SPCA’s ‘Snip and Chip’ programme, for the first three years of Council’s 2021-2031 Long Term Plan, providing discounted microchipping and desexing for cats.

What if my cat is too old to have the desexing surgery?

If your vet deems your cat is too old or sick to undergo desexing surgery then you will need to supply a vet certificate and your cat will be given an exemption.

What else can I do to minimise the harm my cat has on other people, animals and the environment?

Here are some other suggestions for being a responsible cat owner:

  • use a deterrent collar to reduce your cat’s ability to catch native birds.
  • give your cat a curfew to avoid night time hunting.
  • cat aviaries are a popular measure used a lot overseas to keep cats safe and confined but give them some outdoor exercise.
  • make sure your cats do not use neighbour’s gardens for toileting.