Good cat ownership guidelines

 In association with SPCA



Caring for your cat

Cats are a popular pet in Whakatū Nelson, and Nelson City Council in association with SPCA supports responsible pet ownership.

Part of responsible ownership is providing your cat with nutritious food and a safe, healthy home with activities and play.

Your cat

If we let our cats out to roam, they can cause trouble for themselves, other pets, neighbours and wildlife. As a cat owner, you have specific responsibilities, like caring for your pet’s welfare needs and keeping your cat, and others, safe.

These are ways to keep your cat and others happy and safe:

  • Microchip your cat and register the microchip with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register (NZCAR).
  • Desex your cat.
  • Ensure your cat(s) remains at home.

Microchipping can help you to be reunited with your pet

In New Zealand, 49% of pet cats are microchipped (Companion Animals New Zealand CANZ (2020). Microchipping is safe, reliable and easy. Microchipped cats are more easily and quickly reunited with their owners if they get lost or injured. In the Canterbury earthquakes thousands of pets went missing. More than 80 percent of animals that were microchipped were quickly reunited with their owners, compared with only 15% of non-microchipped pets.

Microchipping and registering with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register (NZCAR) means if your cat is involved in an accident and injured or killed, it can be scanned for a microchip and you will be contacted. To gain the benefits of having your cat microchipped, the microchip must be registered with NZCAR. NZCAR holds the owner’s contact details, but owners must remember to update the register when contact details change. You can do this yourself through the NZCAR website .


As a responsible cat owner, please help to keep your pet safe and well by desexing your cat. Cat overpopulation results in thousands of unwanted cats and kittens being abandoned, killed inhumanely or left with welfare organisations each year.

Desexing your cat is an effective way to help lessen this problem. Cats usually reach puberty between six and nine months old, but some can reproduce as early as four months old. To prevent unwanted kittens, early age desexing can be undertaken provided the young cat is in good health.

Desexing can prevent cancers of the reproductive system, as well as complications of pregnancy and birthing. 

For further guidance, you should discuss desexing with a veterinarian.

Love your cat: love our wildlife

The people of Whakatū Nelson care about our native wildlife, and we live in a city rich with it. Roaming cats, even well-fed cats, can hunt, maim and kill our native animals such as birds, insects and reptiles.

Whakatū Nelson is home to rare and endangered species, many of which are preyed on by cats. As cat owners living in Whakatū Nelson and particularly within the Nelson Halo, we have an extra responsibility to ensure our cats are well cared for and don’t harm local native wildlife.

 As cat owners there are some extra things we can do to help protect our native wildlife:

  • Keep your cat at home, or in a safe enclosed area on your property to reduce its chances of hunting wildlife.
  • Give your cat outdoor time in an enclosed deck or garden area, a screened window, catio or patio.
  • Consider getting a brightly coloured collar that is more easily seen by birds, such as a Birdsbesafe collar, and/or attaching a bell to the cat’s collar.
  • Avoid feeding birds and other native wildlife in your backyard.   

If you live close to an ecologically sensitive area, we encourage you to take greater steps to protect native wildlife from predation. This is about being a responsible cat owner and good neighbour, by recognising that cats left to hunt could do a lot of damage to our local native wildlife population.

If your cat does catch and injure any native wildlife please contact the Department of Conservation hotline on 0800 362 468 immediately. This simple action could save the animal’s life.

Safe home

Keeping your cat at home improves your cat’s welfare. Making sure your cat stays home can also reduce their risk of being involved in road accidents or getting into fights, which can result in painful injury and the possibility of contracting diseases.

To have a happy and healthy ’at home’ cat, it's recommended owners provide an enriching environment. If your cat is staying at home or in an enclosed area, it’s important they have entertainment and mental stimulation. This may include providing places to hide, scratch and climb, puzzle feeders and playtime with people. Outdoor time can be done in an enclosed deck or garden area, or a screened window or patio.

If you are transitioning your pet from a roaming cat to a home-based cat, to help ensure your pet’s happiness and welfare it is recommended that your cat has more than one choice when it comes to resources – if you have one cat try to provide two litter trays, two feed stations, two water bowls, three different types of scratching surfaces and three resting and hiding places in different locations around the house. For every additional cat you have, it is recommended to provide additional resources.

Resolving disputes

If your neighbour’s cat has become a source of nuisance, it’s recommended you speak with your neighbour about the situation first. This often results in the matter being resolved quickly.

If you suspect there are animal welfare issues, please call the SPCA on 03 547 7171.

Emergency preparedness

A plan for your cat should be included in your wider household emergency plan and kit.

This should include:

  • at least 7 days’ worth of food and water per animal and any medications;
  • a cat carrier to transport a cat to a safe a location in case of a need to evacuate;
  • a litter tray and extra litter;
  • a plan in case primary caregivers are unable to take care of the cat;
  • regularly updating microchip details with NZCAR.

If an emergency event occurs, cats should be kept inside in case there is a need to locate them quickly for an evacuation.

End of life

As a responsible pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make suitable arrangements for your cat’s body at the end of its life. This can be arranged through a veterinarian. If you choose to have a home burial for your cat, beware that animals euthanised by a veterinarian may contain substances that could be toxic to wildlife. Deep burying away from waterways will lessen the chance of secondary poisoning of pets (like dogs) and wild animals.

Further information