Aldinga Ave residents Kelly Ilton, left, and Leigh Alderson are fed up with stray cats. Photo: Andrew Board.

Killer cats on the loose

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Two abandoned cats are causing havoc in one Stoke neighbourhood, killing pet guinea pigs and rabbits and even attacking people in their own homes but it appears to be just the very tip of a huge cat problem.
Kelly Ilton says the past four months have been horrible for her and her family and she’s now too afraid to have her grandson come and visit for fear he will be attacked by the two cats. Her neighbour Leigh Alderson, a guinea pig and pet rabbit breeder, has had eight baby guinea pigs killed and eaten and one adult guinea pig that was pregnant at the time. She has also lost rabbits and has had to fence her entire section.
They feel helpless because none of the authorities are there to help, the best coming from the Nelson SPCA where they were able to hire a trap for a fortnight in an unsuccessful attempt to catch the cats.
But SPCA says the problem is much bigger than those homeowners in Aldinga Ave are putting up with. Centre manager Donna Walzl says they took in more than 1000 cats and kittens last year alone, all of which were either abandoned, wild or strays.
“That’s an awful lot of cats and I don’t believe those figures go near the actual figure of what’s out there. We’re finding that it’s getting ridiculous and getting worse and worse and worse.”
She says colonies of wild stray cats are in areas all around Nelson, including two big ones at the Tahunanui back beach and at Cable Bay. She says SPCA has tried to trap some in the past but people destroy the traps and at $500 per trap they can’t afford to keep losing them. Donna also says pest control isn’t what the SPCA is supposed to be doing. “We can’t do it, we don’t have the resources, the staff or the time. We just can’t get into it but it is frustrating.”
The Nelson City Council has a policy on dog control but not on cat control, leaving a huge loophole where wild cats go unneutered and uncontrolled.
In Aldinga Ave the problem started when a renter moved out of her house four months ago, leaving behind her two cats. The hungry cats have since been sneaking into homes and eating cat food belonging to other cats and even attacking cats in those homes. Kelly says she’s been woken in the middle of the night by one of the cats attacking hers in her kitchen. “When I jumped in to help my cat, it turned on me and started to claw me until I gave it a good shove and it ran for the cat door.”
Kelly has tried to lock her cat door at night but it drives her cats mad and she says there’s been no help.
“This has been going on for four months. We’ve contacted the council, the SPCA, police and the vet. Everyone we could think of and no one wants to know about it. We’re just left to try and live with these cats which are now feral, we can’t catch them or even get near them.”
Leigh says it’s been horrifying watching her baby guinea pigs and rabbits get snatched from her backyard and watching the adult get attacked by the cat was the worst. “He just grabbed it and took off over the fence, I tried to chase him but he was gone.”
Kelly says she’s too scared to have her infant grandson stay at her house because the cat has been aggressive to the baby grandchild of another neighbour.
Leigh says she’s been in touch with the owner of the cats via Facebook and she has shown no interest is coming to get them back. SPCA can try to prosecute her but Donna says it is difficult to prove ownership because the type of people who do this don’t register or microchip them.
Donna says she feels for the residents in Aldinga Ave and something needs to be done. “There is a massive loophole, where a lot of these cats aren’t technically considered feral, just wild strays, so they aren’t considered a pest and are not part of the pest control act. In the past we’ve probably picked up that role but we just don’t have the resources to do pest control, that’s not what we’re here for.”

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