A Palmerston North city bylaw introduced new rules for cat owners on 1 July 2018. Under the bylaw, it is compulsory for any cat born after 1 July 2018 that is more than six months old to be de-sexed and microchipped, and registered with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register. See below for the answers to questions you might have about the new rules.
This page also contains information about what to do about:
Why should I microchip and de-sex my cat?
These procedures are considered part of being a responsible pet owner.
You might be surprised to know a female cat can start reproducing from the age of five months and can have up to four litters of up to six kittens every year. In introducing compulsory de-sexing for your cat, we hope to reduce the number of unwanted cats and kittens.
What is microchipping?
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.
What are the benefits of de-sexing and microchipping my cat?
A female cat can start reproducing from the age of five months and have two or more litters, of up to six kittens, each year.
De-sexing (neutering male cats and spaying female cats) helps reduce the number of unwanted and abandoned kittens. Cats not de-sexed are more likely to roam and be a victim of road traffic injuries. As they roam, they encounter other cats and are more likely to fight with other cats, causing injuries and infections.
Microchipping allows veterinarians, animal shelters and councils to contact the owner of a cat. It's especially important during a civil defence emergency or if the cat is sick, injured or disorientated, and increases the chance for lost cats to be reunited with their owners.
Microchips also identify cats in situations where they are causing a nuisance.
Cats are often presumed to be strays and are taken to shelters by well-meaning people, but may belong to people nearby.
What is the minimum age to get my cat microchipped or de-sexed?
Council’s bylaw requires all cats born after 1 July 2018 to be microchipped and de-sexed before six months of age. Your vet will be able to provide advice on the optimum time for your cat to be de-sexed and microchipped.
How much will it cost me to microchip and de-sex my cat?
Vets determine their charges, so costs will vary. Generally, the cost of de-sexing a male cat ranges from $70-86, while females range from $120-145.
It's also good to check in with SPCA if you are on a low income to see what help they may be able to give towards de-sexing.
Is the Council going to set a cat license fee?
No, not at this stage. The New Zealand Companion Animal Council maintains the New Zealand Companion Animal Register and there is a one-off fee to register your cat. The paperwork and registration are carried out by your vet at the time of microchipping.
In addition to the microchipping costs the registration fee is approximately $15 to $25. It is a lifetime registration and there are currently no annual registration fees. Owners are able to access the database and update their personal details in the event that their phone numbers or address change.
What happens to cats if they're picked up and don’t have a microchip?
Cats are not picked up by Council officers or the SPCA just because they're roaming. Usually they are picked up because they are sick or injured. There is no difference in the way cats are treated, but it is likely microchipped cats will be reunited with their owners much sooner.
Where do you keep cats?
We don't have any facilities to hold cats. Depending on why a cat has been picked up it may be held at a veterinary clinic or at the SPCA.
How will Council be able to tell if cats are microchipped and/or de-sexed?
Cats can be scanned by council officers for the presence of a microchip. Veterinarians can provide a de-sexing certificate to owners if they've completed the surgery.
What if I breed cats? Am I exempt?
If your cats are used for breeding affiliated to NZ Cat Fancy or Catz Inc then your cat is exempt from the bylaw requirement to de-sex.
Do pet shops need to de-sex and microchip cats prior to sale?
The bylaw applies to all people keeping cats and this is defined as ‘owning, looking after, being in charge of, a custodian or in possession of any animal’. This places an expectation on pet shops to comply with the bylaw.
How is Council going to enforce the bylaw?
If Council becomes aware of a cat is not microchipped and/or de-sexed, we will write to the owner reminding them of their obligations.
An owner who repeatedly refuses to microchip or de-sex their cat may be prosecuted for breach of the bylaw.
Will Council fine me if I don’t get these things done?
There are currently no fines. However, if the council becomes aware you have a cat that is not de-sexed we we will write to you to remind you of the requirement to de-sex and microchip your cat.
An owner who repeatedly refuses to microchip their cat may be prosecuted for breach of the bylaw.
There are provisions in the Local Government Act 2002 if your cat is found to be causing a serious nuisance or health and safety issue.
If I can’t afford to get these procedures done to my cat/s can I get financial help from Council?
No, sorry. The cost of de-sexing and microchipping a cat is less than $200 and is considered part of responsible pet ownership. Please contact the SPCA as they may be able to assist or direct you to vet practices offering financial assistance.
If your cat goes missing it's important you try a variety of methods to bring it back home safely. We suggest the following:
- Update your details: Make sure your contact details are up-to-date on the microchip register. The vets and the SPCA will scan incoming animals for a microchip and get in touch.
- Pets on the Net: Check the 'found' listings or create a 'lost' listing at lostpet.co.nz. This is a national database and the key website we recommend everyone checks the 'found' listings and creates a 'lost' listing of their own.
- Check Trade Me: Look on the Trade Me Lost and Found section to see if anyone has found and listed your cat.
- Use social media: Embrace the power of social media to spread the word. There are plenty of lost and found pages on Facebook that can be used. Ask your friends to share your posts as well, this will get them seen by the maximum number of people.
- Create a flyer: Make a flyer with a clear picture and description. Distribute it locally via notice boards, neighbours, community centres etc.
- Ask around your neighbourhood: Knock on doors in your street/neighbourhood, describe or show them a photo of your missing cat. Ask them to check their garden sheds and garages or anywhere else that your cat may have decided to hide.
- Call or visit vets or the SPCA: Or drop in to see them with a flyer – many of them have lost and found boards.
- Use familiar sounds: Go out outside at night, when it's quiet and call your animal. Shaking biscuits or treats can help as well.
- Don't give up: It's important to keep trying to look for your cat. Cats often go missing for days or even weeks before they show up again out of the blue.
Do not feed it. Just ignore it and do not let it inside. Cats wander long distances and have a very good sense of direction. It might go home!
If the cat is still hanging around after a few days and you're sure it has been there the entire time, then perhaps it is disorientated. Please try the following options:
- Ask your neighbours if the cat belongs to them of if they know where it may be from
- Go door-knocking with a photo as far and wide as possible around your area to ask people if they recognise the cat. Ask your neighbours to help with this if you are short on time or have issues with mobility
- Put a notice up in your local vet clinic and shop or supermarket
- Call your local SPCA
- Advertise the cat online on Facebook, Petsonthenet or Trade Me. It is currently free to advertise a found cat under Trade Me's Pets and Animals (lost and found) section.
There are essentially four reasons a cat will visit your property: hunting and looking for food, looking for shelter, investigating new territory, and tomcats looking for females in heat.
There are a number of things you can do to discourage them, including desexing your own cats. Plus:
- Secure rubbish bags and bins
- Feed your pets indoors
- Mow your lawns regularly (long grass provides a habitat for mice and lizards and encourages cats to hunt)
- Use wire mesh or boards to block off areas where strays may seek shelter, like under your deck or porch
- Keep garages and sheds closed
Tips to stop cats toileting in your garden
Sprinkle eggshells, chilli flakes or pepper, citrus, tea and coffee grounds or cinnamon. You can also try laying bark and pinecones. Cats hate not having soft ground to walk on.
Once you know where they're toileting, you can spray diluted water and vinegar in the area, or leave ribbed water bottles out. The motion of the light reflecting in the water makes them nervous and might deter them.
Another good deterrent can be planting things in your garden that they don’t like. Garlic, geranium, rue, garlic and lemon thyme are all winners. Cats love catnip, so don’t plant that unless you want lots of visitors.
Borrow a live capture trap
If you have an ongoing issue with stray or pest cats, contact Council on 06 356 8199. We can loan you a live capture trap. Cats should then be released to the SPCA or local cat rescue organisation. Please note, we do not help you catch the cat, remove it, or euthanise the cat.