In many places around the world, cats are considered the most beloved of furry friends, and here in New Zealand, things are no different. Nearly half of all Kiwi households share their home with a cat,1 so it’s very likely that you, too, have a much-loved cat in your whānau.
The experiments we’re about to expose may be hard to read; you’ll likely imagine a cat that you know having to endure such cruelty in the name of science. But remember, by being a part of team NZAVS, you are a part of the solution! We are here to end animal experimentation and create a better world for animals, people and science.
From an Official Information Act request, we discovered the following experiment involving cats...
Sixty free-roaming cats were captured and taken to a lab where they were kept individually in wire mesh cages. All they had access to was food and water.
They were left like this for 4 weeks – just imagine how scary that must have been for them, being in a completely new environment, confined to a small space near humans they didn’t know or trust. Then they were subject to different tests.
Some cats were fed different types of toxic bait, while others were a part of a control group and were directly fed a toxin with a pipette. Within 20-60min of being fed the toxic bait or toxin, cats began to vomit, had trouble walking and getting up, and/, or they became unconscious.
Any cat who regained consciousness or did not die after 150 minutes was killed with an anaesthetic overdose. Four cats did not eat at all; their fate is unknown.
The purpose of this experiment was to try and test the efficacy of toxic bait to kill wild cats over time. Based on earlier trials conducted in Australia, Para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) can effectively kill cats at 20mg/kg within 80 minutes when fresh. This experiment was designed to assess its shelf-life, which is part of the registration process for NZ use.
Researchers received approval from an animal ethics committee to use the cats in this experiment which means it was given the tick of approval under current NZ law. In fact, members of the animal ethics committee were invited to watch the trials being conducted.
The use of cats in this experiment was approved in 2006,2 but this isn’t an isolated case. We’ve found similar experiments involving feeding cats’ this same toxin from 2007,3 2011,4 2017,5 2018,6 2020,7, and 2021.8
Here’s what happened to the cats in a recent study approved in 2020.
Para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) can effectively kill cats, but fresh bait is ‘messy’, so researchers set out to test a new toxic bait. This new bait was laid out in areas of around 1,000 ha, in lines 200m apart.
This is what the bait stations looked like (image obtained via OIA request):
Traps were set up around the perimeter of these stations. The toxic bait was left out for two weeks and the cats eating the poison were monitored with cameras and tracking tunnels. We don’t know how many cats ate the poison and suffered the effects.
How should we deal with non-native species?
When trying to find ways of controlling the populations of ‘unwanted’ or invasive species, we are firmly against any type of research method that causes harm to animals. Including using deadly traps or poisoning and shooting animals.
Non-native species, like cats, undoubtedly harm our native birds and reptiles, regardless of how low their population would get. So, eradication would be the ideal way to protect native species long-term in the eyes of many. Yet, as we have seen with Covid-19, successfully dealing with a problem does not provide any guarantee that it will not reoccur. Even more so, completely eradicating non-native predators is quite an ambitious goal that is not readily achievable with current methods.
So, rather than taking drastic measures to wipe out unwanted species from our country, we should focus more on bringing predator populations down to a manageable level and instead increase the protection of our native fauna.
Accessible sanctuaries, managed for education and advocacy objectives, may result in additional community-led conservation projects being initiated.
Yes, every kiwi bird chick, every Tuatara, and every native sapling is precious. But the cats, rats, possums, and rabbits did not ask to be here. We humans brought them here and caused this difficult situation in the first place. The least we can do is keep compassion for all sentient beings in our minds when we try to find solutions.