Ethically Kate: Should I adopt a cat even if it poses a threat to wildlife?

As cute as they are, cats and kittens are natural predators. Photo/123rf

Q: My children want to have a kitten, but I’ll have to take care of the adult bird-killing cat. Maybe we should just get a goldfish?

A: You’re right, when making this decision you need to realize that it’s not a question of “should your child have a kitten”; you have to ask yourself if you are ready to care for a creature for its entire life. But there is still more to consider.

Just like humans, each animal has an impact on the environment around it. While you don’t need to think about what long-lasting deodorant or lip balm you’re going to buy your pet, you do need to consider how you’re going to feed it, where it’ll “do its thing” (and therefore where that’ business” will go), what kind of toys and entertainment he needs, what he will sleep on, how you will clean him, and what will happen if he gets sick. All of these decisions involve a lot of money, time, energy and often a lot of waste too.Owning a pet is a big responsibility – much bigger than anyone with a cute puppy would let on.

Now to get to the uncomfortable part of the question. If you have pants with cats on them, cover your ears for a moment. Cats have been introduced to Aotearoa New Zealand and are a huge problem for our native wildlife. I love a good cat hug just as much as the average person, but because of that, I personally would never own a cat.

Whatever your situation, before getting a pet, ask yourself these questions:

Why am I getting a pet?

Can I meet all the animal’s needs?

Could I meet my need for a pet by doing something else? Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog, visit your friend with the cat more often, or consider co-owning a creature instead.

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