Thursday 30 June 2022

New Zealand town fractured by the disappearance of 24 cats

NEWS AND COMMENT-COLLINGWOOD, NEW ZEALAND: News media have reported that over the past five years at least two dozen cats have vanished from the back yards and environs of Collingwood.

Many of the residents suspect foul play. Some believe that there is a cat poisoner in the town or perhaps there is more than one of them. Almost all of the cats simply disappeared. The poisoning theory is supported by the death of Gypsy. Gypsy's caregiver, Shannon Mclellan, said that Gypsy had been sick for a few days before she died. She had vomited and eventually ended up under the decking screaming. When she tried to reach her she clawed at her. She eventually got her out and wrapped a towel around her before taking her to the vet but she died on the way. A sure indication of poisoning.

RELATED: New Zealand: man who trapped and drowned eight cats thought he was doing the right thing.

Note: on this page you will see three links to stories about domestic cats being killed by New Zealanders. There appears to be a culture in New Zealand which is similar to that in Australia vis-à-vis their attitude towards outside and feral cats. They don't like them in general. They want them removed from the environment in order to protect New Zealand's native species. There is a bad attitude towards outdoor cats in my view and that can lead to killing.


The preferred killing of indoor/outdoor domestic cats by cat haters is by poisoning. This is because it can be done secretively. Simply put down baited food. The cat eats it, the cat becomes ill quite quickly and if there is a fairly loose relationship between cat and owner the cat goes away somewhere in the countryside to quietly die. This makes evidence gathering by law enforcement impossible.

RELATED: New Zealand man boasts he’s buried 170 cats under his vegetable garden.

And this is another problem and perhaps the root problem. The police are disinterested in pursuing the matter in trying to find the perpetrator(s). And the back story is equally pertinent because in New Zealand, as in Australia, the government, including local governments, have consistently stated that outdoor cats and feral cats are a problem to their wildlife. Local and national government in New Zealand have promoted the idea that domestic cats are killing native species

RELATED: journalist demands eradication of all domestic and feral cats in New Zealand to protect wildlife. This is the same online newspaper which is reporting these deaths. On the one hand they promote the idea of killing domestic cats and on the other hand they appear to be supporting residents who have lost cats through killings.

And you gradually engender the idea that domestic cats either need to be confined to their homes or killed. And it doesn't take long for a reckless cat hater to start to take steps to kill them. I am convinced that this is what is happening in this instance.

And because the residents can't get to the bottom of it - because the police won't help and because it has gone on for so long to such devastating effect - it is fracturing the town. It is causing tensions and upset. And frustrations.

Elliot Strange. Image: ANDY MACDONALD/STUFF

One resident of Collingwood,  Elliott Strange, has become the spokesperson for the others who have lost their cats. He is fundraising for a private investigator and he has offered a reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever is killing the town's cats.

When Elliott Strange moved to the town he was asked whether he had a cat. He was told that he needed to be careful. His cat disappeared. Initially he thought that it was just one of those things. Sometimes domestic cats do disappear as we all know. He thought that his cat might have moved off to another home. These things happen as well. This is another reason why it can be difficult to pin down cat killings.

Just before the Covid lockdown in the area he acquired two kittens. Nine months later they've disappeared. He reported the matter to the police but nothing happened. He heard about more disappearances. Reluctantly he felt that he needed to do something as the police wouldn't get involved. This is not untypical of the police forces of any country. They have to prioritise their efforts and cats are well down the priority list. Particularly when it can be almost impossible to find a perpetrator.

Elliott Strange has offered to provide cat owners with tracking collars. Some residents have told him how their lives have been devastated by the loss of their cat companion.

Some residents have even left the town because of it. There's been finger-pointing. The names of four people have been circulated as possible perpetrators. Tensions are boiling over. He said that "Something's going to happen. There's not going to be an official response: somebody's going to teach these guys a lesson."

One of the accused was visibly shaken when interviewed by Stuff (new media website) reporters. He denied any involvement. He said the accusations had made living in the town unbearable and he had called the police about harassment.

Another resident said that the situation in the town had "snowballed [and it was] out of control".

The whole town is involved by it and it's become a bit scary. Two dogs have also died although is not clear that they were killed. There is a witch hunt in the town and something needs to be done about it.

The answer to this problem must be that the police get involved and open a formal investigation. This will ease some of the tensions. I would suggest that residents erect security cameras. If there are enough of them it would deter the cat killer or killers. CCTV cameras are a way of collecting evidence. It is the dearth of evidence which is the problem in this instance.

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