An environmentalist's proposal to eradicate New Zealand's pet cat population drew howls and hisses of protest from cat-lovers in that country, which boasts the highest percentage of cat owners in the world. According to the Toronto Star, Gareth Morgan wants New Zealanders to give up their cats in order to save the island nation's endangered exotic birds, but cat owners have given the plan a big paws-down.

Morgan's website, "Cats to Go," features a photo of a tiny kitten sporting red devil horns, and announces, "That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer."

In a country with the highest percentage of households with at least one cat (48 percent), the very notion has set fur flying.

“I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives,” said Bob Kerridge, president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in a television appearance. “Don’t deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family.”

Morgan does not advocate mass euthanasia for New Zealand's cats, but urges his countrymen to spay and neuter their current cats, and his website features essays explaining to them why their current cat should be their last.

"There is no doubt that cats do a massive amount of damage to our wildlife," Morgan writes. "In the interest of protecting native species would you consider not replacing your cat with a new one when it dies?"

He urges his readers to “Imagine a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife, penguins on the beach, kiwis roaming about in your garden. Imagine hearing birdsong in our cities.”

But even at the website itself, the response has been overwhelmingly negative, with 70 percent of visitors answering "No" to whether or not they will decline to get another cat when their current pets die.

Scientist David Winter of Dunedin, New Zealand said that while "cats aren't evil," they are a problem for New Zealand's exotic wildlife. The introduction of pet cats to the country has "contributed to the extinction of at least 6 bird species in New Zealand, and many more populations and subspecies have been lost partly as a result of predation by cats."

He wrote on his blog "The Atavism" that Morgan's campaign is designed to shock and provoke discussion. However, "What hope is there for environmentalists in conversation where our side wants to take people’s kittens away?”

[image via Shutterstock]