John MacDonald: Could you tell a feral cat and a pet cat apart?

Canterbury Mornings with John MacDonald

Apr 18 2023 • 5 mins

Today’s new money-making scheme is high-vis jackets for cats. Because that’s what cat lovers in North Canterbury might want to get if they’re worried about their feline friends getting caught in the crossfire during this year’s North Canterbury Hunting Competition, which is a fundraiser for Rotherham School.

That’s because there’s a new category this year for kids under-14, who are being challenged to kill as many wild cats as they can between now and late June. The kid who kills the most will win $250 and might even win themselves a dirt bike worth nearly $5k.

Great prizes for someone who might not even be at high school yet.

Now, a lot of the noise being made about the competition today is the new category targeting feral or wild cats. And there’s a local from Rotherham who doesn’t know how these kids are going to know whether her cat, for example, is wild or whether it’s a pet.

Which is why I’m suggesting that there might be a buck to be made making and selling hi-vis jackets for cats. They might already exist - I don’t know.

The organisers of the competition are saying that they acknowledge public concerns about the new feral cat section. And they’re encouraging kids to stay away from rural towns when they’re out hunting the wild cats.

When I was growing up, I don’t think anyone would’ve batted an eyelid at something like this.

As a townie kid growing up in Dunedin, some of my greatest childhood memories are from the time we went to the cousins' place in the country. They moved around a couple of farms but it was the one at Hyde, a few hours from Dunedin, that I probably think of most.

I thought it was brilliant that we could ride motorbikes, chase sheep trucks down the gravel road on our bikes and, yes, over the years, we killed an animal or two.

Didn’t think twice about it and I really envied the lifestyle the country cousins had.

They probably envied my city life too sometimes. But what I’m getting at, is that back then people didn’t overthink things like we do these days.

As a parent, I’m guilty of it. If you’re a parent, you might be guilty of it too.

I’m not sure what it is but my generation, at least, has done a great job of looking for the danger and risk in everything.

Which is why I the idea of these kids in North Canterbury running around shooting wild cats terrifies me and thrills me at the same time.

It thrills me because here’s something for kids that doesn’t involve a screen or social media. It’s all about being outside and actually doing something useful. Because no one loves wild cats, do they?

And knowing how to hunt would have to be one of life’s great skills. It’s just so practical. And I love the idea of kids being amongst all that.

It terrifies me at the same, of course, because - like I said - I’m from the generation that looks for the risk and danger in everything. And, of course, there’s risk and danger whenever firearms are involved in something.

And you could say that the risk and danger is even greater when there are kids involved because even adults when they’re hunting can get a bit over-enthusiastic. What do they call it? Buck fever? Where someone is so focused on getting the kill that they can end up shooting the wrong thing.

So I get all that. And that’s probably what the cat lady in Rotherham is worried about.

But, when I weigh it all up, I actually think it’s brilliant that the kids in North Canterbury are getting involved in all this. And even though the idea of kids with guns terrifies me - I hope the organisers don’t get spooked and pull the pin.

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