Owning a cat

Kiwis love their cats – nearly half of NZ households have at least one. As cat lovers, we take the responsibility of cat ownership very seriously.


Cats are wonderful companions but they also come with obligations and costs. As a cat owner, you should:

  • have your cat microchipped (a small tracking device is inserted just under the skin) and de-sexed (if not used for breeding)
  • keep your cat in good physical health
  • feed your cat suitable food and give it plenty of water
  • ensure your cat can exercise and behave in a natural way
  • ensure your cat is fed and cared for when you go on holiday.

Care and costs

Cats need your care and attention. Owning a cat is rewarding but it can be expensive. In 2015, the NZ Companion Animal Council estimated that caring for a cat costs around $670 a year. Costs include food, veterinary (vet) care and care of your cat while you are travelling.

Cats have different diet and nutrition needs at different stages of life. The commercial cat food sold in New Zealand supermarkets and vets is specially designed to meet these needs. Cats also need regular flea and worm treatment, which you can also get from supermarkets and vets.

If your cat is sick or injured it is important to have it treated by a qualified vet. Regular vaccinations by your vet will also help prevent your cat from catching or spreading common cat diseases. The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) has information on finding a vet for your pet.

When you go on holiday you should make sure your cat is fed and looked after the whole time you are away. You can book your cat into a cattery (a holiday home for cats) for the duration - a list of catteries in your area can be found on the Pet Hotels website. Or you can ask someone to feed your cat at your home - there are people who will do this for a fee or you can ask a trusted neighbour or friend.

Your vet | NZVA

Pet hotels | Kennel-Cattery

Feeding your cat

Your cat requires a special pet food, designed for their age. You can find cat food sold in most New Zealand supermarkets.

Keeping track of your cat (microchipping)

Cats do not need to be licensed or registered but it is a good idea to have your cat microchipped. The microchip is permanent – a vet inserts the chip just under the skin and the process is quick and relatively painless.

The chip number and other details about your cat are recorded in a national animal register. This makes it easier to reunite you with your cat if it goes missing. 

NZ Companion Animal Register

Animal welfare regulations

The NZ Companion Animal Council (NZCAC) ‘Summary of Companion Cats Code of Welfare’ summarises the legal requirements for cat owners in New Zealand.

Some local councils have rules (policies or by-laws) or recommendations for controlling cats. These usually aim to protect our native birdlife, prevent health risks or avoid upsetting your neighbours. These rules may include restrictions on how many cats you can own and whether you can let them out at night or require you to microchip and de-sex your cat.

For more information about the rules in your area, visit ‘Recreation’ or your local council’s website.

Summary of Companion Cats Code of Welfare | NZCAC

Regions & Cities

Learning how to be a responsible cat owner

New Zealand law requires that you take good care of your cat. You must keep your cat healthy and free from distress and pain. If your cat is sick or injured, you must get your cat appropriate medical care.

If you mistreat or neglect your cat, you may be fined or prosecuted. The Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) employs inspectors whose role includes law enforcement. The RNZSPCA also runs animal centres that take in and rehome stray animals, a pet adoption service and education programmes.

You should include your cat in your emergency plan in the event of a natural disaster, like an earthquake.

As a responsible pet owner, you should have your cat de-sexed to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens.

Cat and kitten care | RNZSPCA

Cat care guide | The Lonely Miaow

Cats can put our native bird population at risk. If you own a cat, you should be aware of these risks

Protecting native birds

New Zealanders care about New Zealand’s native bird population. If you own a cat you should be aware of the risks to our native birds.

Forest and Bird and the RNZSPCA have made a fact sheet that includes tips on how to reduce your cat’s hunting birds and other native wildlife.

Responsible cat ownership | Forest and Bird [pdf 428kb]

Bringing cats into New Zealand

To prevent the arrival of pests and diseases into New Zealand, all pets from overseas must meet certain health requirements to enter the country. The entry requirements depend on the type of animal and the country it is coming from.

You can only bring your cat into New Zealand if it comes from an approved country. Approved countries are grouped into three categories based on their rabies status.

If you want to bring your cat from a country that is not on the approved list, then you will not be able to bring it into New Zealand.

Make sure you can bring in (import) your cat successfully

If you want to import your cat into New Zealand, it must be cleared for entry before it arrives. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is responsible for ensuring all animals entering New Zealand meet the import requirements.

When you are planning your move, make sure you know what to do to import your cat successfully and you meet all the import requirements. 

For full details and all the documents you need, visit the MPI website.

Pets | MPI

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