19 Nov 2015

Feral cats with toxoplasmosis on the rise

10:01 am on 19 November 2015

Hawke's Bay Regional Council has discovered high numbers of feral cats in the cape-to-city predator control area which are carrying the disease toxoplasmosis.

A feral cat.

A feral cat. Photo: AFP

Within the 26,000 cape-to-city footprint, three farms have been tested for toxoplasmosis, which causes a high abortion rate in pregnant ewes.

Sheep become infected from eating contaminated food such as pasture, concentrate feeds and hay.

Regional Council land services manager Campbell Leckie said if the numbers of feral cats were reduced then that would provide economic benefits for farmers by reducing the high abortion rate in ewes.

"The interesting thing about this is the research shows feral cats are the only reproductive host for toxoplasmosis and so obviously feral cats have a significant impact on biodiversity and other birdlife and fauna that they eat," he said.

"So if we can find a way to significantly reduce the feral cat numbers, particularly across our rural land then we will potentially have a good economic and environmental win.

"We might be able to reduce or break the cycle of the disease."