A lack of national legislation for cat management in New Zealand poses challenges for ensuring that practices are consistently humane and effective. In this paper, we review the current cat management policies in New Zealand and the implications they have on the welfare of free-roaming cats (from here on, referred to as ‘cats’). Our review demonstrates that there are multiple policy mechanisms used to manage cats in New Zealand for a variety of reasons, including animal welfare, pest management, and nuisance, and that these different policies have both positive and negative implications for cat welfare. We provide context pertaining to New Zealanders’ acceptance of current or future laws and regulations and compare the New Zealand policy landscape with other countries, with a particular emphasis on Australia, to identify potential directions and outcomes of increased regulation. We discuss the future of the regulatory environment in New Zealand, including the need to better understand the impact of policies on cats, people, and other animals in urban, rural, and wild spaces. We further discuss the need to better understand the cat–human relationship for future policy decisions and offer a solution based on national cat legislation.
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