Wellington is set to order pet owners to microchip their cats to protect the capital city's birdlife. The controversial measure is designed to protect birds and other wildlife from predatory housecats.
A contentious debate preceded the city council vote on Thursday to require a microchip the size of a grain of rice to be injected under pet cat's skin within 18 months, serving as a permanent method of identification.
A final vote is set for August 17, but city leaders say the measure is almost certain to pass. It costs between $29 (26 euros) and $57 (52 euros) to microchip a cat.
"It's good for cats and cat owners because it allows you to identify your cat if it gets lost or stolen," said Councilor Iona Pannett, New Zealand's private channel ONE News reported.
The organization Feline Rights is against the plan, saying the council was planning to set up "kill zones" for unidentified cats found on nature sanctuaries.
"It will be open season on any cats that just happen to wander onto council reserve land," the organization said.
But Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the organization's claims are exaggerated and claimed most cat owners supported the idea of their pets being microchipped.
Wellington is home to the Zealandia animal sanctuary with some of the country's rarest native birds, which are vulnerable to predatory pets when they fly outside the sanctuary's enclosure. Australia has announced controversial plans to cull feral cats that devastate endangered species.
The city council earlier rejected plans to introduce a curfew on the city's estimated 20,000 to 30,000 cats to help control the problem.
jar/kl (Radio New Zealand, dpa)