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Originally published Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 12:57 AM

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NZ to eradicate pet cats? Purr-ish the thought!

Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of cats. But the environmental advocate triggered a claws-out backlash with his new anti-feline campaign.

The Associated Press

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand —

Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of cats. But the environmental advocate triggered a claws-out backlash with his new anti-feline campaign.

Morgan called on his countrymen Tuesday to make their current cat their last in order to save the nation's unique native birds. He doesn't suggest people kill their cats, but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die.

His ideas are not sitting well in a country with one of the highest cat ownership rates in the world. Cat lovers say they don't want to be deprived of the companionship a cat brings.

A 2011 survey by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council found that 48 percent of New Zealand households owned at least one cat, significantly higher than in other developed nations.

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