Residents of a coastal town that habitually sleeps on the South Island of New Zealand are pulling their claws on a proposed "cat ban."
Environmental authorities in the Southland region have proposed new rules for pet owners in the small town of Omaui to neuter their cats and not replace them once they die.
The area is home to reserves and native shrub areas and Environment Southland says that domestic cats are a threat to birds, lizards, insects and plants.
But on the day since the plan was made public this week, the department says it has been inundated with calls and hundreds of online comments from both sides of the debate.
Local environmental group Omaui Landcare Charitable Trust lobbied for the changes, and President John Collins says it's just not the right place to have cats.
"There are many people who realize that our native wildlife is in decline in a big way and we have to do something about it," he said.
"We expected [a strong reply]It is an emotional problem … We are not hungry for cats. It's about responsible pet ownership … It's a very valuable conservation area. "
The biosecurity operations manager in the village Ali Meade says that native forests must be protected.
"There are cats that go into the native forest, they feed on native birds, they take insects, they take reptiles, all kinds of things," he said. Newshub.
"They are causing great damage."
But others insist that they will fight against the proposal.
Nico Jarvis, who moved to the coastal community five years ago and owns three cats, says his pets are the only way to deal with rodents in the area.
"It's like a police state … It's not even regulating the ability of people to have a cat." He's saying you can not have a cat, "he told the Otago Daily Times.
Resident Terry Dean said the news had come out of nowhere.
"One day they tell you that your cats, your precious little possessions … really, that's all," he said. Newshub.
"Or they get trapped in the traps, or those that survive can not be replaced."
A "cat ban" was always going to be controversial.
Similar proposals to eliminate felines by politicians in New Zealand in recent years have met with fierce debate.
Kiwis in 2016 had about 1.13 million cats, about 1.5 per household in the country, according to the New Zealand Pet Council.