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  • We know that cats are natural hunters, but what does the data tell us about cats and their prey – and how do we know if the data is reliable?

    Rights: © Crown 2013

    Connected article: Keep your cat inside

    An article in the 2013 level 4 Connected journal ‘Are you sure?’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

    Image of cat © Dwight Sipler, CC BY 2.0

    This article explores the tension that many of us have regarding cats. We know that they are natural predators, but many of our pets live in urban locations and away from our native endangered species – or do they? We hope that our furry companions keep the mice and rat populations down and potentially help native species by doing so. But is this true?

    The role of evidence in science

    The article also explores the role of scientific evidence, its relevance and reliability. It uses diagrams to present data from two New Zealand studies. The text includes questions that guide readers to consider what evidence means and whether it is reliable. The article supports the science capabilities ‘Gather and interpret data’ and ‘Interpret representations’.

    Teacher support materials

    Check your school resource area for the article from the 2013 Level 4 Connected journal ‘Are you sure?’, download it as a Google slide presentation or order it from the Ministry of Education.

    Rights: © Crown 2013

    2013 Connected level 4: Are you sure?

    The cover of the 2013 level 4 Connected journal ‘Are you sure?’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand. This issue includes the article ‘Keep your cat inside’.

    Aerial image of Cape Royd Adélie penguin colony, © Peter McCarthy.

    The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from Tāhūrangi as a PDF file. The materials list the key science and nature of science (NoS) ideas featured in the article. The notes provide explicit NoS links to sections of text.

    The TSM offers six learning activities:

    • Digging deeper
    • Cats in our place
    • You be the judge
    • Critical thinking
    • Can we do it?
    • Building solutions

    The activities support the ‘Understanding about science’, ‘Investigating in science’ and ‘Participating and contributing’ strands of Nature of Science.

    The 'reusable content' links to Google Drive folders containing text and images from the article.

    Related content

    Cats and their natural predatory instincts pose an ethical dilemma for many pet owners. Explore this further in the article Cat fight. The Ethics thinking toolkit provides a structured framework for scaffolding student thinking about an ethical issue.

    If students decide to take action by creating safe bird feeding tables in their schools, the Connected article The takeaway table details how students gathered data on local birds and their dietary needs. Birds in my backyard is a ready-to-use cross curricular teaching resource using the The Takeaway Table. It has a worksheet in Word that educators can customise to meet the needs of their students and teaching programme.

    Learn more about these aspects of the nature of science in the New Zealand Curriculum:

    Check out our entire range of Connected articles here. We’ve curated them by topic and concepts.

    See the range of interesting resources in our Dogs, cats and science Pinterest board.

    Useful links

    The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email

    Locals in New Plymouth discovered their cats' secret lives under the CatMap Curious Minds project that was supported by the Taranaki Participatory Science Platform. Students at Welbourn School partnered with digital mapping experts at MAIN (Mapping, Analysis and Information Network) Trust New Zealand and added GPS trackers to their cats. Discover more in this Radio NZ article and interview from January 2020, including a slide-show of great images from the project.

    The Radio NZ article Cats’ secret lives go public tells the story of 10 Wellington cats and what they do all day and night.

    Visit the Department of Conservation website to learn more about the havoc feral cats create for our native ecosystems. Then find out how to Make your cat conservation friendly.

    After the discovery in Otago of 28 dead native lizards that had been regurgitated by a cat, the issue keeping cats indoors is looked at in this Spinoff article from October 2021.

    The book Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer by Peter P Marra and Chris Santella, tells the story of how in 1894, a lighthouse keeper arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with his cat. In just over a year, the Stephens Island Wren, a rare bird endemic to the island, was extinct.


    The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

      Published 22 March 2019, Updated 2 October 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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