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For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Pixabay

Wellington: A competition in New Zealand for children to hunt and kill feral cats has been scrapped following public outcry, with a major animal welfare group on Wednesday welcoming the decision.

Organisers of an annual hunting competition caused an uproar when they announced a new category for children under 14 to hunt feral cats for a top prize of 250 New Zealand dollars ($155).

The category, which came with a warning for youngsters not to kill pets, has been scrapped, organisers said in a statement on Tuesday.

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New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was "both pleased and relieved that the children's category which involved shooting feral cats has been removed".

"Children, as well as adults, will not be able to tell the difference between a feral, stray or a frightened domesticated cat," said an SPCA spokesperson.

The overall competition, which is going ahead with other categories for hunting wild pigs and deer, is being run as a fundraiser by the Rotherham School in the country's South Island.

Organisers said "vile and inappropriate emails" had been sent "to the school and others involved".

"Our sponsors and school safety are our main priority, so the decision has been made to withdraw this category for this year to avoid further backlash," organisers wrote on Facebook.

Feral cats are a pest in New Zealand where they have a major impact on native birds, bats, lizards, mice and insects, according to the Department of Conservation.