As a life-long cat servant, and equally a naturalist, I support a bylaw to bring domestic cats (house pets or feral animals) under similar controls as dogs. The safety of both cats and wildlife is at stake.
When I allowed my cats to roam freely, most were killed by cars, were meals for coyotes, or otherwise came to sad ends well before their normal span of life was over.
Of course my cats killed birds, mice and the occasional snake or chipmunk, and anyone who thinks their Fluffy doesn’t is fooling themselves. I didn’t like the bodies, but rationalized it as not a big deal; however, a few years ago I read about the extent of cats depredations on wildlife of many kinds and decided that I would never again have free-roaming cats.
I didn’t put my resolve into practice until my previous cat died (coyote meal), but now have two cats who live very contented, active lives within the confines of my small house and a 64 square-foot chicken-wire open-air enclosure. They spend a great deal of time outdoors watching and listening to birds, dogs and other creatures mere humans can’t detect; however, predators such as the neighbourhood coyotes, cannot get them.
When I go away, too, I know that my cats are as safe as is possible and whoever is caring for them won’t be faced with the very difficult task when I return of telling me my pet is dead.
Recent articles by Bob Handfield (Penticton Western) and Margaret Holm (OSCA, Penticton Herald) on cats and wildlife spell out the seriousness of the former’s affects on bird and other wildlife populations. Those statistics speak for themselves. The cat’s nature is to hunt, but well-fed domestic pets do not need to kill to be content: toy mice and other objects make excellent substitutes.
If house mice are creating havoc, traps are equally, or depending on the cat, more effective. Cats often seem to consider mice in a house to be ‘family members’ and off limits, the reasons known only to cats. Most mice my cats caught in the past though were native species, animals that hawks, coyotes and snakes need to survive.
Since I have cats because I enjoy them as still quite untamed animals that sublimate a lot of their wilder nature for the comforts we provide, I am willing to put in the extra bit of time and effort to keep them contented in somewhat artificial living conditions. I recommend some sort of house-accessed outdoors space though: I doubt the cats care what it’s like, but benefit greatly from the sensory stimulation.
Feral cats are another, complicated, matter, especially as most are dumped domestic pets (usually un-neutered) or their offspring. As usual, it’s a human problem for which the animals suffer, one that we need to address. Trotting out ancient laws or spurious arguments about ‘it’s natural’ is only avoiding the issue. Many of our and other species’ so-called ‘natural’ behaviours are not tolerated. It’s time to accept a more enlightened, and ecologically helpful, approach to our smaller furry pals.