Nature Canada and QuébecOiseaux, in collaboration with local partners Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouias and the Outaouais SPCA, conducted a survey in Gatineau, Quebec, to better understand local attitudes about the issues surrounding cats and birds and the level of awareness of the local regulations governing cat ownership. We are going to be working in Gatineau in an intensive way – not unlike we did in Guelph, Ontario (catsandbirds.ca/Guelph) – to mobilize the community to improve the welfare of local cats and birds. Gatineau is very different than Guelph, in demographics, language, culture, and also in that it has a no-roam bylaw in place.
The survey was conducted by SOM Research & Surveys, one of the largest survey firms in Quebec. They interviewed 300 residents of Gatineau in a random telephone survey during November, 2017. The margin of error is 6.1% (19 times out of 20).
The survey reveals a relatively low rate of cat ownership in Gatineau – 23%* of households have one or more cats, compared to the national average of 32%.** There are some striking regional variations: 31 and 33% of Gatineau proper and Buckingham households (respectively) have cats, while only 14 and 15% of Hull and Aylmer households include one or more.
A full 75% of cat-owners in the area keep their cats from roaming at large, which compares favourably to the national average of 59% and the Quebec average of 64%.*** A majority of non-cat owners feel it is inappropriate to permit cats to roam.
One of the interesting results was that while 95% of Gatineau cat owners are aware of the obligation to license their cats, only 48% are aware of the obligation to keep cats from roaming. A full two thirds of the owners who let their cats roam say they would not be able to retrain their cat to stay indoors or use safe outdoor options such as leash walks or catios.
In terms of bird welfare, 67% of Gatineau residents think habitat destruction is the worst threat to birds, with pesticide exposure coming in second at 46%, and cats in third place at 33%. While the impact of habitat loss is significant, it is very difficult to quantify, so there are no figures to compare to this result. However, Environment Canada has researched the impact of pesticides on birds, and estimates that pesticides cause between 960,000 and 4.4 million bird mortalities per year. They also researched cats (and several other human-related causes of bird mortality) and while it’s challenging to arrive at accurate figures, they estimate cats, both pet and feral, cause somewhere between 100 and 350 million bird fatalities per year.****
This information will be used to help shape our approach in Gatineau, and advocate with the municipality for better communications around the welfare of cats and birds, as well as the bylaws in place. This survey was made possible by funding from Fonds vert de la ville de Gatineau.
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* Sondage auprès de la population de Gatineau sur la prédation des oiseaux par les chats, SOM Research & Surveys, November, 2017. Gatineau Sondage – Novembre 2017
**Canadian Pet Population Figures 2014, Canadian Animal Health Institute, 2015.
*** Nature Canada / Nanos Poll, “Canadian Cats and their Supervision Outdoors, March 2016
****Calvert, A. M., C. A. Bishop, R. D. Elliot, E. A. Krebs, T. M. Kydd, C. S. Machtans, and G. J. Robertson. 2013. A synthesis of human-related avian mortality in Canada. Avian Conservation and Ecology 8(2): 11.