Increasingly, both pet owners and municipalities recognize the importance of keeping pet cats from roaming for the benefit of the cats themselves, the overall cat overpopulation issue, wildlife and the environment, and their communities.
Two surveys indicate that between 59% and 72% of cat-owners keep their cats from roaming unsupervised, either safe indoors or supervised outdoors (Nature Canada, 2016; Humane Canada, 2017). It is a smaller percentage of the public that are unaware of or downplay their cat’s impact on wildlife and the nuisance factor of their cats’ roaming outdoors, as well as overestimate their cats’ ability to deal with outdoor dangers. Many cities in Canada have now adopted Responsible Pet Ownership bylaws — including Montreal, Mississauga, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Calgary — and many smaller municipalities, from Creston, BC, to County of Kings, NS, have successfully implemented many of the recommendations below. Given the issues for both cats and birds, it is imperative that we, as a society, improve the rate of responsible pet ownership practices and reduce the impact of cats on birds and other wildlife.
Nature Canada, with contributions from the partners in Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives, developed a resource to help municipalities navigate the interlocking issues of bird conservation and cat welfare. Several cat-care organizations have model animal bylaws, and while many aspects of those models are consistent with the need to conserve wildlife, they are primarily concerned with domestic animals. The recommendations presented here represent an effort to balance the needs of domestic animals and wildlife. (Animal welfare organizations also recommend other bylaws, including standards of care, that are consistent with those included here, but have no direct impact on birds.)
Included are recommendations for bylaws and policies regarding pet cats roaming at large, spay/neuter, identification, licensing, limitations on pet store sales, feral cat management, and public education programs. For more information and resources, contact Nature Canada’s Keep Cats Safe & Save Bird Lives program at firstname.lastname@example.org.