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Oakville joins Burlington, Milton and Hamilton in banning cats from outdoors

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In Environment
Jan 24th, 2011
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Outdoor cats gone wild, and birds suffer
By RACHEL SA, Toronto Sun January 22 2011
Oakville cats are now officially housebound.
The city’s new bylaw that prohibits cats from roaming free came into effect Jan. 1. Oakville joins Burlington, Milton and Hamilton, which have similar restrictions.

Toronto should follow suit.
Cue the howls of outrage from outdoor cat owners. Listen for the cheers of indoor cat owners. I’m one of the latter.
In Oakville, owners face a $105 fine, plus a $30 surcharge, $25 return fee and $15 per day bill if their cat repeatedly ends up at Oakville’s animal shelter.
In Toronto, we have expanded the capture, spay and release program for feral cats. It’s a good start. But if we truly want to protect our domestic cats, owners will keep Fluffy inside.
Keeping cats indoors seems like a slam-dunk. Indoor cats live longer, healthier lives. They are less likely to be exposed to disease, attacked by wild animals or hit by cars.
Of course, if you keep your cat indoors, you also likely have to put in a bit more elbow grease and scoop out that litter box, rather than letting your precious furball defecate in your neighbour’s garden. Or their doorstep. But I digress.
There is not only the health of your cat to consider. Free-roaming cats decimate bird populations.
“A large number of bird species have shown considerable decline over the last 20 or 30 years,” says University of Toronto professor Theo Hofmann. “And there is no question about it: The decline is, in significant part, due to cats. There are bird species that have declined by as much as 80 or 90% in 20 years.”
Hofmann is Professor Emeritus in U of T’s department of biochemistry. He is an expert in local avian populations.
I agree with Hofmann. I am an amateur bird watcher and a lifelong cat lover. The two worlds should not collide.
When house cats kill birds, it is not part of the food chain. Domestic cats do not kill for food, they hunt and kill on instinct and for sport. Kitty doesn’t finish a nice bowl of Meow Mix and then feel a hunger pang for a hermit thrush.
“Cats don’t eat the birds, they just kill them,” Hofmann says. “So they really are causing a great deal of damage which goes into the millions, if not billions, of birds a year in North America as far as one can estimate.”
They don’t belong
Contrary to popular belief, it is not natural for domestic cats to roam outside. They are not native to North America. They do not belong here, unlike native species such as bobcat and lynx. Domestic cats are not a natural fit in the ecosystem. As a result, our bird populations have no natural defence against them.
Cats are not solely responsible for our declining bird populations. The lights of Toronto’s skyscrapers are a death trap for migrating flocks and Ontario’s new wind turbines also do damage. But that doesn’t change the fact that letting our domestic cats kill for sport is doing serious harm.
Critics of Oakville’s new bylaw claim it will only result in more abandoned animals left behind at shelters. After all, they say, if you get a call from a shelter and know you have to pay a $105 fine to retrieve your kitty, you’re just more likely to abandon the cat there, right?
Well, if the cat isn’t a member of the family, and isn’t worth that 110 bucks, then you should not have had it in the first place. At the very least, maybe this bylaw will give pause (no pun intended) to people who have no business adopting a cat at all.

 

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