Pet Peeves: Leash all the Cats or Start a a Trap-Neuter-Return Program?

Lynsey Kitching

Matta, looking very hungry for some mice or rats that may be scurrying around... or possibly just hungry for treats?

Matta, looking very hungry for some mice or rats that may be scurrying around… or possibly just hungry for treats?

Hello all! This new column is to discuss pets: the good, the bad, the funny and the informative. Since there are so many pets here in Tumbler Ridge, probably just as many if not more than people, I think they deserve some attention and discussion.

So, this first column is to discuss how to manage the number of free-roaming cats.

Recently in the news there have been many people upset over a new study from the US through Nature Communications. This study has many stats coming from Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

The study suggests cats are killing about 1.4 – 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 – 20.7 billion mammals annually in the US, a figure that they arrived at through mathemagic, but that is beside the point.

This study has outraged people in all directions and has prompted some people to think cats should be licensed and only allowed off someone’s property if on a leash. Some people think this is preposterous, or as one person said, ‘a catastrophe!’

Now let’s break this down a little.

First off, feral cats are supposedly responsible for about 69 percent of the bird deaths and about 89 percent of the mammal loses. So in the study itself, it explains that ‘owned’ cats are not the problem, though we all know that cats hunt, even inside your house.

The mammals the study is talking about are, as most people know, mice and rats. If they are keeping that many critters off my property, by golly, I tip my hat to the cat!

Let’s look at the bigger problem here, which wouldn’t be solved by forcing cats to be on leashes. The big problem is the amount of cats who roam free, spreading their seed.

How do we control this man-made problem?

The BC SPCA spends more than two million a year on initiatives across the province, providing free and low-cost surgeries at its hospital and clinics in Vancouver, Prince George and Kamloops and ensures that every cat, dog and rabbit leaves the SPCA sterilized prior to adoption. They also get in about four times more cats than dogs to their shelters, and if they aren’t a cute cuddly kitten, have a hard time getting out from behind bars, and some never will.

One solution is the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, which have proven great success in the US. Though we do have low-cost spay-neuter programs here in the South Peace, we don’t offer any TNR programs as of yet.

Essentially, what these programs do is to take in cats, get them ‘fixed’ and then send them out again to live out their lives. This program would drastically decrease the amount of animals in the shelters and over time drastically reduce the number of cats who wander, as they wouldn’t be mating.

So would putting my cat on a leash make some people happy, sure it would, but it wouldn’t make her happy. Would putting my cat on a leash help increase the number of mice and rats running around? Sure it would, but that’s not something I would look forward to.

Here in town we have no by-laws for cats, only dogs. In other communities across BC there are some that have by-laws where cats must be registered, un-sterilized cats are not allowed out on their own or cats in general are not allowed out on their own unless leashed.

Cats that have always been able to go outside, need to continue to do so. I would, however, encourage having cat licensing to help us locate our cats if they don’t come back one day or have escaped from someone’s home.

What are your thoughts on potential by-laws for the town to help us keep down the pet population? Do we even have a problem here in Tumbler?

Like many people I do have pets, in fact two cats, one from a rescue program. I have a fenced yard with mature trees and find that my cats mostly stay within their own boundaries. They will venture out beyond their yard, but not often. It is in their nature to kill, and because of that I enjoy a mouse free environment. I do like birds but do not have feeders or plant things that will attract birds, in order not to set up a killing field. I will not willingly leash my pets or curtail their freedom.

The Publisher