To roam or not to roam: Victoria group wants restrictions on outdoor cats

To roam or not to roam: Victoria group wants restrictions on outdoor cats

WATCH: A Victoria group has sent letters to all 13 municipalities in the capital regional district asking them to consider making it mandatory for cat owners to license their felines and not allow them to roam freely. As Luisa Alvarez reports, nature advocates say cats are responsible for killing millions of birds each year. 

Cats are natural predators and when they’re outdoor roaming free, they hunt.

Ted Cheskey, naturalist director with Nature Canada, says its bird populations that are the hardest hit.

“With 42 species of birds, cats have at least partially contributed to their extinction,” said Cheskey.

Cats’ negative impact on birds and other wildlife is one of the reasons listed in a letter the Victoria Natural History Society has sent out to all 13 municipalities in the CRD urging them to make changes. They’re calling on the districts to force cats to adhere to animal control regulations.

The group wants municipalities to make it mandatory for cats to be spayed and neutered, require cats to be licensed just like dogs, and also stop them from roaming freely.

“None of the municipalities that we service have a bylaw in effect,” said Don Brown Chief bylaw officer with the CRD.

Nature advocates agree cats need to be restricted, especially living on an island.

“On the West Coast where the biodiversity is so critical there are many, many populations of colonial birds that are some of those islands that would be at risk of going extinct locally,” said Cheskey. 

According to a study done by Nature Canada, turning an outdoor cat into an indoor one would save about 16 birds each year, since the average cat kills about that many annually.

And while some may argue outdoor cats live a healthier life, the Victoria Natural History Society says in the letter that “cats that roam free, whether owned, stray, or feral, often lead short, traumatic, and painful lives.”

And Cheskey says indoor cats can have a quality of life just as great as outdoor cats with the right stimulation. He says there are several options like leash walking your cat or having a catio.

But, Keith Salter who owns an indoor/outdoor cat named Angel says he’s never had an indoor cat and doesn’t plan on it.

“I don’t like to have rats around my house. I don’t want mice in my kitchen or in my house, and the advantage of having a cat that’s an indoor /outdoor cat…I’m 100% for it.”

Barn cats are another example of ‘working cats’ who serve a purpose being outside.

“The most important thing in that situation is that they are spayed and neutered and cared for,” said Cheskey.

Licensing your cat, while not mandatory, is free at the request of the CRD.

In an e-mail response with CHEK News, Philip Lambert, President of the Victoria Natural History Society said they’ve heard back from some of the districts.

“So far we have heard back from Colwood and View Royal. Both acknowledged receipt of the letter but decided there will be no further action at this time. Receipt of our letter has also been acknowledged by Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Saanich and a Councillor from Sidney. Some may consider the proposal at their upcoming meetings, but so far no action.”

*All of the indoor cats shown in this story are up for adoption. If you are interested in adopting one contact the CRD Animal Shelter. 

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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