Barrett: Keep your cats inside or risk them being trapped

Cats allowed to roam freely outdoors, such as these feral cats at a Gull Lake area home, have a reduced lifespan - just two to five years - compared to 12-15 years for an indoor cat. Ashli Barrett / Postmedia Network

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Freedom is not for domestic cats.

By that, I mean they shouldn’t be allowed to freely roam neighbourhoods, creating anxiety for other people’s cats (leading to marking), defecating in other people’s flowerbeds, and adding to the cat crisis with an increase in feral cats across the province.

As the City of Calgary’s responsible cat ownership page on their website says, indoor cats have an average lifespan of 12-15 years, while outdoor cats have a lifespan of a mere two to five years. With disease, risks posed by other animals (not to mention humans), the potential for cats to go into heat (an intact male can send an unspayed female into heat at any time of year), as well as what free-roam kitties can do to the bird population, there’s no logical reason to allow cats to run around the neighbourhood.

Still, despite all the reasons and benefits to keeping cats indoors, some people within the community still believe otherwise. This was recently displayed through a number of recent discussions on the Lacombe and Area Community and Info Watch Facebook page regarding a post warning cat owners of traps being put out to catch feral/strays in the area.

Some attacked the poster, threatening legal action for setting traps, amidst comments perpetuating an idea that trapping is an inhumane and morally deplorable practice.

It’s not the cat’s fault their owners let them wander, some said. They’re not actually wrong – but that’s exactly why cats should be caught and taken into a shelter where either the owners can get a rude awakening about taking care of their pets, or have their fur baby adopted by someone else who will hopefully keep the cat indoors and look out for them.

Some were concerned about the safety of the animal, believing cats to be trapped would be made to suffer.

Let’s be clear – cat traps are not bear traps. They are live, humane traps – a simple cage akin to a simple kennel with a door mechanism that traps a cat that wanders inside within it until such a time as a human lets it out.

The City of Lacombe has several on hand they issue with a $20 security deposit. There’s a strict set of guidelines those who use them must adhere to, among them ensuring animals caught are fed, watered and humanely cared for until turned over to bylaw or animal services. Traps are to put in shady areas, checked hourly and not use snares or poisonous bait, and they’re not issued in winter months to prevent animals from being left to freeze to death.

Of course, there’s a risk of those using traps to not be humane. As one poster commented, her pets were trapped and never seen again. While it turns my stomach that it’s a reality some who trap will either drop off cats out in the country, or do worse – poison, gas or drown such cats, at the end of the day, the only way to stop such sick individuals from doing any of that is to keep cats indoors.

I can support the idea that even animals need fresh air. My cats are allowed to run around the backyard, but they’ve been trained not to leave the yard, and are also supervised when they’re outside just in case something spooks them and they’re sent running. This is possible for other people who want to let their cats out, as is building a catio, allowing them to be outside and get fresh air all the while keeping them safe from many of the outdoor risks.

Those options also keep pet owners in alignment with the City of Lacombe’s Animal Control Bylaw passed in March.

Regardless of morality, humane treatment or stats, the bylaw is very clear in stating the owners of dogs or cats shall ensure their animals are not running at large and those who do can be fined $150 for a first offence, and $600 for a third. It’s also clear in saying that, should a pet defecate on other property, the owners must remove it immediately, and owners can be fined $100 for a first offence for allowing their pet to do so on public property.

Those who allow their pets to roam, and therefore defecate in others’ yards, are in violation of this bylaw, and deserve to have their pets trapped – if only for a wakeup call as to what’s best for the animal, or to have the animal end up with owners that will hopefully look out for their safety.

Don’t want your cat to “suffer” or be trapped and end up with someone else? Realize that what’s best for them is keeping them inside.