Feral cats in Nanaimo: Problems and concerns

In August 2014  the Nanaimo SPCA requested the City  consider new cat regulations to address the growing problems of feral cats and free-ranging domestic cats.

At the February 2, 2015 council meeting Staff was told to prepare a report regarding the feasibility of licencing cats and amending the  bylaw to include a mandatory spay/neuter program for cats. In February, the Nanaimo SPCA and the CatNap Society both made presentations to council about the feral cat situation in Nanaimo.

This week , Monday, June 22nd at Council, cat regulations were back on the agenda. The meeting ended at 1:30 am and councillors were showing fatigue.

330 feral cats rescued in 2014 by CatNap Society in Nanaimo
330 feral cats rescued in 2014 by CatNap Society in Nanaimo

Councillor Yoachim recited a short cat poem and recalled his favourite cat, Phyllis.  Councillor Fuller recalled he had 8 cats in his youth and “didn’t know what happened to them”. Councillor Kipp pointed out that Council was giving more credence to a presentation by a member of the public despite the fact that there were experts who had given compelling information.  The member of the public who Kipp was referring to spoke for 10 minutes and answered questions for a further 20 minutes and claimed  that if a spayed and neutered program were to be implemented “a black market for kittens” would occur. Thankfully no biblical scriptures were referenced.

How bad is the feral cat situation in Nanaimo?

According to the CatNap Society, there were 330 rescues of feral cats last year and 95% of those animals had not been spayed or neutered.

The Nanaimo SPCA  said there is no bylaw regarding the maximum number of cats per household. Some cat hoarders in Nanaimo have more than twenty cats and people in the neighbourhood complain about armies of cats crawling the streets, then running feral and breeding more cat colonies.

Abandoned and neglected cats: direct link to family violence

A community with free-roaming feral animals also has other social problems. Does the Nanaimo SPCA go to schools and teach students how to care for pets? Teaching kids how to be a responsible pet owner will also teach them empathy and respect; qualities that will help improve Nanaimo as a whole.

Eleven  communities in BC have bylaws to deal with cats.  Port Alberni has the following cat bylaws:

Regulations for the Keeping of Cats
12. No person shall own, keep, possess or harbour any cat over the age of six months in the City unless:
(a) the cat has been spayed or neutered by a veterinarian, or
(b) a valid and subsisting breeder’s licence for the current licence year has first been obtained for the unspayed or unneutered cat under this Bylaw.
13. The requirement in section 12 does not apply to a cat that is kept in the City for less than one month in a calendar year and which is not allowed or permitted to be at large in the City.
14. The owner of an unspayed or unneutered cat may apply to the City for a breeder’s licence on the prescribed form provided by the City and pay the fee set out in Schedule “A” to this Bylaw, and upon receipt of the application and payment of the prescribed fee, the City shall issue a breeder’s licence to that owner for that cat.
15. Every breeder’s licence issued under this Bylaw shall expire on the 31st day of December in the calendar year in which the licence was issued.
16. Every owner of a cat shall affix, and keep affixed, sufficient identification on the cat by a collar, harness, tattoo, microchip or other suitable device such that a person finding the cat at large in the City can identify and contact the owner.

Incentives to License Pets

The City of Toronto has a Pet Licensing Rewards program which provides exclusive offers and discounts on pet-related products and services to pet owners who license their dogs and cats.

The City of Edmonton outlines the benefits of pet licensing:

Pet Licensing Fees Are Used To
•Provide food, shelter, medical care and enrichment for approximately 6,000 lost pets each year.
•Identify lost pets and return them to owners.
•Support the adoption of unclaimed pets through partner agencies.
•Provide emergency first-aid veterinary care to injured pets.
•Educate the public about responsible pet ownership.
•Help neighbours resolve their pet-related problems.

There are simple bylaws that would limit the number of cats per household. This would allow the Nanaimo SPCA to deal with cat hoarders that prove to be a serious problem in our community.

City staff said the cost of implementing a cat regulation and licencing program would be onerous but lacked specific details and did not look at other communities where a similar program was successful. It appears the notion of spaying or neutering of cats conflicts with their beliefs. Council asked that more reporting be completed.

Birds under threat

A Smithsonian Institute report released in January said that upward of 5 billion birds and 21 billion wild animals overall are killed in the United States each year by feral cats.

Birds such as this American Robin below are under real threat from feral cat populations. Every week people are finding dead birds killed by AWOL domestic cats.

Tell Nanaimo council to seriously listen to feral cat concerns as our native bird species are in peril.  How many birds are killed every week in Nanaimo? Email Mayor and Council and tell them this is an urgent matter to address.

American robin killed by feral cat in Nanaimo