Canadian City Bans Free-Roaming Cats

The City of Peterborough in Ontario Canada has created a bylaw under which cat owners can no longer let their cats roam freely.

Similar bylaws have been created at Sudbury and Brampton. There seems to be a trend against free-roaming cats. The bylaw was passed by the committee on June 20, 2016.

In addition to banning free-roaming cats, every cat owner has to ensure that their cat is licensed and provide proof of a current rabies vaccination.

One councillor, Henry Clarke, who voted in favour of the bylaw said:

“I am an animal lover… I have 3 cats and I don’t let them out.”

He added that there are too many animals on the street who are sick and living miserable lives. Keeping them indoors and at home is healthier and the cats live longer.

In addition, cat owners are required to keep their cat on a leash when outside the boundaries of the owner’s property. Further, owners must remove their cat’s excrement along the lines to which dog owners have been subjected to for some time.

The city of Peterborough is situated on the other side of Lake Ontario from New York state. It has a population of around 78,000 and covers an area of 58 km².

Comment: is this significant? It tells me that the lawmakers sitting on city councils across North America frequently discuss the issue of free roaming cats, the issue of licensing of cats (or registration), the issue of cat numbers, and the issue of feral cats and stray cats and how best to minimise their numbers.

It is a perpetual discussion topic and it is finely balanced between creating laws which restrict or limit cat ownership in some form or other or in effect leaving the domestic cat outside of the law. At the moment the domestic cat can almost do anything by which I mean roam anywhere and “trespass” without any consequences for his/her owner. That is the historical way. There is a gradual shift, possibly, towards restrictions. The city of Peterborough have taken quite a strong stance on this and I think it’s the first time that I have read about lawmakers banning free-roaming cats.

Personally, I’m not automatically for free-roaming cats. Some people think I am, but I’m not. I am for responsible cat caretaking/guardianship. Sometimes it is acceptable to let domestic cats roam freely outside of the owner’s property but often times it (a) puts the cat into hazardous situations detrimental to his health and (b) can irritate or upset neighbours. The owner needs to take a view and make a decision.

In the UK, free-roaming domestic cats very rarely irritate or upset neighbours. They are, in general, accepted. I sense that in America there is less tolerance towards wandering domestic cats especially when they wander into another person’s property and defecate there. It is a question of culture and attitude. I’m not saying one is better than the other. They are just slightly different. This law banning free-roaming cats in Peterborough is perhaps indicative of a slight shift in opinion across North America towards making it obligatory to keep cats indoors.

7 thoughts on “Canadian City Bans Free-Roaming Cats”

  1. Michael and Dee, you seem to have an entirely different impression than I about this entire topic. I don’t see it as “restricting cat owners’ freedoms” at all. Nor do I view it as *entirely* the result of ornithologists and cat haters. I do view it as “legislated responsibility,” for the protection of cats.

    Many years ago, I, too, felt that cats should be allowed outdoors for fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, and that it was cruel to keep them cooped up indoors. We did have them spayed and neutered, so they would not mate and contribute to the huge feline overpopulation problem in the U.S.

    However, I finally got tired of having to scoop up my cats’ bodies from neighboring streets, after they wandered away, as cats will do. We finally ended up moving to another community 150 miles away. Our cats could still go outside, but they were confined to a deck, which was 20 to 30 feet above ground.

    Today, my cats are confined to our home, as we don’t yet have a way of keeping them confined to their small yard. In addition, we have rescued two more young cats, whose original “owners” thought enough of them to have them microchipped. Unfortunately, they didn’t treasure them enough to keep them indoors, nor to take them along when moving. That’s okay – their loss is our gain, and Jack and Stacey now live safely indoors, along with our other cats.

    We are presently considering moving to another more rural area, where we can have a larger yard and cat-safe fencing. And in the distant future, my son and I hope to have a sanctuary, where we can rescue and care for unwanted and homeless cats.

    Now – the feral cat problem is an entirely different topic. Alley Cat Allies and other similar groups are working on it with managed colonies in the U.S. I have several friends who also care for small feral colonies.

    Keep up the good work, Michael!

  2. Not surprising that they are years behind our idiocy. Their next move will, probably, concern the demise of ferals. As is said, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”. The cat haters and complainers get the attention because happy cat caretakers have no need to randomly express their pleasure. So, councils are bombarded with negatives.
    My wish is that some traveling coalition will form and educate all areas of North America.

    • Yes. I feel there is a very gradual drift towards restricting cat owner’s freedoms in America and Canada because partly of pressure by ornithologists and their associations and cat haters who complain vehemently about “trespassing” cats.

      • I believe Manhattan Beach in California may have been one of the first places I have lived to ban free roaming cats. Decades ago. The number of cats and the amount of feces along the sand in the boardwalk was disgusting and unhealthy. For those that cared about their pets beautiful and creative enclosures sprung up in very confined spaces.

        Different countries , states, counties or any incorporated area may have reasons for restricting the free movement of anyone’s domestic pet. I love my cats. My SIL next door is not a good steward of her pets. They are often sick, hungry and flea encrusted. Often they have had their litters on my doorstep.
        I have had fleas IN my house after their dog/cat has been on my porch. Her lousy pet keeping would be prohibitive to even considering letting my cats outside. That’s not even taking into account free roaming dogs, cars/trucks and cat haters in general.

        I was enthralled to watch a British show where they put camera on cats and recorded their movements. And aside from finding it fun to watch was the realization of an entirely different kind of cat culture. Sadly the US cat culture often promotes cat hate and any loose cat can be seen as vermin in their eyes.
        Without a doubt the call for responsible ownership of cats will be followed by the idea of eradicating feral colonies.

      • I read Franny’s comment but can’t agree with most of it.
        I believe that cats should have the freedom of the outdoors. But, in the US, it is too unsafe. I, too, have scooped up remains. The price for a happy outdoor cat is high.
        Here, signs are posted to stop for crossing deer. The same should be true for cats or any other animal. I have witnessed motorists just mowing over turtles, baby opossums, and raccoons like they were nothing.
        I stop traffic so often to help a turtle cross the road or to shew animals to the side. I, also, can’t stand to see a dead animal in the middle of the road without stopping and dragging to the side. I find it so disrespectful that motorists will run over and over an animal like that.
        All in all, Canada needs to be educated regarding cat needs and behaviors. But, what good has it really done us here?

        • They do everything but call the National Guard here if a dog gets hit. A cat is a tire target. I have stopped and moved cats that have obviously been run over multiple times.
          There are some rural areas where cats live outside without fear from harm. However most people that have them outside see them as disposable and replaceable.


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