If you own a cat, the City of Winnipeg wants to make you pay.

A city committee is considering a recommendation to reduce pet overpopulation. One way being proposed is a cat licensing program.

Cat owners would pay $15 for an annual cat licence if the cat is spayed or neutered, or $50 for cats that are not.

Anyone who doesn't license their feline could be fined $250. That's similar to fines for failing to license a dog.

The proposed bylaw, which will go before a city committee on Monday, aims to reduce the number of feral cats in the city, easing the load on animal shelters.

"Cat licensing will protect more cats with a license tag and provide a revenue stream for enhanced spay-neuter programs," Leland Gordon, chief operating officer of the city's animal services department, stated in a news release.

"Both dogs and cats affect neighbourhood livability and place a strain on area animal shelters. A license increases owner responsibility while adding value and protection to our feline companions."

With cat licensing, 311 operators will be able to reunite lost cats wearing licenses, Leland said.

In 2011, 311 reunited 601 dogs wearing licenses with their owners.

The city of Calgary, which has cat licensing, boasts a 52 per cent return rate on lost cats, according to a news release from the City of Winnipeg, which lags behind at nine per cent.

The result is Winnipeg-area animal shelters take in high volumes of stray cats that are not reunited with their owners. Thousands are euthanized yearly.

The Winnipeg Humane Society says it's about time the city looks at licensing cats.

"We're getting the comments that this is nothing but a tax grab by the city, and I would argue back that

[for] cat owners, cat lovers … $15 a year is going towards cat welfare," said Bill McDonald, the society's chief executive officer.

Additional highlights from the proposed bylaw include:

  • Requiring anyone who sells or advertises the sale of a puppy or kitten (less than six months old) in Winnipeg to have a pet vendor license and requiring the license number be published in any sale advertisement.
  • Prohibiting the sale of dogs or cats by pet stores in Winnipeg. This restriction does not apply to adoptions arranged by a pet store on behalf of the Winnipeg Humane Society or an animal rescue organization.
  • Maintaining the ban on pit bulls in Winnipeg.
  • Allowing residents of Winnipeg to own or harbor up to six dogs and cats, four of which may be dogs. The previous bylaw allowed for a maximum of 3 dogs and 3 cats.
  • Prohibiting a travelling zoo, exhibit or circus from keeping or harbouring animals except those on the allowed animals listing contained within the bylaw.
  • Urban chicken keeping in Winnipeg will be allowed only in areas that are agriculturally zoned due to potential food safety, humane and neighbourhood livability issues.