British Columbia

Kitten permittin': group pushes for cat licences in Greater Victoria

Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 Greater Victoria municipalities asking them to consider licensing cats as dogs already are.

Nature advocates say keeping cats indoors, licensing them, could keep them safer

The Victoria Natural History Society says keeping cats indoors will keep felines — and the birds they sometimes prey on when left outside — safe. (Vishnevskiy Vasil/Shutterstock)

House cats may nap for up to 16 hours a day, but the Victoria Natural History Society is not sleeping on the environmental impacts of outdoor felines.

The Vancouver Island ecological advocacy group has sent letters to 13 Greater Victoria municipalities asking them to consider licensing cats as dogs already are.

Society board member Claudia Copley, who has owned as many as five cats at once but insists she is not a "crazy cat lady," says such restrictions would protect both cats and the wildlife outdoor cats often kill.

"I'm a cat owner, I'm a cat lover… I really love my cats and because I really love them I do not let them out," Copley told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"The world is dangerous and they are precious to me. So if I were to let them out it would be under controlled circumstances."

Copley says other cities in Canada, like Calgary and, more recently, Guelph, have moved to start licensing cats successfully. The society says in Calgary, licensing has led to fewer cat deaths and injuries and allows the city to reunite lost pets with owners.

Claudia Copley says indoor cats can be perfectly happy if provided with a stimulating environment. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Copley said pets left to roam free risk injury or death from traffic or predators like raccoons and are at greater risk of catching fleas or other diseases.

She said that indoor cats have a quality of life as great as outdoor cats if they have an enriching environment where they can play and receive attention. Another option is for owners to take a cat out on a leash or build an outdoor enclosure for them.

Keeping them indoors would also protect birds and other wildlife. A 2013 study found that domestic cats kill 200 million birds each year in Canada alone.

The society acknowledges, however, that letting cats roam free is already illegal in Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt.

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