Nova Scotia

Halifax group pushing for pet owners to keep cats indoors

A Halifax charity is urging local cat owners to keep their furry friends indoors. A couple of billboards have popped up in Halifax and Dartmouth bearing the message, "It's a dangerous world out there! Indoor cats: good for everyone."

But SpayDay HRM realizes not all cats are well suited to be kept inside

One of the billboards put up by SpayDay HRM is located on Wright Avenue in Burnside. (Kaitlyn Swan/CBC)

A Halifax charity is urging local cat owners to keep their furry friends indoors.

A couple of billboards have popped up in Halifax and Dartmouth bearing the message, "It's a dangerous world out there! Indoor cats: good for everyone."

"The idea is to keep your cat safe," said Hugh Chisholm, vice-president of SpayDay HRM, the charity that put up the billboards.

"It's good for your cat, good for your neighbours, good for wildlife."

Hugh Chisolm, vice-president of SpayDay HRM, says the number of feral cats in the region is dwindling, and keeping pet cats indoors would help keep it that way. (Kaitlyn Swan/CBC)

Ten years ago, Chisholm lost one of his outdoor cats, and another was hit by a car. That's when he decided to get a cat fence in his backyard, allowing his cats to roam in an enclosed space while still enjoying the stimulation of an outdoor lifestyle.

SpayDay HRM also works with the SPCA to operate their "trap-neuter-return" program, in which feral cats are neutered, ear tipped and then returned to their colony.

Ever since the charity received a grant from the municipality to help support the program, Chisholm said the number of feral cats has decreased significantly. 

Chisolm said the indoor cat campaign is the next step in ensuring feral cat populations continue to decrease, but he also realizes keeping your cats indoors is not always a simple answer. 

"We realize not everyone will keep their cats indoors, we just don't want to see cats becoming unmanageable," said Chisholm.

SpayDay HRM has been helping to find homes for feral cats through their barn cat program, with the goal to adopt cats who couldn't be socialized for an indoor environment. 

The cats are neutered or spayed and tested for disease. In return, the adopters are asked to feed the cats and have shelters — such as barns — available for them to escape the elements. 

Kim Davis and her husband with Suesue, a six-month-old barn cat. (Kaitlyn Swan/CBC)

"They keep the critters out of the barn. Primarily, that's their purpose," said Kim Davis, who has a farm in Lawrencetown, N.S. 

But she admits the cats are loved by both her and her husband — and their goats.

"They like hanging out with the goats. They go with them everywhere," she said.

Two barn cats are seen wrestling by a goat. (Kaitlyn Swan/CBC)

Davis and her husband have five outdoor barn cats and another four that stay inside. 

She said whether they are outdoor or indoor is based on their personality and skill set. The outdoor cats deter mice, rats and pigeons from spreading disease in the barn and contaminating the farm animal's food. 

Davis has adopted cats through the barn cat program before, and said it's a good way to give homes to cats who don't particularly belong inside. 

The Davis's have five barn cats and four indoor cats. (Kaitlyn Swan/CBC)

Lesley Coolen is a volunteer with SpayDay HRM, who helped start the barn cat program. She said they promote indoor cats because it's safer, but she notes not all cats are suited to be indoors. 

"I think each case has to be addressed individually on their own, depending on the cat and the situation," said Coolen.

Coolen said they adopt as far away as Moncton, N.B. She urged people to get in contact with SpayDay HRM if they'd like to adopt a barn cat, free of charge. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kaitlyn Swan is a Cree multimedia journalist from Regina. Three years ago she traded the sound of trains for the sound of foghorns. She now lives in Dartmouth, N.S., constantly pumped about water and windy roads, scenery she didn't get often in the Prairies. Reach her on Twitter @SaitlynKwan, or by email kaitlyn.swan@cbc.ca

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