'Distraught' cat crawls home after being caught in illegal gopher trap

Hayley Toniello's cat was injured after having its paw stuck in a neighbour's gopher trap. It's started a conversation about the responsibilities of pet owners and of neighbours who don't want animals in their yard.

Setting traps is banned but so is having pets 'at large'

Hayley Toniello says her cat M.K. suffered severe tissue damage on her paw after stepping on a gopher trap. (Hayley Toniello/Submitted to CBC)

Hayley Toniello says it was around supper time when her family cat Miss Kitty got let out of the house to explore the yard only to return a few hours later with her paw stuck in a gopher trap. 

"She was pretty distraught," Toniello said.

It's a nightly ritual for the family to let the three-year-old tabby loose to roam in Regina. Miss Kitty, or M.K. for short, starts to whine if she doesn't get her evening stroll.

When the cat returned only a few hours later, Toniello's younger brother was shocked to discover the cat under the deck with her front paw stuck in a gopher trap.

M.K. had stepped in the trap in a yard nearby and had to drag herself back and climb over a fence to get back home.

M.K. managed to drag herself with the gopher trap attached to her paw, even climbing a fence to get back to her yard. (Hayley Toniello/Submitted to CBC)

Toniello estimated the trap weighed as much as the undersized cat — about five pounds.

"I think she was in shock, otherwise she wouldn't have made it back to the house,' Toniello said. 

On Sunday morning, Toniello posted on Facebook about the incident. It started a conversation about the responsibilities of pet owners and of neighbours.

Illegal for pets to be 'at large'

The City of Regina has a bylaw in place outlawing pets from wandering onto private property. Having a pet "at large" can even carry a $100 fine for first offence.

"It's far safer and far healthier for [pets] to stay inside," says Bill Thorn, director of marketing for the Regina Humane Society. "The dangers outside and the things they can run into far outweigh any negatives of them staying inside."

Setting traps without a permit is also illegal, according to the city bylaw, especially the type of trap that Miss Kitty got trapped in.

"Any kind of leg hold trap will cause pain, will cause possibly broken legs," said Thorn. "We're actually quite appalled that someone would do that for whatever reason, whether it was to catch a cat specifically or some other animal."

Setting traps carries a $100 fine for first offence but Thorn said even harsher penalties could be enforced under the Animal Protection Act if animals are harmed by traps.

Neighbours concerned about animals should contact Humane Society

The Humane Society rents out safer traps to people who are concerned about animals wandering into their yards.

Concerned neighbours can set one of these traps on their property as long as they get a permit and as long as the temperature is between 0 and 30 C.

Once a trap is set, it must be checked every hour. If an animal is trapped, the animal shelter has to be called immediately, or as soon as it opens, according to city bylaw.

Toniello describes the gopher trap her cat was caught in as a "mini bear trap." (Hayley Toniello/Submitted to CBC)

Toniello said Miss Kitty suffered severe tissue damage in the incident. They don't know at this point whether the cat will have its leg amputated or not.

"I totally understand that you're not supposed to let your cats wander around," Toniello said.

"If somebody would've addressed me with an issue with her being in their yard, I totally would try to keep her inside the house more but I've never had any concerns brought to me by any of my neighbours.

"There's a million different ways you can handle it other than injuring someone else's animal," she said.