“It’s a large problem for the community,” said Ryan Hardy, during his presentation to council during its November 19 special session. “The costs on the town are multi-faceted.”
Hardy, who has his own pet cats, is one of the volunteers with Operation: Spay and Neuter, a non-profit group that helps find new homes for cats that have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves. The group also promotes public awareness of the need to either spay or neuter domestic cats to reduce the chance of unwanted litters of kittens that end up abandoned and grow up feral if they survive to become adult cats.
Hardy noted that the pandemic has resulted in more cats abandoned because their owners can no longer afford to keep them and may be reluctant to have them euthanized.
That means more cats that end up going feral and creating problems in some neighbourhoods where feral cats might form colonies. There are noise problems with all the cats gathered in one area, disease potential from fleas, ticks and other insect pests, damage to property from feral cats scavenging food or marking their territory. Hardy noted that feral cats also increases the risk of attracting predators like coyotes to a neighbourhood.
Most animal rescue groups, Hardy noted, are experiencing their own setbacks because of the pandemic. They cannot do their usual fundraising activities for their operations or do canvassing campaigns for new volunteers.
Hawkesbury has bylaws that deal with licensing and other requirements for dog owners but there is no similar bylaw dealing with cats. Besides considering a cat bylaw, Hardy asked council to help promote public awareness about the need to spay and neuter domestic cats as a mean of feline population control. “If we can just encourage residents to participate in the (cat) population control,” he said, “it would help.”
Council members discussed the matter for several minutes following the end of Hardy’s presentation. They agreed to send a request to the SPCA for advice on how to promote cat population control.