Kitty Concern: Petrolia considers cat bylaw

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Robb Huff is never sure what carnage he will find when he goes outside.

The Petrolia man and his wife, Carol, like to spend time in their yard but regularly find “half-eaten squirrels and half-eaten baby rabbits.

“There were also about 50 birds this winter,” he told Petrolia councilors Monday.

The Huffs don’t have a wild cat or a coyote in their yard – they say small wildlife is in danger from house cats. “Cats in North America kill somewhere between 900 million to a billion birds on a yearly basis,” Huff says.

And it’s not just the dead wildlife that’s a problem. “The gardens around the house – it’s miserable to work in them because of the cat feces.”

The marauding cats are particularly annoying to the Huffs because they are dog owners who have to pay a licensing fee each year for their pet while cat owners pay no fee and roam free. “I don’t think it is fair we gain money from dogs but not from cats,” he says.

Teryl Unsworth agrees. The Petrolia dog owner wrote to the town about the same issue saying making dog owners pay for tags but leave cats on the loose is “discrimination.”

And like Huff, Unsworth has an issue with wandering neighbourhood cats. Her family was kept awake by a cat which clawed its way into their crawl space and howled for three nights.

“We were forced to open all the entries to the crawlspace in very cold temperatures taking the risk of pipes freezing in the hopes the cat would exit and go away, with no luck,” Unsworth wrote to council. The family eventually used a live trap to catch the animal only to have it come back.

Unsworth also wants the town to adopt a cat tagging system to be fair to all pet owners and to make people responsible for their animals.

“I do not feel it is fair to implement rules for one animal in town and not the other,” Unsworth says.

Petrolia Chief Administrative Officer Manny Baron says these are not the first complaints they’ve heard. Baron says they’ve had several people come to the town over the past few months. All have noted cat owners don’t face the same regulations as dog owners do.

Council has agreed to hold a public meeting on the idea of a cat bylaw in the next few months to see what residents of the town think.