Opinion Column

Cobourg's cats create a cat-astrophe

By Grahame Woods, Northumberland Today

Grahame Woods

Grahame Woods

It's interesting how instincts, going back through time, haven't really changed in the animal world - being simply a variation on a theme. In nature's world, a lion will kill a Wildebeest, a Peregrine falcon a squirrel, a pack of wolves a deer, a dog will - well, mostly, curl up in front of a fire waiting for its lunch to be served in a dish. And then there are cats. Domesticated cats, much like dogs, enjoy a variation of hard and soft food, on schedule and in anticipation of a postprandial nap. Cats also, if allowed to roam outside, like to kill birds and mice. It's in their DNA. As it is with coyotes who, spotting a domesticated cat out roaming in its territory, will see it as fair game. As happened recently in the east end of Cobourg when a cat, outdoors in the middle of the night, was taken by, it is believed, a coyote.

Coyotes? Well they dine on rabbits, birds, any small moving creature. It's in their DNA also. The difference though between cats and a coyotes is that domesticated cats kill because of a built in, instinctual response to chase and kill any small, moving creature, a response that has not changed since the beginning of ... well, since cats first padded this rapidly deteriorating planet. It's our on-going triple-C; Cobourg-Cats-Coyotes. Oh, and occasionally, foxes, particularly in the east end of town where they often wandered through our garden while our cat, Sami, laying on a window ledge watching them, barely gave them the time of day.

There are a reported 8.5 million domestic cats in Canada as well as 1.4 million wild or strays, both slaughtering, according to an Environment Canada study, roughly, and it has to be very rough - I mean, how on earth can anyone tabulate bird deaths by cat - 113 million birds every year. Bringing that down to a local level, I translate that to approximately 54,000 birds a year, a low-ball number, slaughtered by cats in Cobourg every year. In my cycling years around Cobourg I've encountered cats with kills in their mouths from Lucas Point to the far reaches of Pebble Beach. In Toronto, over a thousand road-kill cats are scraped up by the city each year.

Is it not time for Cobourg Council to erase the pet double-standard; dogs out of doors within the town's boundaries have to be on a leash. Cats? Well, they can wander at will, kill at will, and no one gives a damn. Some forward-looking towns in Ontario - Oakville, Milton, Burlington and Hamilton - have bylaws banning free-ranging cats, with fines and kennel fees imposed on the owners. Isn't it time for Cobourg to join those forward-looking towns and only allow cats out on a leash; to impose an annual, or bi-annual license fee instead of discriminating against dog owners?

Those 54,000 birds a year are a lot for the town's collective conscience to deal with, if it's ever given a second thought. But - have a cat taken by an alleged coyote and calls for the town to 'do something about the roaming coyotes and foxes' shatters the otherwise head-in-the-sand silence about such matters. Let us not forget, coyotes and foxes were roaming this area well before the first settlers decided it would be a good place to live. I wrote on this theme about three years ago - 162,000 dead birds ago. Will council finally do the right thing and put a stop to this carnage and pass a bylaw making it an offence to have a cat running loose in Cobourg?

Grahame Woods can be reached at ggwoods@sympatico.ca