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Queen’s students trying to keep cats indoors

A group of Queen’s biology students are working on a project to raise awareness about the negative impacts outdoor pet cats have on biodiversity in their area.

While many with pet cats think its relatively harmless to let them roam outside and come back, the students say that research makes clear the threat that cats have on birds and small animals in particular.

Inn Canada cats kill between 100 and 350 million birds a year, which is assumed to be the largest human-related impact on bird mortality, and 23 species have been put at-risk due to predation from cats.

Kerry Roe, one of the three students working on the project, says they’ve been surveying people in Kingston and have found that a lot of respondents do let their cats out and say they occasionally hunt and bring back their kills.

She says that’s probably only a glimpse into the damage they’re out causing.

“Some cats don’t even bring back what they’ve caught, but if they do it’s often only about a third of what they’ve actually caught, so there really is no way to tell the impact that they have,” Roe said.

Roe said while they were surveying people, some residents without cats or who don’t let them roam mentioned some of the smaller nuisances free-roaming cats can have as they wander on to other people’s properties.

The cats can cause a number of issues, and concerns for their own safety on busy streets are also something to consider.

“There is a lot of issues with it, especially with them going onto other people’s properties, that kind of even goes beyond just the impacts on biodiversity,” Roe said.

“I honestly don’t really know why people do it, I would be so scared that my cat would get hit by a car.”

For people who feel they need to let their cat explore outside, she suggests putting them on a long leash.

As part of the project the students have also contacted the City of Kingston to explore the possibility of enacting a bylaw that prevents people from simply letting their cats roam.

Roe says cities like London have implemented bylaws preventing pets from roaming free with a main focus of protecting local bird populations, and it’s something Kingston should consider.

For now she hopes the project helps inform people’s choices around letting their cat loose.

“It takes a long time to educate people, and if we can start by just getting them to keep their cats inside more often, even without a bylaw, that’s a good way to start,” Roe said.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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