Cat Etiquette

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Many families, including we aging boomers love to live with cats. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t hate cats; I just prefer to live without them. There are gazillions of cat lovers, which I totally get. They can be a wonderful source of comfort and companionship. My granddaughter thinks they’re human and has two loving cats, which are kept indoors where they belong.

Jeepers creepers: I’m talking here about the roaming kind; the kind that creeps around in your garden and whizzes in your Weigelas. I believe that those who own cats have a responsibility to follow good cat etiquette and ensure their pet is not a source of annoyance to others living in the community. There must be something we can do to stop them from peeing in our peonies!

No self-respecting dog owner would let their beloved dogs run around free all day, so why do many cat owners condone it? Why would otherwise caring people allow their little furry Snookums to run out into the street and get killed, lost or attacked by another animal? People who just let their pets run free in residential areas must not care what happens to them.

Dangerous liasons: As cats are allowed to roam, they encounter more risks and dangerous exposure to rabies from skunks, raccoons and even bats! There have also been many reported coyote and fox attacks on small animals. Too often pets are killed, seriously injured or need to be treated for abscesses, bites and scratches resulting from these encounters. Many cats suffer infectious diseases and viruses simply from being in contact with other cats.

And what about our beautiful bird population? Why would any humane pet owner allow a cat the right to exercise its predator instincts through daily bird killing sprees? They frighten the poor chickadees and robins out of their feathers during bathing or feeding rituals, and then sadly eat one for lunch on a regular basis.

Outdoor toilets: Cats are especially bothersome in the garden. They skulk in the bushes leaving doo-doo in the daffodils, which we often wear on our garden gloves and on the bottom of our shoes. They ruin perennials and spray-kill the roots and lower branches of bushes and shrubs by using the garden as a community litter box.

A wormy word: Most disturbing is the danger to small children playing in a yard speckled with dangerous poop-toxins. A growing concern among veterinarians is the threat of parasite contamination in children and adults with compromised immune systems. As any pet owner knows, Roundworm is a common disorder for dogs and cats alike.

But as people become complacent about de-worming animals, especially as the pet gets older, the risk of parasite exposure through pet feces left in the yard is a serious issue. While not widespread, children have been known to lose their eyesight and adults have become seriously ill from this problem.

Get out! Many of us have tried sprinkling various ‘cat-away’ products in our gardens, but we’d have to cash in our retirement funds to keep up with the expense. Rain washes away the effects and we need to repeat the process several times over the course of a year.

Then there are anti-cat experts that tout scattering everything from orange peels, coffee grounds, medicinal herbs, pipe tobacco, mothballs and various peppery brews, around the flower beds. Not only are some of these so-called-solutions dangerous to animals, I don’t think it should be the responsibility of non-pet owners to dump smelly concoctions or garbage into our gardens, just to keep out neighbourhood cats.

It’s only fair: I believe that, when people choose to keep pets, it should come with a legal responsibility to yard them. Non-cat-owners shouldn’t have to be second-hand-pet-owners.

There are many humane, affordable pet containment systems and devices on the market to keep cats inside the yards of their owners. It’s a little known fact that there are effective electronic, wireless and invisible fences like those used for dogs, which can be installed above ground and underground to control cats.

Do it yourself: There are also many options for building home-made cat fences constructed from ordinary netting, mesh or wire, designed to keep felines fenced and safe in their own yards. The internet is full of ideas.

Cats are lazy creatures and the need to roam all day is not a necessity. They love to sunbathe, lie down and stretch and mostly enjoy sleeping a lot. They don’t need the entire neighborhood to do this. Or, if pet guardians want to get creative, they could construct a maze of tunnels in one area of the yard linked to a penned-in area. Many gardeners harness their cats while they work in the garden. This is a great idea, as it helps them to control their pet’s whereabouts while allowing the cat to safely experience the outdoors.

No free ride: Most animal control bylaws prohibit dogs and cats from running free in a residential area. Animals can be picked up and impounded with penalties and fines imposed to the owners. This is distressful to the animal and shouldn’t happen with a responsible approach to cat containment.

So the next time a cat lifts its tail in our tiger lilies or squats in our squash, non-pet owners unite! Let’s exercise our right to be doo-doo free! Forget the smelly mothballs and messy orange peels! Let’s check out the bylaws and lobby to protect our rights and at the same time – the safe-keeping of our children as they play outdoors.

And finally: If cat owners still can’t be bothered to leash, harness or fence their pets, perhaps they should consider putting a diaper on their felines and a big honking bell around their necks to ward off unsuspecting bird attacks. Cats need to be contained! It’s as simple as that!

Pat Skene

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