Curbing Cornwall's cat problem: draft bylaw calls for cats to be kept indoors

The city of Cornwall could become the first municipality in Ontario to require cats to be kept indoors. It's one part of the city's proposed bylaw to deal with the furry felines.

Cornwall has a cat problem. There are so many strays and so many roaming cats that the city is considering not only forcing cats inside, but forced sterilization, too.

Every day, at least two cats are dropped off at the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Cornwall.

Feral cats. Stray cats. Or cats people can't care for anymore. Jane Joldersma is bringing Minou in today, hoping she will find a good home.

“I mean it's better she has a loving place to go than be with me,” she says.

“Last week we had 17 cats dropped off in the centre,” says Carol Link.  She manages the animal shelter which is working with the city of Cornwall to come up with a solution for the 7 thousand or so cats in Cornwall, many of which are roaming, romancing and ruining people's property.

“We do want to work with the public and the city to hopefully have a viable solution for this challenge,” says Link.

The animal shelter gets about 700 stray cats a year but Link says if you add in the feral cats and those that are surrendered,  it adds up to about 2000 a year. Each cat costs about $500 to care for; the costs are getting out of reach.

Christopher Rogers is Cornwall’s Bylaw enforcement supervisor, the man drafting Cornwall's cat bylaw.

“It puts in place a game plan and that's what we need right now,” he says.

The draft bylaw was presented to Cornwall council Monday night and prompted much discussion.  Among things, the bylaw would require all cats to be kept indoors, all cats to be spayed or neutered within 5 years and feral cats to become the responsibility of those who feed them.

“According to OSPCA statistics, we have an extraordinary problem here, they would describe it as a crisis, possibly unlike no other municipality in Ontario,” says Rogers, “I think it requires extraordinary measures to counteract the problem with have.”

Dennis Poisson hopes the bylaw will pass. He says his street in Cornwall has become the city's breeding grounds for feral cats and he's fed up.

“When it's hot and humid, you’d see about 30 or 40 cats,” he says, “They go to a particular house and we call it the nightclub for cats.  They gather there, like a bar for adults,” he laughs.

Poisson has had to rebuild his front yard to prevent the cats from using it as a giant litter box.  Other neighbours have photos showing their yards covered in cat feces.

This is just a draft bylaw.  The public will get its chance to weigh in on the issue in the coming weeks.  The city admits the challenge will be enforcement.