Calling all cat owners: Officials want to educate public about care

Published on Thu, Dec 4, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Calling all cat owners: Officials want to educate public about care

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The Whatcom County Humane Society is trying to get the word out about cats. More specifically, that word is care.

According to Penny Cistaro, executive director of the Whatcom County chapter, cats are a larger problem than dogs, as many of them are left to roam. �People are more responsible with their dogs. They aren�t with their cats,� Cistaro said. �A big problem is people do not put identification on their cats.�

If cats were tagged, residents would be able to contact the rightful owner should something occur. �If something happens, it�s difficult for people to find out where they (cats) live. Should that be my cat, it makes a difference in getting my cat back to me. If your cat�s injured and there�s no identification, do you want me making the decision? The owner would want the opportunity to decide. I�m going to treat him.�

To address the identification of cats, the Humane Society met with Blaine city council and staff in a study session in September and discussed the potential of requiring cat licensing. Currently, there are no requirements � only dogs must be licensed within Blaine city limits � but steadily, officials are hoping cat owners will voluntarily tag their pets.

�The ending consensus at that meeting was to educate the community and encourage owners to license their cats,� Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said. �We discussed the issue of feral and stray cats in the community, their impact on neighbors, and on the environment in terms of the song bird population and control of such diseases as rabies.�

This is history repeating itself, he said, but this time it�s cats, not dogs. A number of years ago, Haslip was working dog control and picked up 30 dogs in two weeks, he said. Now, cats are the bigger issue.

�Owners should care for their cats as they do their dogs,� Cistaro said. �They should not assume that when they let their cats out they will be okay. They don�t consider the ramifications for neighbors and the cats themselves�

Cistaro noted a recent cat trapping incident in Bellingham, where a man � who was tired of cats roaming through his yard � has been trapping cats and contacting the Humane Society. The man said he has nothing against cats, he likes them, but he wants the neighbors to know the cats roam his propoerty at will.

�There is great potential for something like that to happen in Blaine,� Cistaro said. �Cats defacate on neighbors� property, go through the garbage, hang around bird feeders, climb in cars, they dig,� Cistaro said.

There are a few cat trappers in Blaine; however, none of them wished to speak to The Northern Light in fear of retaliation. Those individuals, county-wide, that trap cats call the Humane Society, which then takes the cat and holds it for five days. Less than one percent of cats taken in, Cistaro said, are claimed by their owners or adopted.

According to Blaine animal control call numbers, the society recoeved 181calls in 2000, 193 in 2001, 182 in 2002, and 134 in 2003 as of mid-November. Cats make up 58 percent of the total number of animals received, 79 of which are stray. Less than one percent of the stray cats received are redeemed, and 74 percent of cats euthanized were stray. These statistics include all complaints, bite reports and enforcements; however, they do not include after hours calls where most instances involve the arrest of someone who is traveling with a pet.

The humane society and local police are hoping to reach the community about the issue through education. �A lot of people call us and want to know what to do,� Cistaro said. �A lot of neighbors don�t want to make an issue out of it. They want to avoid confrontation and not make waves.�

For those who want to reach the owner, but don�t know who it is, �You can tape a piece of paper to a cat�s neck and let them know what�s going on,� Cistaro said, adding they could also call the humane society.

�The Great Outdoor Pamphlet� is available for cat owners through the humane society, detailing training information and how to bring outdoor cats inside. Additional information about tagging is available, including micro-chipping, as well as pulley systems for cats, allowing them to roam but still be tied.

�We will be reporting back to council in the future regarding our success and whether additional measures such as formal licensing need to be considered,� Haslip said.

For more information, call the humane society at 733-2080 or visit www.whatcomhumane.org.

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