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Toronto council proposes to prohibit cats from going outdoors unless on leash

The Toronto City Council is planning to prohibit cat owners from allowing felines to roam freely outdoors.

The motion, moved by Councillor for Ward 17 – Don Valley North Shelley Carroll, is rooted in the belief outdoor cats can be a danger to local ecosystems, hunting bird and rodent populations, and are themselves at risk of being hit by vehicles or attacked by wildlife while roaming.

Currently, city staff are proposing bylaws be changed to prohibit pet owners from allowed their pet to roam “at large” in the city, with the exception of cats and domesticated pigeons.




Carroll wants to scrub cats from the proposed change, while still permitting pigeons to remain at large. Under the proposed bylaw, cats would still be allowed outdoors while on leash.

Members of council on the city’s economic and community development committee voted in favour of the motion by a show of hands.

“I’m moving [this motion] today because, truly I think people don’t want free-roaming cats,” Carroll said. “It is horrendously traumatic when you find a cat that has met with misfortune.”



The move needs the majority support of council before it could go into effect. Council is scheduled to debate the issue in two weeks.

Andrew Holland, spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada said, domestic cats are considered one of the 100 most invasive species in the world.

“After habitat loss, cats are the number one human-caused reason for the loss of birds,” Holland said in a statement.

“It is estimated that over 2.6 billion birds are lost annually in Canada and the U.S. from being killed by cats.”

Holland says keeping your cat inside and using a leash when outdoors, is a “small, but important” conservation effort.

If your cat requires a higher level of enrichment, he recommends building “a catio” — a cat patio, which is an enclosed outdoor space that allows cats to remain contained while outdoors.