There’s an overabundance of outdoor and stray cats in the Cowichan Lake area.
So many, that some frustrated property owners are catching them and bringing them to the SPCA, while at least one person is alleged to have killed a cat.
Lake Cowichan resident Carolyn Muroe believes that her cat Misty was murdered, Sunday, August 14.
Muroe found Misty Sunday morning, flat out on the ground and heaving. The cat was drenched in anti-freeze.
“I found her half dead… Her kidneys were three times their regular size. There was no saving her,” she said.
After giving Misty a bath to help wash off as much anti-freeze as possible, the family – including three children – drove to Duncan to have the cat put down. Katelyn, 9, carried Misty, wrapped up in a blanket, for the tear-filled drive.
“My daughter was crying last night, ‘where’s my Misty cat?’” Muroe said, of her six-year-old daughter, Teresa.
Muroe’s son Joe, 4, doesn’t understand death, so still asks where Misty has gone.
This isn’t a case of a cat licking up anti-freeze, Muroe said. The cat, which hates being wet, was drenched in the poisonous liquid, with her head remaining dry. She said that it appears as though the cat had been grabbed by the scruff of her neck and had anti-freeze poured over her. Ineffectual, as anti-freeze is only deadly when ingested, but the intent is there.
Muroe is now warning people who live in the area of Lake Cowichan known as Vinyl Village to keep their cats indoors, as she believes there’s a cat-killer on the loose.
The Lake Cowichan RCMP have also been notified of the allegations.
“It’s still under investigation,” Lake Cowichan RCMP Cpl. Warren Potter said. “We’re making inquiries to find out what happened.”
Nearby resident and friend Larissa Kirk, who lives at Johnson Place, has three cats, and has had difficulty keeping them indoors.
“It’s been tough keeping three cats indoors in the summer time, with kids,” she said.
Recently, her outdoor white cat came home covered in grey spray paint.
“I can’t get it off him,” she said.
Neighbour Glenn Sproule said that he’s caught cats in the past, including Kirk’s.
Harming animals is not the name of the game for Sproule. Instead, he’s taken to trapping cats in a wildlife trap and bringing them in to the SPCA.
His reason for trapping cats isn’t because of a dislike of the animals, but of the destruction they cause.
“The whole cul-de-sac has an issue with cats,” he said.
Neighbour Richard Fournier agrees.
“I go watering plants, and there’s that smell,” Fournier said, cringing. “There’s nothing worse than pulling weeds and getting cat poop.”
“Pet owners, regardless of what kind of pet they have, should accept responsibility for their pets,” Sproule said.
Fournier – a cat-owner himself – manages to keep his cats indoors; something he describes as a necessity for a responsible animal owner respectful of their neighbours.
Another concern for Sproule is with regard to the birds he keeps in his backyard, where a beautiful scene unfolds with dozens of small birds fluttering between a bird feeder and nearby trees. This scene is shattered with the presence of cats, which have been known to kill the birds, leaving bloody feathers behind.
The Lake Cowichan Animal Rescue Society does not condone the act of allowing cats outdoors.
“That’s been an ongoing problem for a while,” society head Mike Bedard said, of outdoor cats roaming about the area, violating people’s properties.
“We feel that, especially cats adopted from us, should be inside, because outside cats are open to diseases, tires from cars, hawks eagles…” he said, beginning an infinite list of outdoor dangers.
Once cats are allowed outdoors, they’re free to roam whatever property they choose, as they can’t stay fenced in like a dog can.
The trapping of cats can be a grey area, he said, as it’s difficult to know whether you’re catching a stray or someone’s pet. If they don’t have markings in their ear, it’s impossible to tell.
“Most are cats that were free to someone,” he said. When the owner opens their front door, they inadvertently set them loose and unidentifiable.
In the past, the Lake Cowichan Animal Rescue Society has trapped cats with wildlife traps.
They spay and neuter all the cats they catch, and then set loose the un-adoptable cats in same location they were found. The cats are released with a clipped ear so volunteers don’t waste time catching them a second time around.
This program is currently on hiatus, due to a lack of funding and there being too many cats within the society’s foster homes as is.
The problem all comes back to people not spaying or neutering their cats, Bedad said; a simple fix to many of the problems related to cats at Cowichan Lake.
The Town of Lake Cowichan does not have any bylaws dealing with outdoor cats.
Lake Cowichan Estates – Strata VIS #2870 (“Vinyl Village”) has created a bylaw dealing with outdoor cats, and on July 1 of this year had deployed a cat trap in the housing complex.
“We don’t have a trap now,” strata council secretary/treasurer Nadine Schock said. “Someone stole it.
The cat problem isn’t as bad as it once was, she said. Now, there are only a few trouble cats loose in the area, defecating in people’s gardens.
The odd stray cat is trapped and taken to the SPCA. Whenever cats that are residents’ pets are caught, they are given back. First, a warning letter is handed out, then a $50 strata bylaw fine per incident is given.
Schock is a cat owner herself; a cat she keeps indoors, for the most part.
“They have a longer lifespan if you keep them indoors,” she said. Cats also can’t negatively affect neighbours if they’re not free to roam outdoors.
Whenever her cat is let outdoors, her cat is leashed.
“She’s not happy about it, but if she wants outside she’s on the leash,” she said.
A notice to residents read, “The bylaw says cats are to be on a leash or inside. Tiny cat harnesses and leashes can be picked up at the local pet food store here in Lake Cowichan for a reasonable price for those whom are interested.”