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Keep your cat to yourself

Johnson City Press • Jun 15, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Have you ever seen a cat on a leash in Johnson City?

Probably not, but the law here says your cat should be leashed if it’s not confined to your property, and anyone who’s ever owned a cat knows that a fence is no barrier to a wandering feline.

Johnson City code treats cats, birds and other pets just like dogs:

It shall be the duty of the of the owner of any animal or anyone having an animal in his care, custody or possession to keep said animal under control at all times while the animal is off of the real property limits of the owner, possessor or custodian. For the purposes of this section, an animal is deemed "under control" when it is confined within a vehicle, parked or in motion, is secured by a leash or other device held by a competent person, or is properly confined within an enclosure with permission of the owner of the property where the enclosure is located — Johnson City Code 10-103(2).

As difficult as it sounds to keep a cat restrained, the city has good reason to require it. Anyone whose lawn furniture or azalea bushes have been damaged by male cats marking their territories can attest. Cats are born hunters, and your neighbor’s bird feeder isn’t there as bait. The American Bird Conservancy estimates cats kill about 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone, making cat predation by far the largest human-caused threat to birds. Cats also tend to dart into traffic, and no child wants to see a beloved pet crushed under a tire.

But the larger concern is that like all creatures, cats have rather active libidos and high-octane reproductive systems. On average, a female cat can produce three litters in a year, and the average number of kittens in a litter is five. Those kittens take just months to reach puberty, so one non-spayed cat can result in hundreds of births in just a few years.

Free-roaming cats that have not been spayed or neutered are the chief reason animal shelters stay filled with kittens. In May, the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter was so full of cats and nursing kittens that the staff began seeking foster families to care for them until permanent homes could be found. We’re smack dab in the middle of kitten season. From April to September in 2017, the shelter took in more than 2,000 cats and kittens, averaging more than 450 kittens per month during the spring and summer.

You could help stop the cycle — and make your neighbors a whole lot happier — by keeping your cats indoors and making sure they are spayed or neutered.

Many experts say cats live happier, healthier lives inside, anyway. They’re not exposed to parasites, diseases, poisons or those dreaded car tires. Playing with your cat will ensure healthy exercise and prevent boredom and depression.

If your neighbors get fed up with your roaming cat, they may just call Animal Control. If your cat is caught, you’ll have to pay the shelter $30 plus $2 per day the animal has been impounded, as well as any medical costs, to get it back.

So do your cat, your wallet, the birds and the rest of us a favor by keeping your cat inside.

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