Keeping tab on tabbies

EDMONDS – Henry the cat was sitting in his nylon kitty house on an enclosed outdoor wooden deck when a fly landed on top.

With lightning speed, Henry jumped up and bopped the ceiling, hard. The fly took off.

“That’s one of the most exciting things for them, chasing the flies,” said Henry’s owner, Julie Stonefelt, of her three cats.

Better flies than birds, many would say.

Henry, a 21/2-year-old gray tabby, his brother Oliver, and an adopted stray named Otis run, play and jump within the confines of the wire-enclosed deck.

A recent incident in Edmonds in which a wandering, bird-catching cat was trapped by a neighbor underscored what animal adoption and wildlife rescue agencies have been saying for years: Keeping cats indoors, or confined to a yard or enclosure, is best for all concerned.

“We get a lot of calls from people who are frustrated with cats in their yards and from others who are worried their cats will be harmed by their neighbors,” said Mary Leake Schilder, spokeswoman for the Lynnwood-based Progressive Animal Welfare Society.

The issue stirs strong emotions on both sides. Some people get angry when cats kill birds and other wildlife, or urinate and defecate in their yards.

In many cities, neighbors are allowed to humanely trap trespassing pets, enraging cat owners who say others should have no right to detain their animals.

Curt Ronning of Marysville said in the past three years, he and his family have trapped 16 different cats in their yard and turned them over to animal control. Some of the cats chase and stalk their two Yorkshire terriers and use the yard for a bathroom, he said.

“How do cat owners justify letting their pets roam free so others can clean up after their pets?” Ronning said.

He said he warned most of their neighbors beforehand that he planned to trap cats when they came into his yard. Only one neighbor objected after her cat was trapped, Ronning said.

Most of the cats were stray or feral, without tags, he said.

Whether they have homes or not, all cats have one thing in common: a proclivity for hunting.

At the Sarvey Wildlife Center, a wild-animal rescue operation in Arlington, many of the small, injured animals brought in show signs of cat attacks, clinic director Sue McGowan said.

“I would say probably half of the songbirds that come in” were injured by cats, she said.

Other cat victims include rabbits and small squirrels, she said.

Stonefelt, 27, who works as humane education coordinator for PAWS, understands both sides of the hunting issue. Her husband built the enclosure on their Edmonds deck this summer.

“Because we have so much wildlife in our yard, we didn’t want our cats to be able to get out and attack birds,” she said.

She said they spent a couple of hundred dollars on their enclosure, in which they attached 4-by-4 posts to their deck and enclosed it with wire fencing.

“It depends on how extensive people want to be,” said Corrie Hines, also of Edmonds, who spent between $2,500 and $3,000 on an enclosure for her three cats.

Keeping cats confined not only saves trouble for neighbors but is good for the cats, advocates say.

“We never have to worry about them getting hit,” Stonefelt said of her cats. “When we adopted them we took responsibility for their well being, and I would be devastated if anything happened to them.”

Cat enclosures

For more information about cat enclosures, contact the Progressive Animal Welfare Society at 425-787-2500, or go to www.paws.org.

The laws

A sampling of laws around the county on roaming cats and cat trappings. Page A8

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