TRU researcher investigating impact of outside cats

By Adam Donnelly
November 28, 2017 - 5:27pm

KAMLOOPS — There’s no denying people are passionate about their pets, but how many pet owners take the time to consider the impact their pets have on the environment, or what impact that environment can have on their pet? One TRU researcher is considering that question and asking for input from the Kamloops community to help her in that research.

Denise King is a cat person, and it’s that love for her feline friend that guided her into her current Master’s research project at Thompson Rivers University.

“Well, it started with my love for cats,” King said in an interview on campus Tuesday. “I’ve always loved them, and you always want to start your research with a passion, and then you lead it to a question.”

That question was why are there so many unwanted cats who end up feral, or in the care of shelters such as the SPCA?

“I realized this isn’t just about cats,” King said. “It’s about cats and their owners, and the impact cats, when they’re allowed to roam freely outdoors, have on our environment.”

From there, King has been reviewing the literature that already exists, some of which suggests cats may be having a negative impact on certain wildlife populations throughout North America.

“Cats have an impact on the wildlife, with respect to catching the birds,” King explained. “Some of those birds might be at-risk species, or they might change their habitat due to the presence of cats in the area. There’s also a risk to the cats when they are outdoors.”

According to one Kamloops veterinarian who specializes in treating cats, the answer isn’t confining your cats indoors.

“When a cat is outdoors, they see things, they hear things. It’s very exciting for them,” Dr sandy Jamieson explained. “It has a huge health benefit on cats to enrich their environment, especially if they can get outdoors.”

According to the BC SPCA, one of the best ways to lessen the impact of cats on the environment is to ensure they’re spayed or neutered.

“Cats aren't all as domesticated genetically as dogs are,” Amy Morris, BC SPCA Manager of Public Policy and Outreach said, in a phone interview from Vancouver. “In some cases, cats don’t thrive in an indoor environment and that’s why it’s so crucial to spay and neuter and feed them adequately. A spayed and neutered cat will keep weight better, and won’t roam as far.”

King says her the goal of her research is to help people better understand their relationship with their cats

“It’s sort of about building relationships with people and their cats,” King said. “I’d like people to sort of think about why they have a cat, and what sort of relationship they have with that cat.”

While making it safer for cats and the world those cats live in.

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