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Responsible cat ownership

Responsible cat ownership is an important part of maintaining a happy, healthy cat and avoiding cat-related disputes with your neighbours. Part of being a responsible cat owner is complying with Calgary's bylaws related to cats

The City of Calgary's Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw regulates animals in our city. For a brief overview of the bylaw refer to Cats and the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw. Please refer to the actual bylaw for more detailed information. Original copies of the bylaw are available at the City Clerk's office.

But there is more to being a responsible cat owner than just complying with the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw.

The City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services strives to ensure that cats, their owners and neighbours live together in safety and harmony. Animal & Bylaw Services advocates responsible cat ownership and and encourages cat owners to adhere to the five principles listed below.

For more information, download our Responsible Pet Ownership brochure​.​

Principle #1: Provide a licence and permanent identification for your cat

All cats over three months of age residing in Calgary must be licensed with the City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services. To be properly licenced, a cat will either be wearing The City of Calgary tag or have a legible tattoo or readable microchip. We suggest using a breakaway collar with the licence tag. A tattoo is one form of permanent identification, but it can smear or fade over time and become difficult to read. The preferred method of permanent identification is a microchip that can be scanned for owner information if the cat is lost. Owners must remember to update their contact information with Animal & Bylaw Services and their microchip provider when they move or change phone numbers so that their information remains current.

Principle #2: Spay or neuter your cat

Every year, thousands of unwanted cats and kittens are brought to city shelters. Cats that are not spayed or neutered can escape outdoors and contribute to over-population of unwanted animals. Spaying or neutering your cat is the best way to be sure your cat is not adding to the over-population problem. We suggest that spaying be done before a female cat’s first heat cycle. Females as young as five months old can have kittens. 

The benefits of spaying / neutering include:

  • Reduces the incidence of disease, infection and certain cancers of cats’ reproductive systems.
  • Eliminates the female heat cycles.
  • Eliminates spraying by males.
  • Stops cat’s crying, howling, and frantic efforts to get out and mate.
  • Makes cats more sociable and affectionate.
  • Reduces the licence fees.

Principle #3: Provide training, socialization, proper diet and medical care for your cat

  • Play with and groom your cat to establish loving bonds.
  • Cats scratch to loosen old nail layers and mark territory. Provide a scratching post and entice the cat to use it by rubbing it with catnip and placing it near a window.
  • Provide a pot of cat grass or catnip.
  • Provide fresh water and quality cat food that meets your cat’s needs.
  • Brush your cat and have its claws trimmed regularly.
  • Brush its teeth with special toothpaste or feed hard, crunchy food to help remove tartar.
  • Check with your veterinarian regarding yearly vaccinations.
  • Consider the companionship of a second cat.
  • If you want your cat to go outdoors, consider teaching him to walk with a harness and lightweight leash or build a cat run or an outdoor cage which will allow your cat to climb and run in a non-threatening area.

Principle #4: Don’t allow your cat to become a threat or nuisance

The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw states that cats must be confined to their owner’s property Further to that, Animal & Bylaw Services strongly recommends keeping cats indoors because they live longer, healthier and safer lives. The average life span of an indoor cat is 12 to 15 years compared to two to five years for an outdoor cat. This drastic difference is due to the dangers cats face outdoors such as traffic, unfriendly animals, poisons, diseases, frostbite, dehydration and abuse from humans. Despite popular belief, cats don’t need to go outdoors to be happy. Keeping cats indoors eliminates annoying cat behaviours (e.g. digging, meowing, mating or spraying) that often cause disputes with neighbours.​​​​​​​

Principle #5: Procure your cat ethically and from a credible source

Having a cat means a commitment for the lifetime of that cat.  Ask yourself if this is the right time to bring a companion animal into your family.  Do your research on your potential cat’s physical needs and what to expect for food, care and medical costs.  Be aware of the type of training, socialization and exercise that will be needed and be sure that you are able to provide all of these things for the lifetime of your cat.  Once an informed decision is made, it is imperative that you procure your cat from a rescue organization or breeder that is both credible and humane.