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It may seem like a good idea to let a cat wander around and enjoy the outdoors, however, it could put the animal and their owner at risk.

Cats that are allowed to wander unsupervised could create an uncontrolled homeless cat population, says Dave Bone, Shelter Manager at the Pembina Valley Humane Society.

These cats can come into contact with outdoor pets start fights and spread disease.

Dr. Kate Gardiner is a veterinarian with the Winkler Vet Clinic, she says it's up to an owner to decide what is best for their animal.

She explains if someone wants to have their cats outdoors it is recommended to either take out the cat on a leash or using a catio.

However, it is important to remember that having an indoor/outdoor cat does have some risks beyond the elements Gardiner says.

"Feline immune deficiency virus, feline leukemia virus, these are viruses your cat is at risk of from being outside. Cat fights, lots of catfights, getting abscesses, or worse wounds, those kinds of things."

Gardiner wants to remind pet owners to look out for the well being of their pets as the colder days approach, and to be aware of the animals that are trying to survive during these months.

"Because winter is coming up, it's a lot colder outside. Obviously, we're worried about freezing; on ears, tails, and toes especially, are where we find a lot of frostbite. It's a lot harder for strays to find food in the winter, so it's not ideal to be a stray."

Indoor/outdoor cats and strays could be struck by cars, poisoned, become prey to larger animals, and can dramatically reduce small animal populations.

In 2013 an article by Nature Communications estimated that in the United States that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3 - 4.0 billion birds and 6.3 - 22.3 billion mammals annually.

Gardiner notes cats can gain plenty of environmental enrichment from going outdoors, but through games and toys, an indoor cat can receive the same enrichment without the risks connected with the outside.

According to Wes Hiebert, Animal Control for the City of Winkler, within city limits no animal, that is a cat, dog, or otherwise, is permitted to be off-leash, without supervision, or at large.

Over several days the cats will be housed, fed, and given their shots. Owners can pick up their animals, however, they are charged a fee for the services that were provided. If the animal is not claimed within several days then becomes the property of the municipality and handled accordingly.

If a person does notice stay cats in their neighbourhood, Gardiner says these animals could be having a tough time over the winter and suggests providing food, water, and a place where they can escape the elements.

Stray cats that are proving to be a nuisance or a danger, a person can call their local animal control officer says, Hiebert. He says they also offer cat traps to capture the animal and remove it from the area.

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