Cat Clause

Great Oak Community 2003-08-06


The Cat Clause proposal aims to balance the desires of some Great Oak members to have outdoor cats with environmental, health, and safety concerns. While the committee encourages all cat owners to keep their cats indoors, it recognizes that some may choose to allow their cats outside and proposes guidelines for proper licensing, containment, and behavior. Hunting and other outdoor cat behaviors that could result in the loss of outdoor privileges are listed, and conflict resolution methods are suggested.


[Historical info: The original Cat section of the Pet Policy was deleted from the consensed-on Pet Policy in March 2003, and an ad hoc committee was formed to create a new one. The original policy was a grandfather clause that said no more outdoor cats would be allowed at Great Oak once the first owners moved in. That was
felt to be unfair to future residents.]

Presented by: Tim, for the Ad-Hoc Cat Clause committee, which was originally Kelly, Jenny, Malcolm, Tim, Dave, Jillian

NOTE: See the Pet Policy agreement, under Other, 3/3/2003, for the full Pet Policy, and the results of the Pet Survey that were used to create the policy.


The goal of our policy with respect to pet cats is to balance environmental, health, and safety concerns with the desire of some Great Oak members to have occasionally-outdoor cats.

We seek to create a pleasant community for all inhabitants (human and otherwise), while respecting our desire for diversity. We wish to "live lightly on the land," but realize that our very presence has a negative environmental impact. To the degree possible, however, we will try to reverse the negative impact of our initial construction and continued presence by providing habitat for other species of plants and animals on our land.

We recognize that a cat under direct human control is a domesticated animal, whereas a cat alone in the landscape is an exotic species - a potentially aggressive, territorial and highly-effective predator capable of wreaking havoc on local populations of birds and other small animals. The direct, negative impact of cat predation on bird mortality has been documented in a number of scientific studies, as has been the indirect impact of cat predation on native predators, such as hawks and owls, that depend for their survival on the mice, voles and small birds that cats may take.

We encourage all cat owners at Great Oak to keep their cats indoors at all times. However, some Great Oak members may choose to allow their cats to go outside for part of each day. Therefore, we propose that all cats that go outdoors will be properly licensed with Washtenaw County, neutered, and up-to-date on their vaccinations. Cats that are known hunters should be kept indoors. Cats that can be contained should be allowed outside in an enclosed area. Cats that can be restrained should be kept on a leash. Every effort should be made to keep all cats in during nighttime hours, when most hunting occurs.

Outdoor cat behaviors which could result in a cat losing its outdoor privileges include:

o unprovoked scratching or biting
o fighting with other cats
o predation on birds or other animals
o defecation or urination which causes a nuisance to others
o territorial spraying
o chewing or clawing on plants, buildings, furniture or other outdoor

If you feel that another household's cat is compromising your quality of life, you should first discuss the issue with that household directly and attempt to reach a solution. Similarly, if others find your cat's behavior odious, you will be expected to take steps to (1) ameliorate your cat's behavior, (2) keep your cat indoors, or (3) find another home for your cat. Finally, if you and your neighbor cannot agree on a solution, Conflict Resolution team mediation should be enjoined to help reach an agreement.

If it cannot be determined whose cat is responsible for an obvious incidence of unacceptable cat behavior, it will be the responsibility of all cat owners who allow their cats outside to isolate the source of the problem (ie. is it a Great Oak cat?), then devise and implement a remediation plan to correct the problem, with the support of the community. For example, if it turns out that cats are using the community sandbox(es), cat owners who do allow their cats to go outside would be collectively responsible for cleaning the sandbox, and also for proposing and implementing a solution to prevent this use (such as an easy-to-remove sandbox cover and a place nearby to store it while the sandbox is in use).

Pros: Leaves open more possibility for pet owners to allow their cats
outside, within guidelines, while stating community expectations around hunting, safety, and health concerns. Does not create a distinction between "original" GO members and those who move in later.

Cons: No guarantee that there won't be hunting, feces, or safety issues. No guarantee that a problem cat can easily be identified. May punish all outdoor cat owners for the infraction of a particular outdoor cat.

Process Comments:

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