Canadian Parliamentary Cats

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Snowball, one of the strays.

The Parliamentary Cats were a collection of stray cats living in the precinct of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. A small colony on the grounds, called the Cat Sanctuary, was set aside for them. The care of the cats and maintenance of the sanctuary was carried out by volunteers, and the effort was funded purely by donation. The colony was closed and the last cats adopted by volunteers in January 2013.


Cats were employed in the Parliament Building to control the rodent population until 1955 when they were replaced by chemicals. Groundskeepers fed the cats at various locations on the grounds until the 1970s. In the late 1970s, Irène Desormeaux began feeding the cats at one location, where a colony became established. She was joined by René Chartrand in the mid-1980s[1]

Chartrand took over when Desormeaux died in 1987. Chartrand received the Heroes for Animals Award from the Humane Society of Canada for his work in 2003.[2] One of his contributions was the construction of shelters in the colony.[1]

Brian Caines and Klaus Gerken established a volunteer team in 2003 to aid Chartrand, and later assumed total responsibility when Chartrand retired in November 2008.[1]

The Colony[edit]

The colony was located west of the Centre Block and the statue of Alexander Mackenzie.[3] The fence surrounding the colony was no obstacle to the cats and they were free to roam the grounds.

Chartrand built the first set of cold weather shelters in the mid-1980s, some of which are still extant as of early 2013. The current structures, resembling the houses of European settlers along the St. Lawrence, were built by Chartrand and a friend in 1997.[1] Raccoons, groundhogs, pigeons, and squirrels also partook of the benefits formally intended for the cats.

In 2003, when there were approximately 30 cats, the estimated annual cost of the colony was C$6000.[2] The cats received free inoculations and care from the local Alta Vista Animal Hospital. Purina also donated food.[1] They were also spayed or neutered, and once this began, no more kittens were born and the population slowly dropped off. Cats that were dropped off or found their way to the sanctuary were usually taken to the Ottawa Humane Society. By late 2012 there were just four older cats remaining. These were adopted by volunteers and in January 2013 the sanctuary was shut down. The last cat, Bugsy, was adopted by Brian Caines, who had tended the colony after René Chartrand retired in November 2008. The structures were demolished by Public Works on January 12, 2013. [4][5][6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gerken, Klaus J. "A Brief History of the Cats of Parliament Hill". The Cats of Parliament Hill Blog. 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  2. ^ a b Vanessa. "Cat Man Of Parliament Hill". Humane Society of Canada. 2003-08-22. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  3. ^ "Cat Sanctuary (Ottawa)". Wikimapia. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  4. ^ Gerken, Klaus J. "Year end update". The Cats of Parliament Hill Blog. 2010-12-31. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  5. ^ "Parliament Hill cat sanctuary shutting down for good". CBC. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  6. ^ "Parliament Hill’s cat sanctuary ‘disbands’ after more than fifty years". National Post. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 

External links[edit]