A troubling increase in the number of suspicious deaths, injuries and mutilations of outdoor cats has prompted officials to remind pet owners not to let their cats outdoors.

The Calgary Police Service, the Calgary Humane Society and Animal & Bylaw Services is investigating several recent attacks including 12 preventable cat deaths that occurred in the past year.

“There are a multitude of dangers posed to cats allowed to wander at will,” said Brad Nichols, senior manager of Calgary Humane Society’s animal cruelty and investigations. “Cats can be hit by cars causing catastrophic injuries, disease and pregnancy are concerns for the animal as well as a public health issue, and predation results in the deaths of dozens of cats every year.”

“Cats at large are also prime targets for cruelty, whether that be trapping and inappropriate disposal or easy targets for those looking to abuse animals.”

Allowing a cat to run at large is an offense under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw and animals found roaming in the community may be impounded by Animal & Bylaw Services.

“While some cat owners will argue depriving a cat of outdoor freedom decreases its’ quality of life, the reality is quite the opposite," said Nichols.

According to Animal & Bylaw Services, indoor cats can live to the age of 20 while the average life span of an outdoor cat is between two years and five years.

“In the last three months, we have impounded 278 cats running at large,” said City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services Doug Anderson. “155 of those we have been able to get home.”

“82 of the cats were brought in deceased. Most of them probably from vehicles or possible (attacks at the hand of other) animals. ”

The Calgary Police Service investigates reports of animal cruelty committed by owners or members of the public.

“Animal cruelty is a crime under the criminal code and it will be investigated as such,” said CPS Staff Sgt. Michelle Doyle. “Anyone who’s found to have harmed an animal intentionally will be formally charged and brought before the courts.”

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, anyone who willfully causes unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or bird may face a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.