Akureyri Revokes Nighttime Ban on Free-Roaming Cats

This cat is not Gunnlaugur

A controversial law, which would have banned cat owners from allowing their feline friends from freely roaming the town of Akureyri at night has been revoked, RÚV reports. The ban, which would have gone into effect on January 1, 2025, was initially proposed as a total ban on free-roaming cats, but was later ammended so it would only be in effect at night.

The majority of the Akureyri town council has now voted to drop the ban all together. The decision will be discussed in more detail at a council meeting later in the week. “The rules aren’t changing at all,” said town council president Heimir Örn Árnason during a radio interview on Friday. “The matter’s been shelved for now.”

Cat ban protest party ran for town council last year

The planned ban had been extremely controversial since its initial proposal in 2021, with some opponents saying that the town of Akureyri had done nothing to enforce existing laws regarding outdoor cats or suggesting that it would be better to ban outdoor cats during bird nesting season. People also took issue with the law having no grandfather clause that would have allowed current pet cats to live out the rest of their days as free-roaming cats on the prowl. And cats that couldn’t adjust to being indoors full-time risked being abandoned by their owners, argued volunteers at Akureyri’s Kisukot cat shelter.

The ban was so controversial that a whole new political party, Kattaframboðið, informally known as ‘The Cat Party’ in English, was formed around the issue. Kattaframboðið ran for Akureyri town council in 2022 with the express purpose of reversing the cat ban. The party did not win any seats, but it did secure 373 votes, or 4.1% of all votes that were cast in the election.

Diego Returns Home After Surgery

diego cat iceland

Diego the cat, a minor celebrity in Iceland, has returned home after a successful surgery.

Diego was injured on November 25 in a car accident near Skeifan, the shopping centre he frequents. He is a common sight at both A4, a stationary supply story, and Domino’s.

Read more: Diego Injured in Car Accident

This was reported recently by Sigrún Ósk Snorradóttir, Diego’s owner, in a post on social media.

She stated that he’s doing very well after a successful surgery, and that all that remains is to let him relax as he recovers from the stressful incident.

Many have sent Diego their best wishes during his convalescence, including the A4 and Domino’s he frequents, which both donated funds to cover the cost of his procedure. His Facebook group has some 10,000 followers.

Diego, the ‘Most Famous Cat in Iceland,’ Injured in Car Accident

diego cat iceland

Diego, the fluffy, much-loved grey-and-white longhair cat who spends his days lounging around various shops in the Skeifan strip mall in Reykjavík, was hit by car on Friday  and suffered serious injuries, Vísir reports. The unfortunate kitty was taken to a veterinary hospital and underwent surgery that same day.

Diego has a home and owners, but on most days can be found lolling about atop the printer paper in the stationary store A4, padding through the Hagkaup department store, or even dropping in for a slice at Domino’s. In a country of dedicated cat lovers, Diego has been said to be Iceland’s most famous cat. Fans are known to make special trips to Skeifan just to try and spot Diego and a Facebook group in his honor has over 9,500 members.

According to a post on the group on Friday, Diego suffered torn muscles and ligaments in the accident, as well as a bag wound on one leg. He underwent surgery and was to be kept in the animal hospital overnight. Shortly after news of his accident went public, A4 started collecting donations to help pay for Diego’s medical bills. A total of ISK 400,000 [$2,838; €2,725] was collected for Diego’s owners, with A4 and Domino’s both donating ISK 100,000 each [$709; €681].

This article was updated.

Controversial Outdoor Cat Ban Approved in Akureyri

cat köttur bird

The city council of Akureyri, North Iceland has approved a motion to ban off-leash outdoor cats. The regulation will take effect in the year 2025, allowing cat owners some time to prepare for the change. Seven councillors voted in support of the ban while four voted against it. The decision has been controversial, with some arguing that city authorities should have tried implementing milder regulations before resorting to a full ban. Akureyri.net reported first.

The proposal was put forth by Independence Party councillor Eva Hrund Einarsdóttir. Three other councillors filed an entry opposing the decision, stating that “the municipality has done little to nothing to enforce the by-laws that are already in force” regarding outdoor cats and that it would have been possible to ban outdoor cats during the night or during the bird breeding season rather than instituting an overall ban. The entry also stated that it would have been better to create a sunset clause that allowed all current outdoor cats in Akureyri to live out the rest of their lives as such.

Ragnheiður Gunnarsdóttir has worked at Kisukot cat shelter in Akureyri for nearly a decade. She told RÚV she fears the ban will lead to pet owners abandoning cats that cannot adjust to only being indoors. Ragnheiður stated that city authorities have not addressed cat ownership at all during the past decade.

Regulations on cat ownership differ across Iceland. In Norðurþing municipality outdoor cats are banned, and owners are subject to a fine of ISK 5,000 ($38/€33) for a first offence. In Reykjavík, outdoor cats are permitted and are a relatively common sight. Several popular Facebook groups and pages exist where locals and visitors share photos of cats spotted on the street.

Cat Shelters Struggle to Keep Up as Owners Give Up COVID Pets

This cat is not Gunnlaugur

There’s been spike in the number of homeless cats taken in by Icelandic shelters this autumn, RÚV reports. The exact reason for this is unknown, but Arndís Björg Sigurgeirsdóttir, director of the Villikettir cat shelter, says that it may be a result of COVID restrictions relaxing: people who got pets during the pandemic are giving those animals up now that they aren’t stuck at home.

“We were really afraid of this during COVID,” Arndís remarked. “That people who were getting bored at home would get cats as cuddly pets.” An increasing number of former pets are now wandering the streets, she continued.

Exacerbating the situation was a popular rumor that there was a shortage of kittens available in Iceland during the pandemic. This led to some people adopting cats for the purposes of selling them.

Villikettir, whose name means ‘wild cat’ or ‘feral cat’ in Icelandic, has traditionally focused its efforts on caring for cats that were never domesticated as pets and had never lived in homes. Now, however, they are also trying to take care of stray cats that have been accustomed to living indoors and having regular food and care.

“I don’t know if people realized what a responsibility [cats are]. They’ve been chosen as pets because a lot of people think they just take care of themselves.”

If you’re interested in supporting Villikettir with donations, providing a foster home for a cat prior to its adoption, or assisting in many other ways, see the organization’s website (in Icelandic) here.

Look What the Cat Dragged In: Plastic Bags, Mismatched Garden Gloves, and a Full Can of Beer

Birta the Cat, who resides in the East Iceland fishing village of Höfn í Hornafirði, has made headlines for being a purrfectly wonderful member of her community. Vísir reports that the frisky feline is an avid trash picker and fills up to two garbage bags a month with trash she’s collected. She’s even been awarded a grant from Blái herinn, The Blue Army environmental association, for her efforts.

Birta spends her days collecting refuse, particularly from a local construction site. “She’s come back with a lot from there,” recalled Birta’s human, Stefanía Hilmarsdóttir. “Weather stripping, for example, four times, big bags. She’s come back from there with five, six-meter [16-19-ft] strips.”

Birta litla plokkari, Facebook

Birta has also been found in pawsession of plastic bags and masks that she’s found in the area. She’s also particularly fond of lost garden gloves. Furtunately, not all of her finds are garbage. On New Year’s morning, she gifted her grateful human an unopened can of beer, which she’d lugged home in a plastic bag.

Birta litla plokkari, Facebook
Birta litla plokkari, Facebook
Birta litla plokkari, Facebook

Birta’s avid environmental efforts have not gone unnoticed. This cat has dragged in so much garbage that Stefanía recently put on an exhibition of some of her most impressive finds at the Hornarfjörður Cultural Center. On top of that, Blái herinn, The Blue Army environmental association, recently awarded Birta a grant to allow for the purchase of a GPS tracker so that people can follow her on her productive prowls around town.

The pawsitive encouragement has been a real boost for Birta.

“She gets so proud when I see she’s got something,” said Stefanía. “Just bursting with it.”

You can follow Birta’s exploits on her Facebook page, here.

Shorter Quarantine Period for Dogs and Cats

Starting March 1, the quarantine period for dogs and cats imported to Iceland will be two weeks, as opposed to the previously required four weeks. The Icelandic Kennel Club (HRFÍ), which has long challenged Icelandic quarantine laws – calling them “outdated” and asserting that they have “no objective or scientific basis” – announced the change in quarantine provisions on its website.

Risk Assessment

In April 2019, at the urging of HRFÍ, a risk-assessment survey was conducted on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture to determine the safety of shorter quarantine times. The investigation concluded that no quarantine was required for dogs and cats imported from Northern Europe and the UK, from where most animals imported to Iceland arrive. According to the survey, disease control in these places is sufficient, making the risk of contamination negligible. The assessment also found that animals from other countries could safely be quarantined for two weeks, instead of the currently required four. The results were then turned over to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) for further consideration.

Comments from HRFÍ

Finally, last week, chair of HRFÍ Herdís Hallmarsdóttir and alternate chair Guðbjörg Guðmundsóttir attended a meeting with ministers, a lawyer, and a veterinarian to discuss the survey’s results. Following the meeting, HRFÍ was invited to comment on a draft of new quarantine regulations and on new provisions for pet isolation centres. Some of HRFÍ’s comments were taken into account, while others were not.

HRFÍ says the shorter quarantine time is a “major step forward,” noting, among other things, that it will be, “much less stressful for animals to undergo two weeks of isolation than four.”

Fighting for Further Changes

While celebrating the new regulations, however, HRFÍ asserts that there are “still issues that … need to be examined in more detail.” The organisation underscored the risk assessment’s findings that quarantine wasn’t necessary at all for animals coming from regions such as Northern Europe, stating that in cases where quarantine was considered necessary, Icelandic authorities should look for guidance to Australia and New Zealand (where 10 days is the maximum quarantine period for pets). Lastly, HRFÍ says it is “incomprehensible” that owners are not allowed to visit their pets during the quarantine period. HRFI will continue to work for further changes to pet quarantine law.

Risk Assessment Finds Four-Week Pet Quarantine Unnecessary

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) is currently considering whether or not to change the quarantine rules for imported dogs and cats, RÚV reports. A recent risk assessment survey conducted on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture has concluded that dogs and cats imported from Northern Europe and the UK, where most animals imported to Iceland come from, needn’t be quarantined at all. Disease control in these places is considered sufficient to make the risk of contamination negligible. The assessment also found that animals from other countries could safely be quarantined for two weeks, instead of the currently required four.

Former Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir commissioned Denmark’s former Chief Veterinarian to conduct the risk assessment, which has been two years in the making.

Per the interpretation of Herdís Hallmarsdóttir, the chair of the Icelandic Kennel Club, the assessment proves that the current quarantine rules for all dogs and cats imported to the country is “outdated.” She says that “…the results confirm what we have been saying for a long time—that there is no objective or scientific basis that justifies a four-week isolation period for dogs.”

At the very least, Herdís says, the results of the assessment should lead to new flexibility for animals coming from Northern Europe and the UK. “I would like to see different rules depending on where the animals are coming from,” she said.

Current Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Kristján Þór Júlíusson says that no decision will be made on changing the quarantine period for cats and dogs until MAST and the Icelandic Kennel Club both comment on the risk assessment. MAST would also need to determine how exactly the rules would be changed. This is not expected to be done before May, at the earliest.

Population Control of Wild Cats in East Iceland Hotly Contested

Efforts to cull stray cats in the Fljótsdalshérað district of East Iceland have met with severe criticism from a local organization that aims to safely monitor and release or else find homes for these villikettir, or wild cats, RÚV reports.

Villikettir á Austurlandi, or ‘Wild Cats in East Iceland,’ is a nonprofit that operates under the auspices of the Villikettir animal welfare organization. Per the description on their Facebook page, the organization aims to “care for wild and homeless cats in the region, providing them with shelter and food. The organization operates according to the ethos of TNR: Trap – Neuter – Release.” The aim of this approach is to control the population of wild cats without killing them. The cats taken in by Villikettir are dewormed and vaccinated before the staff attempts to get them used to being around people and find them homes. If the cats can’t be tamed, they are released again, but the organization ensures that they have access to shelter and food.

Villikettir has struck agreements with six municipalities to take the lead on controlling their wild cat populations, but Fljótsdalshérað rejected their assistance. Instead, the municipality intends to set traps for wild cats. Residents have been told to keep their pet cats indoors at night from February 18 to March 8. Any wild cats that are caught during this time period will be euthanized. Villikettir asked to take possession of these cats so they would not be put down, but their request was denied.

Fljótsdalshérað mayor Björn Ingimarsson says the municipality is acting in accordance to the law. After consultation with the Public Health Authority and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), he says, it’s clear that it isn’t permissible to collaborate with Villikettir under the terms that organization has set out. A letter from MAST on the subject notes that wild cats are categorized as semi-wild animals and must either be provided with a permanent home or euthanized. Likewise, it is not permissible to release animals that have grown up with people into the wild. Villikettir cannot, according to the letter, guarantee these animals the welfare required by current laws related to domestic animals. The ear tagging system that the organization suggested is also said to be illegal.

Villikettir á Austurlandi says that in the year it has been operational, it has provided services for 54 cats, most of which were found new and permanent homes. Only six cats needed to be released back into the wild.

The Great Escape: ‘Napped Cat Claws Back

Baktus, a famous feline who lives in the downtown Reykjavík clothing store Gyllti Kotturinn and boasts over 7,000 followers on Instagram, had a whirlwind day on Thursday, Vísir reports. First, Baktus was reported missing, then he was spotted being catnapped, then an award was offered for his return, then he clawed his way free from the alleged kidnapper, then he escaped from a moving car, and finally, he was returned home to his frantic owners: all within the space of twelve hours.

Baktus’ “hoomans” reported him missing via a post on Instagram when he didn’t return to Gyllti Kotturinn on Austurstræti like he does “every single day when he is not in the shop overnight.” Later the same day, a disturbing update was posted. “A man was seen picking him up at klapparstígur and taking him into a car,” read the same Instagram post. “[H]e drove him to fífusel in Breiðhollt where baktus escaped the car and ran off, please keep a lookout, a big reward will be given to anyone who finds him, he is easy to approach and hold.”

The post received 94 shares on the Facebook page Cats of Reykjavík and was liked 814 times on Instagram; the outpouring of concern was fervent and nearly instantaneous.

“Oh no!” wrote Instagram user @ tanjasiriuskind. “[…] Cats are so curious, my cat once didn’t return in the morning and I looked and asked all my neighbors! After one day I found him locked in a garage of one of my neighbors, the neighbor didn’t notice, that our cat went in. So maybe Baktus is also accidentally locked somewhere…”

“omg that’s absolutely terrible!” wrote @ rachaelxgeorge. “Why would anyone do that to him. Some evil people in the world. I hope he is found soon.”

“Oh no!!” echoed @ punchingpumpkins. “I’m flying out today and wanted to meet him! I hope he is ok!!”

With cat lovers on alert all over the capital, Baktus was luckily spotted safe and sound the same day.

“He is found !!” read an ecstatic comment posted by @baktusthecat. “Was found wandering in the same spot he escaped the man that took him, a stranger was petting him when his owner saw him, sweet trusting baktus. Thank you everyone for your help!”