Originally published Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 11:55p.m.

BRUSSELS — Put domestic cats on a leash to better protect threatened birds and the environment? The European Union says that would deny mankind’s furry friend its unalienable right to roam.

The EU’s executive said Thursday that it is “a strong defender of free movement rights — including of cats” and “categorically” denied it would ever force cats to be kept indoors or on a leash, as one scientific study suggests.

Tilburg University scientists wrote in Oxford’s Journal of Environmental Law that free-ranging domestic cats “impact biodiversity through predation, disturbance, competition, disease and hybridization,” and added that the predatory impact is worse than often assumed.

They argued that EU laws and directives could effectively force owners to keep them indoors or on a leash outdoors.