Cat Law

The Right to Roam Excuse –¬†There is a misconception by many owners that because cat law says they have a ‘right to roam’¬†they (the owners) cannot be held responsible for what their pets get up to.


Under the Common Law Duty of Care though, cat owners have a general cats and the lawduty to take reasonable steps to ensure that their cats do not cause damage to someone’s property or cause injury to anyone.


While the above is true, actual court cases in the UK involving cats causing damage to property such as scratching a car or destroying flower beds are rare but that could be because the threat of legal proceedings is enough for the complainant to receive recompense.


The right to roam comes from the fact that cats were not included in the definition of livestock under the Animals Act 1971.


By not including them in the list of animals the law recognised that cats are unlikely to attack someone if left unattended and less likely to cause the carnage a larger animal would should they run out onto the road and even if they did, the cat owner could not be held responsible in the same way as say a dog owner who allowed his pet to run out into the road would be.


However, as already pointed out, the right to roam is not the carte blanche many cat owners believe it to be and if your property is subject to persistent damage you should seek legal advice if talking to the cat owners doesn’t get you anywhere.


Too Many Cats in the House


If someone has too many cats living at their domestic property the local council can require that the property owner apply to planning to change the use of the property. They do this knowing full well that planning is not likely to be granted.

cat law - too many cats

The number of cats that have to be living at the property before this is triggered is not set in stone and will largely be based on the number of complaints received. 20 people on the same street complaining about someone with 10 cats will get more reaction from the local authority than 10 complaints about someone who has 20 cats.


The Environmental Protection Act of 1990 can also kick in where the number of cats in a property causes significant nuisance because of their noise, odour or the fouling of neighbouring gardens.


Quote The Human Rights Act


Local councils tend to want an easy life so as in the scenario above, one voice gets nothing done but if several complain then they move into action.


If it is just your garden being used as the local cat toilet and you are a lone voice and you have tried all other avenues including talking to the cat owners and setting up cat deterrents then you could try quoting the human rights act at your local council office. The result is something akin to showing a crucifix to a vampire.


When you go to your local authority for help they will usually tell you that cats cannot trespass so the owners aren’t liable and there is nothing they can do – blah blah blah – anything for a quite life.


At this point you tell them you wish to make a formal complaint under article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Article 8 (when they ask) covers your right to respect for private and family life from your local authority – specifically you believe they are failing you in your right to enjoy your property because your garden is being used as a giant litter box by the neighborhood cats and they are refusing to do anything about it.


This is going to cause a bit of a stir and much whispering and nodding in your general direction but at some point they will believe they have solved their problem (the problem being you claiming your human rights are being violated) by telling you that the cat owners are also covered by Article 8 because they have the right to enjoy their property and the offending cats are their property.


You then tell them you believe they are now in breach of the Human Rights Act Article 14 because you are being discriminated against. They are putting the cat owners right to Article 8 above your right to Article 8.


At the very least this will show them you are not going to be fobbed off easily and will usually bring an offer from someone senior to go and ‘have a word’ with the cat owner or owners.


Don’t Break The Law


As a gardener you may well have unwelcome cats calling in on your garden as they do their daily rounds but it is important to remember that the cat is someone’s property and pet. Perhaps the only companion of an elderly person or much loved by a young child.


All cats – domestic and feral – are protected by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 and it is an offence to trap or intentionally kill or harm them in any way.


Domestic cats are considered by law as property so anyone killing or injuring a cat can be charged under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and so they should be. Also, because the cat is considered property, the act of taking a cat and dropping it off somewhere is theft so don’t do it.


Yes it is frustrating when they dig up your seedlings or leave you a not so nice surprise for when you go to plant something but cats are just doing what cats do.


There are plenty of harmless but effective cat deterrents reviewed on this site that will put cats off visiting your garden in a humane and safe way so use them rather than reverting to something that is cruel, illegal or probably both.