Cat Fouling Law: What You Need to Know

Pets law Nov 5, 2023

Cat owners love their furry companions, but not everyone appreciates the mess they can leave behind in other people’s gardens or public spaces. Cat fouling is a common source of annoyance and dispute between neighbours, but what are the legal implications of this issue?

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Are there any laws that regulate cat fouling, and what can you do if you are affected by it?

The Legal Status of Cats

Unlike dogs, cats are not considered to be under the control or ownership of their human guardians. Instead, they are regarded as independent animals that have the right to roam freely and choose their own territory. This means that cat owners are not legally responsible for the actions of their cats, such as trespassing, damaging property, or fouling.

However, this does not mean that cat owners have no obligations towards their pets or other people. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, cat owners have a duty to ensure that their cats have a suitable environment, a suitable diet, the opportunity to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, the opportunity to be alone, and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease. This means that cat owners should provide their cats with a litter tray indoors, neuter them to prevent unwanted pregnancies, vaccinate them against diseases, microchip them for identification, and seek veterinary care when needed.

The Legal Consequences of Cat Fouling

Cat fouling is not covered by any specific law, but it can still have legal consequences in some situations. For example:

  • If a cat causes a nuisance or a hazard to other people or animals by fouling excessively or repeatedly in a certain area, the local council can issue an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) to the cat owner, requiring them to take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again. Failure to comply with an ASBO can result in a fine or imprisonment.
  • If a cat fouls on private property without the consent of the owner or occupier, it can be considered as trespassing. However, unlike dogs, cats are exempt from the law of trespass, which means that the property owner or occupier cannot sue the cat owner for damages or injunct damages. The only exception is if the cat causes actual damage to the property, such as scratching or breaking something.
  • If a cat fouls on public land or in a public place, such as a park or a playground, it can be considered as littering. However, unlike dogs, cats are not subject to any legal requirement to wear a collar with identification or to be registered with the local authority. This means that it is very difficult to trace the cat back to its owner and enforce any penalties for littering.
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The Legal Solutions for Cat Fouling

Cat fouling can be a frustrating and unpleasant problem for both cat owners and non-cat owners alike. However, there are some legal and non-legal solutions that can help to resolve this issue peacefully and effectively. For example:

  • If you are a cat owner and you want to prevent your cat from fouling in other people’s gardens or public spaces, you can try to provide your cat with a suitable environment indoors, such as a litter tray, scratching posts, toys, hiding places, and windowsills. You can also try to discourage your cat from roaming too far by keeping it indoors at night, feeding it regularly, and providing it with enough attention and stimulation.
  • If you are a non-cat owner and you want to deter cats from fouling in your garden or public space, you can try to make it less attractive and accessible for cats by planting shrubs or prickly plants, covering the soil with stone chippings or netting, spraying water near the cat (not at the cat), installing an automatic garden spray triggered by an infra-red detector, or using humane and safe deterrents such as citrus peels, coffee grounds, or commercially available products. You should never use any methods that could cause harm or distress to cats, such as poison, snares, traps, or high-powered water pistols, as this could constitute an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
  • If you are involved in a dispute with your neighbour over cat fouling, you can try to communicate with them politely and respectfully, explain your concerns and feelings, listen to their point of view, and seek a compromise that works for both parties. You can also seek mediation from a third party such as a community group or a charity that can help you reach an agreement without going to court.

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