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Cats and The Law

The UK is a nation of animal lovers, but from time to time members of the public need to know the law as it applies to cats and their owners. A variety of circumstances can arise; from people wishing to know their obligations in caring for a cat, to understanding their legal liability for any damage caused by their cat to a neighbour’s property. Re-homing institutions and breeders also need to know how the law impacts on their affairs in order to keep within the boundaries of the law. However, it is not always so easy to be sure about what the law requires without a simple reference guide.

From 10 June 2024, cats in England will need to be microchipped and registered on a database by the time they’re 20 weeks old, including indoor only cats.

You can be fined up to £500 if your cat is not microchipped when they need to be.  Please see the link to the DEFRA website with full information.

Please see the link to a booklet, which is a summary of current law relating to cats, primarily the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and its introduction of a positive obligation to promote and observe animal welfare in companion animals. The booklet also summarises the law on keeping and care of a cat, issues relating to the sale or theft of cats and damage either caused by or caused to a cat. In plain language it gives the basic information contained in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, its associated Code of Practice, and other related laws so that anyone can check their key legal obligations and identify their responsibilities under the law without being overwhelmed by legal language.

Also listed and answered are some of the most frequent questions that people ask about cats and their legal status, so that most of what cat owners, breeders and rehoming institutions would want to know is contained within this guide. Inevitably there will be some omissions and the book is not intended to be a substitute for the actual legislation. Nor is it intended to be a substitute for, or intended to be relied upon as, formal legal advice which may need to be sought on the specific circumstances of a query. But subject to the limitations expressed above, the guide should answer most common legal questions facing cat owners, breeders and rehoming institutions.

The guide was commissioned by the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) (now International Cat Care (iCatCare)) on behalf of the Cat Group, a number of charities with an interest in cat welfare and the law. While the project originated in Lincoln Law School at the University of Lincoln, the conclusions are, of course, those of the authors.