Allowing domestic cats to be unsupervised and free-roaming in the Europe Union is illegal under European rules?

A couple of Dutch academics, Arie Trouwborst and Han Somsen – the former is an associate professor and the latter a full professor – state that allowing cats to roam outside without supervision by their owner or another person is illegal under European rules for nature protection.

That is a dramatic statement. And I firmly believe that it is a completely incorrect statement. Even if it is correct this rule is unenforced and unenforceable in Europe because in the UK there are about 11 million domestic cats and about 10.5 million of them go outside unsupervised all the time and have done so for centuries. Nothing has happened and nobody from the EU has knocked on anybody’s door citing these mysterious European Union directives and rules.

The reason why these professors state that the rules ban outdoor free-roaming cat is because it is beholden upon EU citizens to protect birds and the Birds Directive specifies how this should be done. I have skimmed through this directive and I don’t see how it bans free-roaming cats.

EU Birds Directive
EU Birds Directive outline
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Update: On 28th November 2019 it was reported online that the EU has disagreed with the suggestions of these scientists and agreed with me 😉 It is common sense actually. It is quite possible that these Dutch scientists are deliberately supporting the pro-bird, anti-cat lobby and were perhaps invited to write their report by someone else. An EU spokesperson (see below) has said that the EU would not force cat owners to keep their cats inside nor put cats on leashes when outside.

“The Commission is a strong defender of free movement rights – including of cats. We categorically deny that the commission will oblige cats to be held on a leash at all times.” – Enrico Brivo, the executive’s environment spokesman.


My interpretation of the directive is that it applies exclusively to direct human activities and endeavours i.e. the human cannot be vicariously liable for their cat’s behavior. For example, people cannot engage in activities that directly threaten birds such as by deliberately killing them or capturing them. All bird species in the EU are protected except for 82 bird species. Hunting is limited and regulated. There should be designated special protection areas for the survival of endangered birds.

And there should be research on how to further protect bird species. Those are the sort of guidelines and objectives under the Birds Directive. As mentioned there is nothing in there referring to companion animals and their propensity to hunt.

Extraordinarily, these two scientists say that even letting your cat wander outside without hunting is enough to be illegal under this European directive. This is because the presence of a cat causes stress in birds.

I would like these people to visit this site and comment but the chances of that are remote. I can’t comment on their article because there is no provision for comments. If anyone who reads this works in the EU commission or other capacity which provides them with in-depth knowledge of these directives, please comment and if necessary disagree with me. I’d love it.

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