In general, domestic cats are allowed to roam freely in America. However, a few states, counties or cities have specific ordinances (laws) which in effect disallow domestic cats from roaming.
I won’t go into great detail for the simple reason that the situation is a little bit messy or disjointed legally but I will mention a few situations where domestic cats are, in effect, prevented from roaming freely.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association mention the City of New Orleans which they say has an “animal confinement law” which requires that all pets be chained or confined with certain exceptions. Cats are not allowed outside unless they are neutered, licensed, vaccinated and tagged. If a person’s cat is caught outside of their property and not leashed that person can be fined or serve a jail sentence on conviction.
The animallaw.info website has a section in which they ask “What about Freeroaming or Feral Cats?”.
They refer to the state of Wisconsin which apparently has legislation which classifies freeroaming cats that do not have a collar as an unprotected species which allows people to kill them as pests. I do not know whether this 2005 law is still in existence but it probably is.
They also refer to the city of Akron, Ohio which adopted an ordinance in 2002 which allows animal control to trap any freeroaming cat if a citizen of the city complains about the cat. There are probably other cities which similar laws.
There are also probably other cities or counties which have introduced ordinances which either restrict the activities of outdoor cats or which in effect confines them to the home or backyard of the owner (without actually specifying that cats are confined). However, I have been unable to find details other than those stated above during a 20 min search on the Internet.
I can tell quickly whether something exists or does not when searching the Internet and because it is very difficult to find information about laws which confine domestic cats in the USA I have to conclude that there are no laws or very few. There are certainly no such laws in the UK or Europe. But common sense does play a big role here.
Legislators are relying on cat owners to take common sense steps to keep their cats safe which includes keeping them inside.
Perhaps there is a hidden factor involved in this discussion. Although domestic cats are allowed to roam and wander freely outside the confines of their owner’s home what happens in practice is that not infrequently people who don’t like this either trap the cat (when it ends up at a shelter) or kill it. This behaviour might be a crime but once again in practice this sort of crime is allowed to take place by the authorities for various reasons. Accordingly, the net result is that cats are confined to their home for practical reasons.
There are real dangers outside for domestic cat in the USA, one which of course is predators and I’m talking about animal predators like the coyote but another predator is the human animal.
I wrote this sketchy article in response to Dee’s comments under one of the other articles in which she states that domestic cats are confined to the inside in America. I disagreed with that. My research supports my thoughts but if I am incorrect please tell me and I’ll tear up this article 😉
The laws are quite different from dogs. Historically cats have been allowed to roam freely and the legislature in America in cities or states have thus far been unable to overcome that historical legacy.
Things are changing, however, and the country which leads the way in terms of confining or containing domestic cats is Australia. As the human population grows in America or any other country for that matter there will be greater pressure to confine domestic cats.