Law On Cat Killing UK

The law on cat killing in the UK has not changed for over 100 years and longer. I was idly browsing through Our Cats and all about them by Harrison Weir. The book was published in 1889. On page 207 is a section entitled: THE LAW ON CAT KILLING. I can quote bits of it as it is in the public domain after all this time. It refers to ‘Addison on Torts’. This is a well known law book edited or authored by Mr Addison, I presume. “Tort” is a legal term meaning a civil wrong such as trespass (as opposed to a crime).

“It is clearly laid down in ‘Addison on Torts,’ that a person is not justified in killing his neighbour’s cat, or dog, which he finds on his land, unless the animal is in the act of doing some injurious act which can only be prevented by its slaughter”

The book also refers to an old case called Townsend v. Watken. That case states that if a person sets a trap for a fox and that trap kills a cat, the person who set the trap is liable for the cat’s death even if the cat should not have been on the person’s land. There is no mention of criminal law in Mr Weir’s book.

Law on Cat Killing UK
Law on Cat Killing UK. You can’t.
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.

Today, however, deliberately killing a cat, unless it is under exceptional circumstances, is a crime.

The RSPCA in 2012, on their website make it clear that cats are protected by the law and it is a criminal offence to trap, injure and kill them. It does not matter if the cat is “trespassing” on someone’s land.

The RSPCA do not want the law changed. They say there is no evidence that cats have an impact on bird populations that warrant a change to law to curb their roaming.

Personally, I am very sensitive to other people’s rights and wishes. Some people positively detest having cats on their land. They might not detest cats but when they wander into their garden they become upset about peeing and defecating in their flower beds.

Cat caretakers do owe a duty towards other people to respect their rights and wishes. Cat caretakers have a similar duty towards their cats. It is therefore a balancing act between what are often competing objectives. Common sense must prevail.

The same common sense and respect needs to be given by people who don’t want cats in their garden. They should remind themselves that if they hurt or kill a cat it is probably someone’s much loved companion. It does not matter how annoyed you become.

In the UK a person killing a cat will be prosecuted for a criminal act under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Peter Johnstone became fed up when a neighbour’s cat regularly wandered into his garden. His wife had a phobia about cats. He was worried that she might get an infection from the cat as she had recently been to hospital for an operation. In short, he had some decent reasons for being upset.

He caught the cat, pushed it into some plastic bags, weighed the bags down with bricks and threw the cat into a canal. The cat drowned. He was caught, charged, tried and convicted. He was jailed for 4 months and banned from keeping animals for 25 years. As he was 57 years old at the time that was for the rest of his life, effectively.

I know things can be quite different in other countries, including North America but my research indicates that there are many similarities to the UK in America. The sadistic stories of the notorious “Woodsman” testify to some differences together with the story of the sheriff who took pot shots at roaming cats oblivious to the possibility that the cat belonged to someone. Although, the USA does have good animal protection laws and a concern for animal welfare. It is just that sometimes in some places it is not enforced properly. The UK has problems of enforcement too.

Note to Woodsman: don’t leave a comment.

44 thoughts on “Law On Cat Killing UK”

  1. My father keeps pigeons (racing) some of his birds are worth thousands, he has lost hundreds of birds over the years to neighbors visiting cats and on the occasions has trapped them in his lofts while in the act ,but even on these occasions the owners have made no reparations and the police say “it’s a civil matter” ,is he allowed under the law to kill said cats who are in the act of slaughtering his valuable livestock ?

    • The article is about the UK so I’ll presume your father is in the UK. In which case the answer is no. The answer depends on where your father lives. It sounds harsh and I am sympathetic. The answer is to better protect the birds. To force the cat owners to keep their cats indoors he might try suing one of them for negligence (a tort) but I don’t think it’ll work as domestic cats have the right to roam in the UK. And cats can’t be trespassers either because of their right to roam.

  2. I have a simple question for all you cat owners who defend your cats freedom to roam publicly and take offence to those who are opposed to cats and their owners responsibilities. Responsible cat owners do not allow their cats to be a nuisance to other people because they train or curtail their cat.
    Q: I used to enjoy sitting in my back garden in the summer or sometimes lay on a towel in the sunshine. Not anymore because my garden is now a disgusting, stinking cat toilet for about a dozen local cats. I have a six foot fence all around the perimeter but all these cats climb over it and shit and piss all over my back garden and on top of my single storey flat roof. Every few days I gather about a large bowlful of cat mess and I have to dispose of it. There is scars and holes all over my garden and I am at my wits end. Luckily, I am able to tip all this mess down a storm drain at the front of my house but I can assure you that when there has been rain, I sometimes accidentally flick the wet shit up on to my clothes and once on my face. The neighbors in my street see me disposing of this mess and they steer well clear of me because when they used to ask what I was doing, I told them and many of them apologised and shrugging their shoulders claimed there was nothing they could do. I educated them on litter tray use and training their cat or stopping their cat from leaving their property but years later it has not changed. My neighbours know and do not care, they avoid me and make no effort to change their cats nasty habit. No one has ever offered to come and clean up or pay me any compensation. I will not kill these cats because I am a decent person and I know how much people love their cats but I am at my wits end with my neighbours and their attitude and their avoidance disgusts me. What do you cat owners suggest?

    • Well, I’m a cat lover and I own this site and I think your neighbours are not doing the decent thing. If you have politely asked them to stop their cats coming into your backyard (back garden) and they’ve not responded helpfully I think they are behaving badly. If they are feral cats that’s another matter I am afraid.

      You should realise that not all cat owners like their cats to roam freely. In America about 40% of domestic cats are kept indoors full-time. In Britain far more cats are allowed to go outside freely but that is changing too. If your neighbours won’t do the right thing then what I would do is the following.

      You say that you have a fence around your garden but the cats climbed the fence. You can buy a simple retrofit device which is designed to keep cats inside the backyard or garden. But this retrofit also keeps cats from coming in to the garden so you should try that.

      Cat fence roller

      Or you place a overhanging net facing away from your garden which is attached to the top of the fence. You can contact a company which provides a cat confinement fence to retrofit the top bit only. In other words you treat the rest of the world as a cat confinement area whereas your back garden is cat free. That’s the idea.

      If you want to contact me about that then email me and I will give you further instructions. It should not be that expensive by the way and it would completely resolve your problem. My email is

      • Thank you for your swift reply and your thoughtful words and advice Michael. Amazingly I was scanning the internet today looking for solutions and I found this exact idea of yours and an even cheaper alternative involving rotating down pipes which I shall try first as I can do it myself (what are your thoughts on these and have you heard of them?) There are some countries in Europe which jail you if you trap or kill cats on your land and others that allow it. England allows killing or trapping of cats only if they are injurious to people, pets or livestock. Were people more like you, there would be little to no problem with domesticated cats but alas, I must try to remain tolerant, abide by the law and calmly deal with cleaning up mountains of cat shit from my badly behaved neighbors for the rest of my smelly life.

  3. If I had hamsters or gerbils roaming free in my garden and next doors cat kept coming and killing them( for fun, like they do)
    Can I shoot it?

  4. We have 3 local cats that do their business in our garden. Unfortunately our dog sees these deposits as a treat. This causes a trip to the vets & has cost alot of money over the years ( it’s to do with the diet they live off) my question is, can I protect legally protect my animal by shooting with a catapult. It probably won’t kill one but would certainly cause a nasty injury, but not a permanent one. Or can I present the owners of the offending cats with the next vet bill. Before you ask we have had cats but they were trained to use a tray so not to deposit in the garden.

    • I completely understand you problem and am sympathetic. The obligation is with the cats’ owners (is there more than one owner?) to stop them coming onto your garden. I wouldn’t hurt the cats. You’d be committing a crime. You could be in trouble. You could threaten to sue in the tort of private nuisance if you have asked already and she/he or they have refused to cooperate. You might look at that.

      Presenting the owners with vet’s bill would not work unless he/she or they voluntarily agreed to pay it. You might agree a joint or cooperative solution – a joint funding of a ProtectaPet pet containment fence around the part of your garden where they enter it. The fence overhang would face outwards to stop cats getting in. Google ProtectaPet. Or the cats’ owners could and should install one around their garden. There is little chance of that I am sure.

      You may find these suggestion completely unacceptable and I’d understand. You just have to avoid exacerbating the problem because I presume the cats’ owners is or are neighbours.

  5. Nuisance Cat trespasses on my land, disturbs my livestock (dog). I shoot nuisance animal in the face with licenced shotgun the same as if nuisance dog were to disturb a sheep or cow. Some people don’t have shotguns, a bag and brick would work just as well. If people really love their cats they wouldn’t let them roam and cause nuusance to all and sundry. The End

    • Where do you live Alan? If you kill cats on your land when they are minding their own business you are breaking the law. You seem to enjoy killing cats and dogs. Unpleasant.


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