Legally, what should be the maximum number of cats and dogs per household?

A city, Holland, Michigan, USA, is trying to decide the undecidable, the imponderable: what should be the maximum number of cats and dogs per household in the city?  At the moment they have an ordinance which limits the number of dogs to two but places no limit on the number of cats.

Gabriel in B&W

The photo above is of my cat companion, Gabriel. I only have one cat companion. Any rules restricting the number of cats and dogs to each household would only apply to a relatively small minority I’d have thought because the vast majority of people don’t want more than a couple or a few pets.


What the city council is now discussing it whether there should be a change to the ordinance to increase the number of dogs allowed and at the same time place a limit on the number of domestic cats in each household.

Proposed changes would allow 3 dogs and up to 5 cats to a maximum of 5 animals in total.

As you can imagine, the discussion is almost impossible because, as council members have probably realised, there is no right answer and no wrong answer. You end up plucking a figure out of thin air and hoping that it is the right answer.

You really have to do decide initially whether you should limit the number of cats and dogs per household.  And the answer to that is probably, yes, in the modern world when you consider all the other elements which have an impact upon this decision such as domestic cat overpopulation. That said a responsible person can look after a large number of cats and dogs very adequately and to a high standard. So perhaps limiting numbers is too arbitrary. It does not tackle the real problem: irresponsible pet ownership.

With respect to dogs there is always the ever present problem of barking which is a nuisance to many people and, as one councilman remarked, the more cats and dogs you have the more waste you have to dispose of. You also increase the likelihood of more stray and feral cats and dogs being created.

One councilman said five cats seemed excessive but to another it sounded acceptable although the person who proposed five cats as the maximum per household said that he had settled upon the figure arbitrarily. This tells us that such a law is probably unsuitable.

If limits are proposed and if those limits become law there would have to be a long lead-in time for the law to take effect because it is impractical and inhumane to force people to give up a cat or dog, which we all know is part of the family. The law would have to come into effect gradually as cats and dogs died to the point where the maximum per household under the rules was arrived at.

There have been complaints in Holland and dozens of residents have contacted animal control offices asking that the number of allowed dogs be increased because, I presume, they have one dog too many as allowed under the current ordinance.

Do you think it’s sensible to limit the number of cats and dogs in each household and if so what sort of figure would you settle on?

Source: Holland officials consider changes to cat, dog restrictions

6 thoughts on “Legally, what should be the maximum number of cats and dogs per household?”

  1. Here in my town there is no limit on cats and only 5 for dogs but now my question is if this ordinance is changed for the cats wot about those already that have more than wot the new limit would allow,does this mean they will have to rehome the ones that are over the limit,no way in hell if I lived there would I alllow anyone to make me get rid of mine,this city may have a fight on their hands!

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  2. I think it’s reasonable to limit the number of cats and dogs without a kennel license. As we know there are many people who can’t take care of one pet very well, but take on more, from emotion than reason. If people are willing to get licensed and be inspected, then that’s fine.

    I think that dogs can be more of a problem because of barking which disturbs neighbors. We have an ongoing situation with people who live in the country. Many people bought homes in the country because they thought it would be peaceful and quiet. Some people have dogs that stay outside all the time, and bark at all hours of the night. Neighbors are up in arms with each other, and there is now a proposed legal action if a neighbor’s dog is cited 3 times. I believe it’s a huge fine.

    Authorities have to limit people because they can’t seem to limit themselves with reasonable actions and consideration of others.

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  3. When I was working full-time at one time I had 4 cats. That was my absolute limit. They were all fixed, vet visits were no problem at all. Years later I felt stretched to the limit when a couple of the new female cats I took in became pregnant before I could have them fixed and they bore kittens. I’m all for the miracle of life and birth but I never want to go through that again. Not having the resources to take care of those animals could easily turn into a disaster, usually for the animals.

    I have one cat now, Samirah, and even though I could afford another cat the building won’t allow it and neither will Samirah.

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  4. Well Michael_This is a tough one. It does depend on the quality of care, space provided and constant background checks on the keepers.

    How many times have we had to go back & serve citations on owners who take advantage of their options to have , say more than they can handle. We all know what the outcome is when someone irresponsible hoards animals as a hobby or as an obsession, don’t we .
    That is why this question came up to begin with, but as long as animals are let out to roam free,without spaying or neutering, they will breed.

    We have this problem to deal with. It is a mistake to allow more liberal guidelines [if the state chooses to do so] to pet owners who can’t even take care of themselves and know so very little about the proper care of cats and dogs.

    Eva_ How many ducks are allowed in a pond __The ASPCA_can answer this better than I can.

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  5. The law should be equivalent to the number of children allowed, ie. more than 2 kids…
    to the orphanage with the rest!

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  6. My city and county make you have a kennel license if you have more than three dogs or a cattery license if you have 10 or more cats. Those with licenses are subject to inspection by the county animal control. This is reasonable, as it is to help insure that conditions are humane and not overcrowded.

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