This is a convoluted tale of the relationship between neighbours and a domestic cat in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, UK. Bea Upton cares for a black-and-white cat, Tiggly. She lives in a townhouse. She has two dogs and her cat is frightened of her dogs so she has to use a window on the first floor in order to go outside (is she confined to the upstairs?). Her cat then jumps onto the roof and then onto the wall dividing her property with her neighbour’s property. Her neighbour, Mrs Pollard, does not like her cat walking along the wall and in order to deter the cat she has affixed, to the top of the wall, barbed wire and spikes. Tiggly has already become entangled in the barbed wire and spikes and had to be rescued.
We hear about cat deterrents but this is the first time I have heard about barbed wire being used. It is legal in the UK. The RSPCA can’t do a thing about it unless the cat is injured when they could possibly become involved. Although barbed wire is not recommended for obvious reasons and the police say that people should not use barbed wire, razor wire or broken glass on walls or fences to protect their property. This is because the property owner could be held legally responsible for any injuries caused to a person on their property even if warnings of its presence are given.
The problem is: does the law apply to domestic cats? The Occupier’s Liability Act 1984 States that owners of property have a duty of care to protect people on their property from harm. This even applies to intruders but does it apply to domestic cat intruders? Domestic cats can’t trespass. They are free to roam under UK law.
Alternatively, the Highways Act 1980 states that barbed wire on land adjoining a public route mustn’t cause a nuisance to animals (and people). This would not seem to apply in this instance. It would appear, then, that Miss Upton can do nothing about the barbed wire.
We have to presume, by the way, that the wall referred to is owned by Mrs pollard, the neighbour. I hope that that has been checked. The truth of the matter is that there are many other ways to deter a cat which are much more humane and sensible than putting up unsightly barbed wire, spikes and other dangerous barriers. In addition, it is bound to cause friction between neighbours which is something to be avoided at all costs.
That said, Miss Upton has made a mistake in looking after two dogs and a cat that don’t get along harmoniously which is the root cause of this problem as her cat would or could have taken a different route if she didn’t have to go outdoors via the upstairs window. In the middle of this tangled web of human behaviour we have the vulnerable domestic cat: the victim!