Planning permission for catios, cat breeding outhouses and cat shelters (and neighbour problems)

There has been a series of high-profile, media-reported examples in which individuals have failed to obtain planning permission before they operated a cat breeding facility or shelter from their home or built a catio in their front yard.

In the UK it is called “planning permission”. In the USA it’s about zoning and whether a particular facility or construction is allowed in a certain zone of a municipality. They are the same thing: it’s about two things (1) whether you can construct certain buildings in a certain area and/or (2) whether you can run an independent organisation in that area.

The moral of the stories is that it always pays to check with the local authority as to whether you need planning permission to do what you intend to do. And in each of these instances it wasn’t just about planning permission it was also about the number of cats involved. Animal rescues, cat breeders and multi-cat homes are potential problems in residential areas when there are neighbours nearby.

Pictured from left to right are George, Toby, Mia, Kevin and Chester in their ‘catio’ in Blackpool

Pictured from left to right are George, Toby, Mia, Kevin and Chester in their ‘catio’ in Blackpool. Photo: MEN Media

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the USA or the UK or I would argue any other country. Although planning regulations are going to be much laxer and more easy-going in developing countries compared to countries in the West where you will probably find quite refined and often strictly controlled planning regulations.

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Catio in front yard in UK

In the latest incident, a couple living under the jurisdiction of the Blackpool Council, lost three of their cats to road accidents over the last 15 years. They have 10 remaining cats, which as far as I am concerned is too many. I think local authorities need to have regulations in place for people who own 10 or more cats. At present it doesn’t happen but in this instance Lorraine and Adrian Marshall wanted to protect their cats and give them some freedom so they built a catio in the front yard.

It is important to note where they built it because it is far more visible to neighbours. And when you build something at the front of your home it is far more liable to be subject to planning regulations. Their nice catio cost £1,500. They didn’t apply for planning permission and the local authority has asked them to submit a retrospective planning permission application. Failing that they’re going to have to remove it.

I don’t see how or why Lorraine and Adrian are complaining about this because they simply had to make an application for permission to build a catio before they commenced. And of course, they’ve got themselves into a muddle. They agree to modify the catio if requested but the council has said that they will have to relocated if they don’t get planning permission. They have no means to relocate it and they say that it doesn’t hurt anyone. Modifying it is pointless as that suggestion does not resolve the issue.

And as expected some of the neighbours complained. This is the second problem that often comes out of building something on your property without planning permission, namely, neighbours are observant and some won’t like it. You end up with a neighbour dispute. This is something to be avoided at all costs.

One comment on (the source of the story) sums it up nicely:

As a cat lover and having had similar experience with losing my pets to the traffic I built a cat run at the back of my property. To put it on the front of your house is not considerate to your neighbours. Spoiling the kerb appeal of your own and surrounding properties is not the way to go. – Maureen Vincent

RELATED: Cat flap that required planning permission before installation

Blackpool Council said that they had received further complaints from neighbours over the past six months. A spokesperson for the council said: “It is now six months since our initial contact with Mr and Mrs Marshall where we advised the structure, they had built did not have planning permission. We understand that it is an upsetting situation so wanted to give them some time to consider their options.”

Comment: Lorraine and Adrian are playing this the wrong way. Why haven’t they applied for retrospective planning permission? Perhaps they have but it appears not. Why didn’t they apply for planning permission before they commenced? My gut feeling is that they thought they would get away with it. They’ve got too many cats and they’ve approached the construction of a catio carelessly on deliberately tried to avoid a possible prohibition because of planning laws.

In fact, I can be certain that a catio in the front yard would not be allowed but a catio in the backyard would be allowed and in fact you probably don’t need to make a planning application to build a catio in your back garden in the UK. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least contact the local authority to check.

This isn’t the first time that a couple have built a catio in their front yard and had to pull it down. On July 28, 2018 I published an article that I had written about a former police officer who had to tear down a catio because of complaints from neighbours. The catio was well constructed but it was in the front yard. Neighbours will complain because catios in front yards are a very noticeable and they totally alter the appearance of the building.

And more recently, on April 20, 2022 I wrote about an American cat rescuer living in Chiefland, Florida, whose name is Alexis Lewis. She expanded her cat rescue into the backyard by building outbuildings. Neighbours complained and the local authority stepped in to say that zoning laws in her area do not permit a cat shelter.

Maine Coon breeder infuriates neighbours by building cat houses in her backyard without planning permission. Photo - Cheshire Live.

Maine Coon breeder infuriates neighbours by building cat houses in her backyard without planning permission. Photo – Cheshire Live.

And also, more recently I wrote about a Maine Coon cat breeder in the UK who failed to obtain planning permission and got into exactly the same difficulties as mentioned above. They wanted to build a extensive breeding facility in their backyard. It was too much and as usual the neighbours complained. You can’t do this sort of thing without doing due diligence and consulting with your local authority.

As in all cases, these individuals operated from their home. In other words, they are either running an operation or constructing facilities in a residential area. This is going to be, at least, potentially problematic.

And there is a section of society who dislike cats. Domestic cats polarise people. And if you have lots of cats, and in each of these cases there are lots of cats, people don’t like it. You’ve got to consider the neighbours and the planning laws if you got a great idea that which requires building on your property.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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