For American who don’t live with a cat (and even those who do), one of life’s annoyances is their neighbour’s cat peeing and pooping on their carefully tended backyard. We read about it quite a lot online. It is an area of domestic cat ‘ownership’ which is liable to cause friction. Another is the ubiquitous domestic cat predation on wildlife but I’ll put that to one side for the moment.
Vast majority accept roaming cats
Although I have to say that the vast majority of people don’t mind someone else’s cat coming onto their property because they are reasonable people who understand and are sensitive towards animal welfare. It is just a small, vocal minority who hate it and want something done about it. They feel powerless because domestic cats are allowed to roam freely in almost all the world’s countries and jurisdictions. There is only one way to alleviate that sense of powerlessness: the law.
If a property owner who does not ‘own’ or like cats is annoyed by trespassing domestic cats the common sense response should be for them to contact the cat’s owner and discuss the matter with the objective of preventing the cat from coming into the person’s backyard. That suggestion is often impractical or difficult because (a) it is not always clear who owns the cat and (b) people don’t like being told what to do nowadays.
If a cat owner is determined to let their cat roam free they won’t take kindly to be asked (even nicely) to prevent their cat going onto a neighbour’s property. It would mean either confining their cat to their backyard and their house or preventing their cat entering the backyard of the complainer. The former requires investing in a fairly sophisticated cat confinement fence around their backyard plus precautions preventing their cat escaping from the from door. Result: unhappy cat and unhappy cat owner because it’d cost them $3,000 or more (perhaps). The latter might be cheaper.
Best enforced solution
If the complaining property owner is the only one who objects to trespassing cats the slightly extreme solution (solution number 2) would be to construct a fence around their property or the access point which would effectively prevent cats getting in. The construction cost would be shared between the cat’s owner and the complainer equally. Neither party would be happy to pay unless forced to.
This is where the law could be changed. In a new ordinance (local law) you’d have a procedure which makes it obligatory for the complaining person to enter into negotiations with the cat’s owner to resolve the dispute. A dispute mechanism such as arbitration could be specified. If there is more than one complaining person and if the talks fail the law could place an obligation on the cat’s owner to construct a cat confinement fence around their property at shared expense between all parties provided the complainer made a formal, registered complaint to the local authority on a proscribed form.
If there is one complainer, solution number 2 above is preferable because it would allow the cat to continue to roam. It is very hard to confine (and frankly unfair) a cat who has had the opportunity to roam freely all their lives. Blocking off one area – the complaining person’s backyard – is far less limiting and more humane to the cat than blocking off all areas in a cat confinement fence. Once again costs would be shared equally.
Failure of complainer to accept fence
If the complaining person objected to a preventative anti-cat fence being constructed around their backyard or part of it they’d forfeit rights to complain and would be deemed to accept cat ‘trespassing’.
It is the cat owner’s responsibility to ensure that their cat does not cause problems and damage. But neighbors have a responsibility to act reasonably and there is no law preventing cats roaming. Therefore the cost and responsibility for resolving the problem should be shared equally.
These ideas do not apply to caring for community or feral cats clearly.
P.S. Identifying cat owners
One way to increase the levels of responsibility of cat owners is to change the law on microchipping:
- Microchipping should be obligatory – all cats should be microchipped
- There should be a single nationwide microchip register database for all cats
- Microchip scanners should be commercially available to anyone at relatively cheaply
- Anyone should have the right to scan cats.
SOME PAGES ON RESPONSIBLE CAT OWNERSHIP: