This is a really tricky question although people tend to oversimplify it. First, what is too many cats? It is subjective. That’s the first hurdle but let’s say that without question your neighbour has too many cats. He or she may have, let’s say, 25 cats. Nearly everybody would say that is too many under normal circumstances living in a residential home in a residential area.
The question is whether your neighbour and her cats are a nuisance. Obviously if they aren’t a nuisance to the neighbours and healthy then there’s nothing to do or there is nothing that can be done unless there is a local ordinance (law) which limits the number of cats that a person can keep to a small number such as 4. Rarely, there are some cities and counties in America where they have limits like this. If one exists you can telephone the local authority and they should do something about it. But bear in mind the negative impact on neighbour relations.
If the cats are a nuisance, you CAN’T call the police because they will always be entirely disinterested in any case it is not a criminal matter. This is a civil matter.
A nuisance can actually be a civil wrong, specifically, a tort in legal terms. If you’ve got the strength of mind and the commitment you could sue your neighbour in the tort of nuisance after failing to get her/him to resolve the problem. I don’t think anybody would do that although there is a reasonable chance of success. It would mean spending quite a lot on legal fees and taking the matter to the County Court. It would cause a lot of disruption in the neighbourhood because not only would your cat-owning neighbour be highly upset, other neighbours would get to know about it and there may be some ructions in the neighbourhood.
None of your business
Some people would say that you should mind your business and do nothing about it. If a person has a right to own 25 cats where they live then you must respect that right. However, as mentioned, if there are too many cats and they are poorly looked after and they cause a nuisance then the cat owner has abused her rights and caused a nuisance to others. That is actionable as mentioned. The comments on the Quora.com website in general state that “it is none of your goddam business if your neighbour has too many cats”. I agree if the cats are well looked after and don’t cause a nuisance. If not, the advice is incorrect.
Rather than suing your neighbour, the local authority may help if the cats cause a nuisance such as despoiling the environment through faeces and urine and making noises at night et cetera. This would be a particularly poor situation in which the cat owner had not spayed or neutered her cats resulting in uncontrolled breeding. This means that the situation will deteriorate year-on-year. Under these circumstances the local authority might have an obligation to step in.
Type of property
This would certainly apply if the cat owner lived in a council or publicly owned property run by the local authority. Under the circumstances she would be in breach of her tenancy agreement and this would leave her open to action by the freeholder i.e. the local authority. Eventually they could kick her out of her home if she failed to comply with the terms of her tenancy agreement.
And, the type of property you live in dictates what can be done. For example, if they live in a freehold home which would be a house in the UK, you can’t do much about a person who has too many cats unless the cats are a nuisance. But if that person lives in a leasehold home something can be done. Leasehold homes are governed by the terms of the lease which is an agreement between leaseholders.
Those terms will definitely mention pet ownership and what can and can’t be done. Owning 25 cats in a leasehold property in the UK would be a breach of the terms of the lease. The other leaseholders could enforce the lease against her. Or they could try to because it would need the involvement of the management company and/or the freeholder to enforce the terms of the lease. They might be disinterested. But if the nuisance is bad enough, they would be forced to act.
Talk to the person
One thing you might do and probably should do is talk to the person who has 25 cats. This is almost certainly going to be fruitless and a waste of time because that kind of person doesn’t listen. It may achieve something if you are polite 😎. And you might take action yourself by taking the cats to a veterinarian to have them spayed and neutered. This would stop them breeding which would help to resolve the problem. It would upset the cats’ owner, no doubt, but it is direct action which can be the best way to resolve something sometimes. Although it may leave you open to a claim for compensation by the cats’ owner because you interfered with her cats and altered them.
If the cats are unhealthy and clearly neglected you could probably call the RSPCA in the UK or the equivalent in other countries to seek their involvement. They have an obligation to deal with animal welfare issues and in the UK the RSPCA still has, as I recall, the authority to prosecute people who abuse their animals. Neglecting cats en masse persistently is a form of animal abuse. This would be a crime. The police and/or RSPCA could be involved. They could prosecute the person. This is going to be a struggle to achieve because the police are disinterested as mentioned. If the problem is particularly bad the RSPCA would step in, I would suggest.
What can you do if your neighbour has too many cats? It depends upon the property in which they live as mentioned and it depends upon whether the cats are well looked after and healthy or if they are neglected, unhealthy and causing a nuisance to neighbours. You have to tick those boxes first. Then decide on the course of action.
There is a story from Newcastle, Australia of a woman (see picture above) who has her neighbours in uproar because she allows her cats to apparently breed and wander all over the neighbourhood causing a nuisance. Neighbours say that they have lost count of the number of cats wandering around. They say that they urinate and defecate everywhere causing the neighbourhood to stink. One concerned resident said: “The smell, go out the back and smell up the drive… it’s just terrible and she doesn’t feed them.”
There are disturbances at night. The residents have complained to Newcastle City Council. The council said that they would do nothing about it. They posted on their website the following: “We will no longer be dealing with this type of request.”
And that is the end of the story! That’s why I wrote the article above about what you can do if your neighbour has too many cats! LOL.
Below are some more articles on cat hoarding. Although it must be stated that not all situations in which there are a lot of domestic cats are about cat hoarding. Sometimes people look after their large number of cats very well.