Why Compulsory Sterilisation, Microchipping and Registration of Cats Might Not Work

In order to reduce the number of unwanted cats in various countries, the lawmakers are considering compulsory registration, micro-chipping and sterilisation. Will these laws work?

To me, there seems to be two reasons why they may fail. The first is that there will always be a significant section of cat owners who will refuse to comply with the law. They might agree to one aspect of these three elements but not all of them. The reason why they won’t do it is because of cost and because they feel they can get away with it. They don’t want to spend any more on their cat than the minimum, which is why they try to avoid taking their cats to vet and look for home treatments online instead.

Laws on cat ownership Brisbane and City of Gold Coast
Image in public domain.
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If this significant section of society refuses to comply with the law what can the law enforcers do about it? The problem is that they will have difficulty in enforcement. It means keeping a record of every single domestic cat in the country or state (if the law concerns a state). This is impractical. How can lawmakers expect to find out if a person has not complied with the law if they find a kitten outside and simply take the kitten in and look after him. Who will know?

If the authorities find out that a person has not complied with the law then they will probably punish the person. But what will be the outcome? The person may simply abandon her/his cat. He or she may get rid of the cat as a liability. This is not impossible to envisage because the kind of person who is not going to comply with the law may well be the kind of person who is more able at an emotional level to get rid of their cat and not feel too bad about it.

If I’m right, then a law which makes it compulsory to sterilise, microchip and register your cat will not work to a sufficient level to make it effective. This may be the reason why up until now no such law has been enacted.

However, an exception and a partial failure has occurred in Western Australia. The state government made changes to their Cat Act 2011 from November 2013 to try and reduce the number of unwanted and euthanized cats. The changes to the law included a requirement that all domestic cats should be sterilised, micro-chipped and registered with the local authority at six-months-of-age.

It appears that a significant number of cat owners are ignoring the law. They are being hit with a fine and a pound fee if the cats are caught by “rangers”. They don’t want to pay the money to get their cat back. In effect they are abandoning their cats. They don’t put sufficient value on their cat to bother. It is said that, in general, people place less value on cats than they do on dogs. I’m not sure that that is correct but it may be.

An example illustrates the point. One woman living in the state was convicted of failing to comply with the law after failing to microchip and sterilise her cat. The court was told that the local authority rangers went to the woman’s house in July 2015 where they found her in possession of a cat and spoke to her about obligatory registration once they had turned six-months-of-age.

When the cat reached six-months-of-age rangers contacted the woman and gave her 14 days to register. The woman failed to comply. This happened four times and eventually she was taken to court and convicted. She pleaded guilty to both failing to sterilise and microchip her cat.

The problem is that the mentality of a person who historically and habitually has not sterilised or microchipped to her cats presents a big obstacle to lawmakers to change his/her habits and mentality to then comply with the law. If the cat is taken from her and she refuses to then comply with the law and take her cat back this presents a problem to the courts. It is quite likely that this woman will also fail to pay a fine as she has insufficient funds.

The end result is that the law has not succeeded in its objective which is to reduce the number of unwanted cats and cats that are ultimately euthanized. Personally, I support compulsory sterilisation and microchipping despite the possibility of failure. Nationwide or statewide registration seems impractical.

2 thoughts on “Why Compulsory Sterilisation, Microchipping and Registration of Cats Might Not Work”

  1. True. One thing I’d like to mention about microchipping. While I am glad my cats are microchipped (came this way from the shelter), and I’d do it, there was a case of a Feline Injection Site Sarcoma developing at the side of the microchip. Now, it’s rare, and FISS is more associated with vaccinations (but then cats are getting more vaccines than other injections), but essentially anything injected into the cat that causes local inflammation – antibiotics, steroids, sutures that stay in, wounds, etc. can cause it. This is the article about microchip-associated sarcoma:

    Now, I’d still microchip my cat because to me the risk of having any of my indoor-only cats escaping may be higher, but it is something the owners of indoor-only cats may consider. Is it really the place of the government to dictate to people to increase their cats’ risk of fatal cancer? Now, there are Rabies vaccination laws, but Rabies is a public health issue, can be transmitted to humans and is a death sentence. The balance between a small risk of fatal cancer and the probability of an indoor-only cat escaping may not be as obvious, at least depending on the cat – some cats dash out, my previous cat run away from open doors and hid under the bed. If you mandate the microchipping, I’d say you are responsible in part for any of the cats developing cancer.

  2. Yes, sad but true Michael. It sickens me how some people think that cats are disposable.
    Cats are a commitment that can last more than 20 years. Anybody that is serious about letting a cat live in their home should know that without being told.


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