It is great privilege to be owned by a cat. Although many non-pedigree cats are unwanted, and considered by the uninitiated to be of little value, each and every one is worthy of the esteem due to all sentient living creatures. Although they have less protection under the law than dogs, they nevertheless do have certain inalienable rights, and we owners take on legal responsibilities when cats come to share their lives with us.
Neglect, or inflicting suffering on a cat, can result in legal prosecution in the UK (under the Cruelty to Animals Act). Included in the interpretation of “neglect” and “suffering” are failing to provide medical treatment when a cat is ill or injured, not making provision for it when going away on vacation, and keeping it in unsuitable conditions.
Buying and selling cats
In Britain, no license is at present needed for breeding, selling, or buying cats, but there are some restrictions on the sale of cats. Pedigree cats must be as described on their registration papers and must not have any serious illness at the time of their purchase, otherwise the purchaser may sue the vendor for compensation.
Damage caused by cats
You are not liable for acts of trespass by your cat, not for any damage that it causes as a result of its normal feline inclinations, or if it is provoked. You will not, for instance, be obliged to make reparation of your cat digs up the neighbour’s newly planted annuals while constructing an al fresco toilet.
Under British law, anyone involved in a road accident with a dog must report it to the police, but this is not mandatory in the case of a cat. Nevertheless, if a cat is injured in an accident and is not given first aid, a prosecution for cruelty might ensue.
Traveling with a cat
When traveling by road with a cat, it is an offence not to have the animal restrained by another passenger or confined to a carrying container. Import and export of cats entails observance of strict health and quarantine rules, which are laid down by the particular countries involved.
Cat theft and receiving stolen cats (yes, cats are still snatched, not so much for laboratory use as for the value of their skins, and even to be sold to unsuspecting butchers, when the carcass has been dressed as wild rabbit!) are criminal offences. However, adopting a cat can also termed “stealing”, so beware if you decide to take in a cat that visits you regularly – it may well be the legal property of someone living nearby. A cat owner can legally reclaim an “adopted” cat at any time up to six years after it has disappeared.