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How Many Cats is Too Many?

How Many Cats is Too Many?

Los Angeles residents may soon be able to own up to five cats.

Under current law, it’s illegal to have more than three in a household and people who want to have more felines must obtain a kennel permit.

Councilman Paul Koretz wants to change the city code because he says the cap on cats hurts efforts to get animals off streets and out of shelters.

However, critics worry that increasing the number could lead to disputes among neighbors or even hoarding situations.

Putting a limit on the number of dogs, cats or other pets a household is allowed to keep may seem strange, but such laws are relatively common.

Residents of Omaha, Neb., are allowed up to three dogs and five cats. The people of Pittsburgh can have a maximum of five pets within city limits. In Dallas, the number of cats and dogs depends on the size of the home and surrounding property.

The Rangitikei District of New Zealand recently made international headlines when it passed an ordinance limiting pet owners to three cats. The bylaw was implemented because the council had received numerous complaints concerning noise and odor in the area.

Cities and counties are often involved in pet ownership disputes with residents, typically over the number of animals allowed on a property, and local governments must balance animal welfare with residents’ freedom to keep pets.

Noise, odor and property damage complaints from disgruntled neighbors are common, and heartbreaking cases of animal hoarding can spark caps on the number of pets allowed within city or county limits.

“Owning animals is one of those things that need codes so that everyone can share a living space,” Mike Oswald, director of Animal Services in Multnomah County, Ore., told American City & County. “If you live in a high-density area like New York, you’ve got to have codes to keep levels even — noise levels, waste levels, all kinds of levels.”

Of course, limiting the number of pets allowed can affect the number cats and dogs in shelters. It can also increase the number of pets that are euthanized.

“The most likely people to adopt additional cats are those who already have cats in their homes,” Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz said in his motion, noting that allowing residents to adopt more animals would save feline lives.

But one of the biggest issues with limiting a household’s number of pets is that such laws are rarely easily enforceable. Not all cities and counties require animals to be registered, and not all laws account for litters of kittens or puppies, or feral populations that may venture onto a person’s property.

The New Zealand law states that cats under the age of 3 months won’t be affected by the change. However the district’s mayor also notes that enforcement will likely be lax.

“We’re not going to count people’s cats. We don’t care how many cats they’ve got, so long as the cats are happy, the neighbors are happy and everybody else is happy,” Mayor Chalky Leary said in a statement.
Still, many animal lovers fight such legislation, arguing that the reasons behind it are misplaced.

“One dog that is irresponsibly owned can be a greater nuisance than five or six dogs who are properly cared for,” said Norma Woolf, editor at Canis Major Publications.


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Read more: Cats, Pets, Safety

Photo: AlishaV/flickr

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123 comments

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4:19AM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

1:24PM PST on Dec 29, 2013

I am not sure what to think about this,,,,.

12:18PM PST on Dec 29, 2013

Let me start off by saying that I have 11 cats & 2 dogs. I live in a not so big rowhome. I am not a hoarder. All of my animals, except the small male dog, are fixed. No babies here. My house does not have any odors. I have seen shows where that is the first sign of a problem. I even had a cable guy tell me that he would never know I have that many cats because there is no odors in the house. That made me feel good. While they do not get their yearly vaccinations they are healthy. I do not leave any of them outside of the house. I will say that health issues can be expensive. I have one male cat who had a colon problem 2 years ago and that cost us over $1000 to get cleared up. Earlier this year the same cat had crytals that he ended up having to have surgery to get them out. Not counting the prescription food he has to eat, that was well over $2000. Thank God we have a vet that lets us pay on a plan. His food & medicine costs us over $100 a month. And the kicker is my husband lost his job at Hostess in November of 2011. We would never surrender our babies. We manage however we can. And before you think I am crazy I made the commitment to take care of these guys for life. These guys can make a bad day a good one. But I also think each situation is different. People should not take in more then they can handle even though they mean well.

9:59PM PST on Dec 22, 2013

As long as things are kept sanitary - and the cats are well cared for who cares how many cats a person has ...

9:50AM PST on Dec 13, 2013

I don't have many cats in my house I have spayed/Neutered animals in my yard and my front porch. Why aren't there organizations helping us to get well care and helping us with other things we need. Because OUR GOVERMENT spends more money on killing them than helping them.

7:54PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

when u cannot give them quality food and health care,not to mention attention..you have toooo many

12:33PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

As many as u wish

11:40AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

If people can afford to take care of them, why should there be a problem?

9:51PM PST on Dec 7, 2013

To Andrew: We have a perfectly happy cat that doesn't go outside into any garden and she's fine. A lot of people don't have houses and have cats and dogs, so be quiet if you know nothing. For the amount of cats and dogs one should have, that depends on if they are cared for and loved.

10:20AM PST on Dec 6, 2013

So much depends on the space, finances, physical abilities, and commitment of the humans involved that I don't believe one blanket number is ever going to truly work. There are people who couldn't reasonably take care of a single animal, and then there are situations like mine when I was in my teens. We had - at one point - six cats, one dog, three hamsters, two rats, and a tank of tropical fish. Every one of the critters was well tended and cared for.

But I think in most cases these laws are pretty much only enforced when there is a complaint from a neighbor. Keep your pets healthy, and keep up the best relations you can with your neighbors, and chances are nobody will ever report you, even if you have six or seven times the approved number of critters.

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