The Government Decides How Many Cats You Can Have

How many cats are too many?

In the town of Wellington, Kansas, population 8,057, the answer is five. As of January 1st, four is the legal maximum for any individual household. Well, four cats or one litter of kittens. (The average number of kittens in a litter is five, but eight is not unusual.)

Commentators are having a field day with this “bizarre” new rule. (As The Daily Beast puts it, “new law has bloggers purring in amusement.”) MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” calls the law one of the wackiest of the new year. The feigned surprise at the new law ignores the town’s pre-existing rule that households may not have more than four dogs.

It also trivializes the issue, which is the town’s misguided attempt to help homeless cats.

The law is meant to reduce the number of stray and feral cats in Wellington, according to PetsLady. There is no denying that the town needs to get a handle on its homeless cat population: last November alone it picked up 231 cats, 87 percent of whom it euthanized.

I expect the law to have the opposite of its intended effect. People who might otherwise adopt stray cats won’t if they already have four cats. People may abandon cats they have in excess of the new legal limit, increasing the number of stray and, a generation later, feral cats. I haven’t found any evidence that the despicable families who do abandon their pets have any more animals than other people, so putting a cap on the number of cats per household doesn’t target that hell-bound bunch.

Paw Nation also questions the law’s effectiveness, writing that “it remains unclear exactly how the new limit will impact the number of cats being euthanized.”

The Daily Beast implies that the law is actually meant to prevent animal hoarding by packaging it with a collection of “crazy cat lady” stories. MSN also goes with the crazy cat lady angle. Though that stereotype minimizes the seriousness of the disorder that causes hoarding and the suffering it causes its non-human victims, these articles are onto something: the new law does make more sense as an anti-hoarding law than as a way to prevent cats from becoming stray or feral.

Cat hoarding is “an actual disease that destroys homes and lives.” Its source, mechanism and treatment are not well understood, but experts believe it may be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia or paranoid schizophrenia. Hoarders believe that only they can care for their cats, and that their cats are in excellent condition. Meanwhile horror stories emerge all the time from people who have been inside hoarders’ homes, stories of emaciated cats, dead cats rotting where they fell, urine and feces collecting around the house or the cats’ cages, untreated ill cats and more.

Anti-cruelty laws are already on the books to prosecute hoarders, but it can’t hurt to have another law to use against them.

There is no magic to the number four. There are perfectly rational and lucid people who provide excellent care to more than four cats. I have had four adult cats and a litter of six cats in my care at one time when I was fostering a homeless feline family, and while my own cats may have been miffed that they didn’t get quite as much lap time as usual, everyone pulled through in top-notch health. The kittens were well socialized and ready for adoption when they left.

I doff my cap to the people of Wellington for seeking a humane way to reduce their stray and feral cat populations. I just don’t think they have chosen an effective method. But the town would do well to keep statistics about the effect of its new law to add to our knowledge about how to help cats without homes.


Related Stories:

700 Hoarded Animals Safe, But What About The Next 700?

While You Were Sleeping: Rescuer’s Daily Mission for Street Cats

Take a Stand for Cats



Marigold A
Past Member about a month ago

If you'd investigated as many hoarding situations as I have you'd see some sense in these laws.

Connie K.
Connie K4 years ago

ANOTHER STUPID LAW!! So many animals need homes. If you can take care of them the right way it should not matter. They need all the help they can get. If they have babies whose fault is that? The idiots that have them. I will never give up my 3 cats and dog. I'd live on the streets first. When I can afford it I will get more. They are my companions and help me by needing me too. How can anyone not have a 'pet''?? And children need to grow up with them and show compassion for all life.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters4 years ago

It is not quantity but quality. My neighbour has many cats and 2 dogs, all neglected. Those cats are a total nuisance, I have to clean up all the dead birds, not to mention the stench of their piss and shit, only on the front yard now. So much for responsible pet ownership.
Our Rotti has taken control of our back yard and makes thing easier for us. But we have another neighbour who is too lazy to clean up after his dozile Labrador and he lets her loose to shit in neighbours front lawns, good thing is, she eats all the cat shit from our front yard, great.

Claudia Cavallo
Claudia Cavallo4 years ago

It doesn't make sense, if people can affordo to have more than 4 cats they should be free to do so, I fear that this will bring to have a lot of stray cats

margaretha verbraeken

i live in Belgium, in general we are allow to have only 6 pets cats our dogs dont make differents. Als somme city reduce it to 4. It have be this way so long i live. You must just think that you be not the only pet keeper. if evrybody have 6 cats our dogs. it give a lot tumult in the street

Beth M.
Beth M4 years ago

How about responsible pet ownership? How about a law that requires all cats be fixed instead? I have 6 cats, all fixed. The government is NOT telling me how many cats or dogs I can own until they mandate how many children people can produce.

Zoe M.
Zoe M4 years ago

I agree with Myron S.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred H5 years ago

Thank you Piper, for Sharing this!

Isabel Robson
Isabel Robson5 years ago

This rule makes no sense. Whoever decided to make/pass this law, has done no research whatsover, hence why it will not reduce the large amount of stray cats in the street.
In fact, it will makes matters worse by stopping kind people that can afford to take in more than 4 cats.

The reason why there are so many homeless cats it is because some people do not neuter their cats!
The second reason, fortunately small percentage buys a cat as a trophy not as a pet.
There is also a minority of good intentions people that get carried away and take in as many cats as they can up to 20, may be more.

Nobody in their right mind makes the commitment to have and pay for the cost of having more than 4 cats unless they absolutely love cats. The average multi cat owner is not the problem.

Having a licence would not work either as government has no way of assessing suitability.
The solution is to spend, the money the government is currently wasting discussing laws changes and campaigns to restrict people from helping animals, in raising awareness about neutering and ensuring that all rescued cats are neutered rather than killed.

The government could not identify the real cause of the problem, let alone find a practical/effective solution, so I take comfort in knowing that they will not have any success in policing this law change.

I have 7 cats and so grateful for living in a different continent!