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November 20, 2013 at 5:05 PMComments: 2 Faves: 1

LA May Raise Legal Cat Limit from Three to Five

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Feline 101 Blog Series

How many cats do you have at home?  One?  Two?  Three?  Five?  At what point, in your opinion, does a person move from cat lover to full-blown hoarder? How many cats are just too many?

Personal opinions vary widely on the subject and legal definitions vary too. In most cities, the limit is higher than most people would ever have to worry about surpassing and in many, there is no specific limit, just laws regarding feline and human health care standards.  However, there are some cities in which the tipping point is much lower than you might expect - Los Angeles currently among them. 

In fact, the legal feline limit there is so low, it would put many US cat owners – as much as 20% - outside the law. Unless you pay the fees, fill out the paperwork, and are finally granted licensing as a residential cat kennel and home business, you can only care for three cats. Caring for four or more is actually illegal! At least for now.

Issues with The Law

LA Pet Rescue Examiner, Kate Woodviolet is one among many LA locals who has been speaking out against this ordinance. While the law may be nobly aimed at preventing hoarding, she writes that the effort doesn’t take the nature of mental disorder into consideration.  “Initially this might appear to make sense.  We’ve all seen upsetting video of animal seizures at the homes of hoarders who get in over their heads with fifty, a hundred, or even hundreds of animals. … [But] most animal care and mental health professionals agree hoarding is a mental disorder and people who suffer from mental disorders generally don’t curb their compulsions based on what the law allows.”

The law also ignores the different conditions a cat owner may be living in. While most people would agree four cats in a tiny apartment are different than four cats in large home, everyone is treated the same “whether you live in a multi-acre compound or a one bedroom apartment…”  Woodviolet says.

Proposed Changes

Now, Councilman Paul Koretz seems to agree. After years of protest from LA residents, he recently introduced a motion arguing that the three cat limit prevents adoptions and contributes to the number of stray cats. If the motion is approved, LA will raise its legal feline limit from three to five.  

As Koretz told the press, “Certainly the most likely people to adopt are the folks that already have cats in their homes! …we will save lives of more cats and do it in a way that is harmless to everybody else.”

As the law stands now: “any lot, building, enclosure or premises where four or more cats are kept or maintained for any purpose, is a cat kennel, which requires a permit and business license.”  And even if you have only one cat, you could still be breaking the law if you happen to be one the soft-hearted people who leave out food for hungry strays and ferals. Under current law, any cats fed on your property for “30 consecutive days or more” are also considered your cats and are factored into that three or less number – another facet of the law many cat lovers take issue with as it seems to discourage necessary and humane efforts.

Hope for the Future

“Many ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations), at least in the West Valley, have taken it upon themselves to tell colony caretakers that feeding feral cats is illegal. They cite many laws including those whose intent was not to stop feral cat feeding and TNR (Trap Neuter Release ). If you prohibit feeding ferals, naturally TNR is impossible because the cats would be dead!” – LA Animal Watch

While the motion seems to have the support of the majority, there are some who say it should include stricter spay and neuter requirements plus additional microchipping requirements for homes that do choose to take in more than three cats. Of course, all these things would be difficult to enforce and as Koretz points out, "Unless somebody complains, we're not likely to spot people with more than three cats anyway,” Still, responsible owners wishing to adopt a fourth or fifth cat may be more likely knowing it’s legal. And people fearing prosecution under current laws may be more likely to reach out and lend stray and feral felines a hand.

That, proponents say, is victory in itself. If even just a handful of LA cats are saved as a result of this change, it will have been worth it.


What do you think about this?

Are number limits helpful in halting hoarders or should laws regarding feline excess be purely circumstantial? 

How many cats do you have in your home?



LAist: Los Angeles’ Cat Limit (Yes We Have One) Might Be Raised to 5

Examiner: Do pet-limit laws make sense?

Humane Society: Pets by the Numbers

CBS Los Angeles: LA City Council Mulls Raising Cat Limit Per Household

LA Animal Watch: Law Regarding Feeding Feral Cats on One’s Own Property or Elsewhere

More from Erin Froehlich Others Are Reading


  • If they legalize cats, people won't have to resort to getting their cats from illegal cat dealers, there will be extra revenue from taxing the sale of cats, and the cat-growing and smuggling businesses upon which much crime is based would stop.

  • Haha!

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