Legal requirements for cat owners

Cat sitting in-between the railings on staircaseThe law aims to protect animals from neglect and cruelty and to protect the community from animals becoming a nuisance or danger.

If you don't comply with legal requirements such as microchipping and registration you can be fined.

Check with your council to see if they have any local laws that may require cats to be desexed or to be kept on their owner's property during certain hours.

Under animal cruelty legislation, if you mistreat or fail to properly care for your cat you can be prosecuted and face:

  • fines
  • jail
  • ban on owning an animal.

Permits are required when there are more than a certain number of cats or dogs kept in a household. This number is set by your local council — check with them what the limit is.

Where the owner of a cat is under 18 years of age, the parent or guardian of the owner will be deemed the legal owner of the cat and subject to any penalties or prosecutions.

Microchipping and registration of your cat

Microchipping and registering pets greatly improves their chances of being returned to you if they are lost.

All cats 3 months of age and over must be registered with the local council. Existing registrations must be renewed by 10 April each year.

If being registered for the first time, cats must be microchipped before registration.

Your cat's council registration tag should be attached to an elasticised collar or safety collar that breaks away if they get caught on something. The collar should be firmly fitted. You should be able to fit 2 fingers comfortably between your cat's collar and its neck. Place a bell on the collar to alert any animal that your cat tries to stalk and catch.

Find out additional information about Pet registration and microchipping.

Trespass and nuisance

If your cat is found wandering off your property and is not identified, it can be seized and impounded. You may have to pay a fine when reclaiming your cat from the Council pound.

If your cat (even if it is identified) wanders onto another person's property more than once, it may be seized and impounded. Council can issue an order to stop your cat trespassing and if you don't comply you can be fined.

Some Councils require cats to be confined to their owner's property during certain hours. Others prohibit or restrict cats in some places. Check with your local council to see if these requirements apply in your area.

Health and welfare

Cat owners have a legal 'duty of care' to protect the welfare of their pets.

The Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Cats is an overview of basic cat welfare and health requirements.

Page last updated: 24 Nov 2020