I’ve lived in a flat for almost 12 months now and I met this cat the day I viewed the property, since that day he has spent every day and night at mine, and we are so in love.

The issue is that for a while my neighbours thought the cat’s owners had died, but this was wrong; I then met the owner who I told I was moving out and wanted to take the cat, and he said no. But he hasn't been caring for his cat for a year; he had no idea I want feeding, housing and flea-treating his cat. What's the legality of this, as the cat was very underfed and full of fleas when I first met him? Surely I can take him away from this man, don't I?

  • 1
    Welcome to Pets.SE, please take the tour, it only takes a minute. There's another site in the StackExchange network that deals with legal questions: Law.SE, where you can find questions about stealing pets and killing pets. In short, if the owner does not consent to you taking the cat, you are committing a crime (possibly more than one). You do not have the jurisdiction to decide what is animal cruelty and if the owner has violated laws against animal cruelty.
    – Elmy
    Jul 27 at 5:24
  • Does the owner have evidence he owns the cat? Like vet records? In the first place, you shouldn't have asked a negligent owner this. You should have just checked if he does/not know you have been caring for the neglected pet and simply taken it (although this is probably not the advice SE mods would endorse.). Since he didn't care for it, he would have assumed it gone/lost/dead.
    – Yogesch
    Jul 29 at 3:31
  • it is not ok to steal and abduct anybodys pet,the thing you can do is to get animal protection involved in this. Jul 29 at 16:04

No you shouldn't.

This answer is for your benefit rather than that of the cat. All countries, to the best of my knowledge, consider animals as property so they don't distinguish stealing a cat from stealing a livestock. In UK it is capped at 7 years of prison time right now. The same link describes an attempt to change the legal status of animals so that pet theft would be charged more than livestock theft, but there is still not a change.

I am not a legal advisor or lawyer in any capacity but I conjecture that since the lockdown increased the animal theft and since there is a push from the community for a harsher penalties, judges might go for the upper limits of the punishment.

It doesn't mean that there is nothing you can do.

  • Try to buy out the animal. The legal owner might be receptive to such an offer.

  • Report for animal neglect. The neighbours might back your claim. If you are serious about pursuing this route, consult an attorney practicing in your country/state.

I hope this helps.


I know Abbie, you're right. Nevertheless, I would take the cat and of course not mention where you are moving. I know this isn't "legal" but the care of the living creature that was being severely neglected over-rides in my opinion. The law doesn't care that much about animals. If you call animal control, they might remove the cat to a shelter. Take the cat.

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