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I Support an L.A. Proposal to Raise Household Limit on Cats

I agree with backers: Increasing the limit from 3 to 5 will save cats lives and reduce euthanasia.

Kezia Willingham  |  Mar 6th 2015


In Los Angeles, if you own more than three cats you must have a kennel permit. Some city officials want to increase the maximum number to five. One of the people leading the effort, City Councilman Paul Koretz has told the Los Angeles Times that the effort aims to reduce the number of cats euthanized in city shelters. More cats will be adopted, the reasoning goes, because people who already own cats are more likely to give shelter cats new homes. As an avid cat enthusiast, I agree. Increasing the legal number of cats per home is a great move forward in reducing the number of cats killed because of shelter overcrowding.

The proposed law has its opponents, and on Feb. 17 the next round of decision-making was postponed for 60 days, according to the Times. But Koretz and others believe something must be done. Brenda Barnette, General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, has told the press that the “save rate” for cats in the  shelter system is only 55 percent.


Oliver and Luther have become quite close while residing in my house. Photo by Kezia Willingham.

A coalition called No-Kill Los Angeles aims to end euthanasia because of shelter overcrowding by 2017. I believe increasing the number of cats people can legally own from three to five represents an important part of the strategy to achieve this goal.

My life and the lives of my children have been significantly improved by the presence of multiple cats living with us, I am deeply disturbed by the number of healthy cats and kittens euthanized in shelters every day throughout our country.


Starry likes to perch on me when I take a moment to chill. Photo by Kezia Willingham.

Los Angeles has a significant homeless cat problem and has to kill thousands every year, despite gains in the save rate in recent years, according to a report in the L.A. Daily News. Letting people have more than three cats seems like a logical method to reduce shelter intake numbers and the number of cats slaughtered for no other reason than being unclaimed by humans. Setting a limit, such as three cats, is problematic to me because it’s not based on  scientific data. Rather, it is a random number selected by a random person that is not based on fact. Laws based on uneducated opinions and stereotypes are not in the best interest of the general public.

Cats bring a lot of joy to the lives of those who are fond of them. The health benefits include reducing incidence of allergies and asthma in children when they live with them from an early age, reduce stress and depression, and are good for your heart.

A woman named Kristi Maddocks wrote a two-part series on Catster outlining how her tabby saved her life. Catster regular Angela Lutz says her cats help her deal with anxiety that once was crippling. Angie Bailey, meanwhile, says cats can be good therapy for treating anxiety and depression in kids. Catherine Holm says her cats have helped her survive a day job that seemed like so much drudgery.


Grace, a cat we rescued as a stray who had a large tumor. She is doing well since her surgery and sleeps with me every night. Photo by Kezia Willingham.

Critics of the proposal in Los Angeles include cat haters and, surprisingly, some animal rights advocates. Some opponents say cats destroy bird life and ecology. Others believe that this measure will lead to an increase in hoarding. Still others say enforcing the law will be difficult.

I believe these arguments are based more on fear that any known fact, as far as they are strictly related to increasing the number of cats per household. First of all, stray and feral cats are already a problem. In my mind, it makes sense to get them off the streets and into homes. That way they will not be killing the innocent birds, mice, bugs, or rats that live outdoors.

As far as hoarding goes, if anything, the more conscientious, responsible folks will add to their personal feline population knowing they will not be violating any laws. Those who hoard probably don’t spend too much time fretting about the three-cat limit as it is, if they are even aware of it. Keeping the cat limit at three probably won’t affect the habits of the hoarder population. Allowing the average person to legally house more cats probably will reduce the number of stray and feral cats, therefore reducing the amount of felines that hoarders may feel compelled to take in.


Nimbus hiding in the toy drawer. Photo by Kezia Willingham.

Not only should Los Angeles increase the number of legally owned cats per household, but I believe every city that sets such arbitrary limits should follow its lead.

Read more by Kezia Willingham.

Read more about cats and adoption on Catster:

About Kezia Willingham: Kezia, also known as The Breadwinning Laundry Queen, works as the Health Coordinator for a Head Start program and lives with her family, which includes a pack of rescued animals, in Seattle. She writes for Catster and Dogster and has been published in The New York Times, Literary Mama, the Seattle Times, and xoJane.com. She has a master’s degree in Social Work and a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Sciences. You can follow her on Twitter @KeziaWillingham.

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