Outdoor cats and neighborhood law: what is allowed?

Free cats and neighborhood law - a topic that concerns many cat owners and their neighbors in everyday life. Unfortunately, there are always arguments when velvet paws move beyond the property's borders. Here you can find out what the legal situation is. Freelancers rarely stay inside their own garden fence - Shutterstock / Anatoliy Lukich

Feces on the terrace, scratches in the car paint, damage to plants - free cats are not always welcome visitors to the neighbors. They must be tolerated anyway, provided that everything stays within limits.

The legal situation on the subject of "neighbor's cat in the garden" is unfortunately rather vague. Usually it depends on the individual case. However, there are still a few guidelines for cat owners so that their neighbors don't feel too bothered by the velvet-pawed visitor next door.

Neighboring cats must always be tolerated

The German Animal Welfare Association writes: If a strange cat from the neighborhood enters your own property, you have to tolerate it in principle. This emerges from the "neighborly community relationship". It is a regulation that obliges neighbors to treat one another with respect and tolerance.

According to the German Animal Welfare Act, animal owners must ensure that their four-legged friends are housed properly and that they can move freely according to their nature. With the right design and employment, cats also feel at home in the home. But if a cat owner wants to give his pet free access, then that is basically allowed.

On the other hand, according to the case law of the Lüneburg and Darmstadt district courts, the neighbor has to endure the visit of a maximum of two cats from his neighbor. If there are more strange animals, the individual case decides whether this can be expected or not.

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Neighboring cats become a problem: what to do?

Your cat pees in the neighbor's garden, your neighbor complains about cat droppings in the flower bed or the velvet paw next door is fishing your fish from the garden pond? The neighboring cat is attacking your cat? Or the neighbour's cat meows all night and kills you? Do you suspect your neighbor's cat from scratching the paintwork of your car?

As cute and lovable as cats are, sometimes they can become disturbing to the neighbors and cause problems. The duty to tolerate ends when the visit of cats from the neighborhood can no longer be expected.

However, as you'll learn in the next section, the neighborhood litigation around cats is very vague. It is difficult to predict in what sense a court will rule if you try to sue your neighbor for damages.

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The Federal Code (BGB) is vague

The legal situation is most clearly in this regard in § 906 BGB, which states that impairments to the use of the property due to noise, smells and similar effects must be tolerated in two cases: when they are immaterial and when they are essential but customary in the location ,

However, the definitions of the words "insignificant" and "customary" prove to be difficult in practice. Opinions can vary widely between what is an essential and an insignificant impairment and what is customary and what is not customary.

Who is liable for damage caused by the animal?

Neighborhood disputes often arise, particularly in cases of damages. In principle, according to § 833 of the German Civil Code, the pet owner is liable for all damage caused by his pet - such as scratches on the bonnet, which is a welcome place to sleep and doze, especially in winter when it still emits heat.

However, the injured party always has a burden of proof. So the car owner has to prove that it was the neighbor's cat who scratched the car - it is often difficult to provide evidence in such a case, since photos or testimonies are rarely given.

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Avoid neighborhood disputes: This is what cat owners can do

If you have free-range cats, you should keep an eye on them as much as possible. For example, if you see that your velvet paw is in the neighbor's sandpit or is comfortably sitting on his car, you should bring your cat back.

tip: In particularly dangerous neighborhood conditions, a cat fence can ensure that your kitty stays on your own property. You can find more about this in the guide: "Cat fence for the garden: you should pay attention to this".

In most cases, it is best if all parties reach an out-of-court agreement and find a compromise in the interests of the cat. Or at least try. Talk to your neighbor if his cat bothers you - as benevolently and solution-oriented as possible.

If a neighbor has problems with your free-range cats, you should find a compromise together and avoid a tangible legal battle. It is important that each party takes the other seriously and that you work together to find a solution that the cats can live with.

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