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How Many Cats Can You Legally Own in Pennsylvania?

Multi-pet homes are not uncommon in the United States, but some states have restrictive laws limiting the type and number of domestic animals in your residence. If you’re a Pennsylvania resident and cat lover, you may wonder how many cats the state allows in one home. Although Pittsburgh limits residents to owning five pets, the state law indicates that Pennsylvania citizens can own any number of legal pets.

We’ll examine how the law has changed and how Pennsylvania’s pet laws differ from other states.

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The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Decision

Before adopting a dozen felines, it’s wise to check your municipality’s laws regarding pet ownership. The state does not place limits on cats, but your town could impose fines for violating a local ordinance. However, since the Pennsylvania Commonwealth ruled that pet quotas violate personal liberty, you could fight any penalties imposed by the local government by going to court. Paying for an attorney to fight your city is an expensive venture, and it may be easier and less costly to follow the local laws.

In 1994, a Carnegie, Pennsylvania resident was found guilty of violating the borough’s five-pet rule. At one time, she owned 33 cats, but she appealed the district’s decision to the Allegheny County court of common Pleas. The appeals court also found her guilty, but when she took the case to the Commonwealth Court, the judge disagreed with the prior decisions and ruled in the resident’s favor. The district’s law limiting the number of cats was intended to protect public health, but the Commonwealth judge stated that the community failed to prove that the resident’s 33 cats were a nuisance to the public.

The judge said city officials could not reasonably prove that a resident’s indoor cats were adversely affecting the community. If a homeowner’s outdoor pets were harming or disrupting other citizens, they would be violating public health laws.

cats eating_Taras Vyshnya_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Taras Vyshnya, Shutterstock

Pet Ownership Laws in Pennsylvania

Although you can legally own a colony of indoor cats, you must follow Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws to avoid a violation. According to the state laws, pet owners must provide food and potable water, protection from the elements, access to shelter, and appropriate veterinary care for all animals. If the statute is violated and results in the bodily injury of an animal, the offender can be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor. However, intentionally harming, torturing, or killing a domestic animal can result in a felony of the third degree. The pets’ health is the state’s primary concern regardless of the number of animals. Some of Pennsylvania’s other restrictions regarding pet ownership include:

  • Animal fighting is prohibited and considered a third-degree felony.
  • Animal tethering is legal, but the state limits the length of the tether and the weather conditions.
  • Farm animals cannot be transported in containers stacked on top of each other.
  • Cropping tails, debarking dogs, or declawing cats is illegal unless performed by veterinarians.
  • Selling dog or cat pelts is illegal.
  • Giving pets away as prizes is forbidden.
  • Harassing a service animal or police dog is prohibited.
Domestic cat lying on owner's lap
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

Some states seem less concerned with animal welfare than others, but Pennsylvania’s laws indicate that the governing body opposes animal cruelty. However, compared to other states with long lists of banned species, Pennsylvania is less restrictive towards exotic pet owners. Pennsylvania and 12 other states allow exotic pets with a permit, but 21 states prohibit private ownership of all exotic animals, and 35 states prohibit owning exotic cats.

Although you can legally own a tiger or cheetah in Pennsylvania, the state will not issue an exotic pet permit unless the applicant meets specific criteria. Exotic pet owners must prove that they can house and feed the animal appropriately, confine the animal in an enclosure that protects the public from an attack, prove that keeping the creature does not violate a local ordinance, and avoid releasing the animal into the wild.

Rental Contracts and Homeowner’s Association Regulations

When you own a home in Pennsylvania, you may not run into any problems caring for multiple cats. If you provide food and water, veterinary care, and shelter, you’re in compliance with the state laws. However, suppose you sign a contract with a homeowner’s association that forbids pets. In that case, you’ll have to find another home for the animals or face eviction, depending on the agreement’s specifics.

Rental property managers also place limits on pet owners, and some are more restrictive than homeowner contracts. If you want a property filled with pets, you’ll have fewer issues when you own a house or condo in an area without pet restrictions.

feeding cats
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Keeping Your Pets Safe

The housecat’s ancestors survived harsh environmental conditions and consumed small mammals for sustenance, but domestic cats face new dangers that were not present in past centuries. Speeding vehicles and pest control chemicals are only a few of the hazards that the outdoor feline faces in our society. Although it’s difficult to confine a pet that previously roamed outdoors, indoor confinement can increase the animal’s lifespan. Indoor cats can live approximately three times as long as outdoor cats. Caring for a pet for 15 or more years seems preferable to owning an outdoor kitty that perishes in less than 5 years.

Felines need mental stimulation to prevent boredom, and indoor cats require more effort from their owners to stay entertained. Toys, cat trees, and access to sunny windowsills can help reduce stress, but pet parents also must spend time playing with their pets to keep them happy. Since they seem less emotional and loving than dogs, cats are misunderstood, and their emotional needs are often neglected. Keeping your cat safe from danger is important, but maintaining the animal’s mental health should also be a priority.

Visiting the veterinarian twice a year, microchipping your pet, and spaying or neutering your cat are critical tasks for ensuring a long, happy life. Of course, keeping the cat indoors is also imperative. Whether you have one cat or five, you can enjoy more time with your furry friends when you protect them from outdoor hazards.

cat and vet
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Pennsylvania laws prohibit animal cruelty, but they do not prevent pet parents from owning multiple cats or dogs. The state is more concerned that owners provide adequate care for their pets than the number of animals living in a residence. Caring for several wild felines is not easy, but if you have the space, adequate food and water, and access to veterinary care, you can keep a cat colony in your home.

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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