“Letting your cat go outdoors without a leash is in conflict with EU rules”

“Letting your cat go outdoors without a leash is in conflict with EU rules”

Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, according to two lawyers from Tilburg University, letting your house cat go outside and roam around freely is illegal. Arie Trouwborst and Han Somsen's declaration is based on the European rules for nature protection and is published in the Journal of Environmental Law.

Millions of animals killed by cats

Every year, cats in the Netherlands are estimated to kill about 140 million animals. According to the lawyers’ research, cats are a risk to 367 endangered species. And the issue is just the fact that cats hunt birds and other small animals, they also spread diseases. Moreover, they pose a threat to wild cats, as mating with them can cause some species to disappear.

In the Netherlands, there are about two to three million house cats and tens of thousands of stray cats. According to European legislation, house cats should be kept indoors. The lawyers argue that the European Birds and Habitats Directive obligates the country to protect certain species and habitats, and this means limiting threats like cats. They also reason that cats have a special position at this moment in time, as no other household pet is allowed outside without being on a leash.

Controversial measures

Trouwborst and Somsen feel that there need to be more rules when it comes to keeping cats as pets. They also believe more should be done to tackle the problem of stray cats. Hunting strays can alleviate the feral cat problem, but there is, of course, the fear that people’s pets may be shot too. Hunting cats is a very controversial measure and last year, in reaction to questions from Party for the Animals, who wanted a national ban on hunting cats, the minister for Nature, Carola Schouten, said that the shooting of cats should be avoided where possible.

When it comes to keeping your cat inside, the researchers understand that this news has led to unease amongst cat owners. However, they state that the same is true of the ban on smoking in public areas. There are plenty of practices which were normal in the past but have now been changed due to their detrimental effects.

Moreover, according to Trouwborst, it is in the best interest of the cat to keep it inside, as many cats that venture outside are run over or run away. He adds that in the United States half of all cat owners keep their pet inside to keep it safe.

No law in the making

According to Nature Minister Carola Schouten, there is currently no law in the making that would obligate cat owners to keep their pets on a leash. She states that, while measures are being worked on to encourage the restoration and maintenance of nature in the Netherlands, keeping cats inside is not one of them. Whilst many parties in the House of Representatives are against keeping cats indoors or on a leash outdoors, some are in favour of requiring cats to be neutered, to tackle the problem of overpopulation. 

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

Read more



Leave a comment

YvonnedeJager2 11:17 | 13 November 2021

Our 2 cats stay inside, my boyfriend created a outside cat house which they can enter through a window in our kitchen. They stay safe as well as the birds do :) Thanks for sharing Mina!