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Top 3 Important Cat Laws to Know in New Jersey

— July 18, 2019

Cats may not be people (don’t tell them that!), but they are protected by the law. New Jersey has some very helpful cat laws that everyone lucky enough to be owned by a cat should know.

Animal lovers everywhere should always be up to date on their local and state laws regarding pets and creatures of all kinds. Every state’s laws vary in regards to ownership, required shots, leash laws, and more. There are many different laws regarding animal ownership and when an animal is considered feral. Cats are no exception. New Jersey has its own cat laws dictating the care and monitoring of feral and “owned” cats. If you are someone who cares for or helps cats, or has encountered a feral animal, you should be aware of the following laws:

1) Feral Cat Colonies Can Care

The state of New Jersey has laws regarding the care of feral or “free range” cats in managed cat colonies. A managed cat colony is a specific location for a group of free range cats and kittens, which are cared for by a specific person or group of volunteers. Managed cat colonies require cats to be spayed or neutered to prevent overpopulation on the streets and in shelters, typically via a trap-neuter-release program.

These colonies must be established in conjunction with a health officer, and all cats must be checked by a vet to ensure they do not pose a threat to local animals or humans. If cats appear injured or sick, they will be taken to a vet for care as soon as possible. In addition to the officer, a managed cat colony should coordinate with the local shelter and animal control.

Brown tabby cat sitting on concrete; image by Emre Gencer, via
Brown tabby cat sitting on concrete; image by Emre Gencer, via

Cats in these colonies are not considered strays, and thus are not at risk for impounding under New Jersey law. A cat colony is a much better place for a cat than the street or pound.

2) Microchips Must Be Checked

This law is for any cat (or pet) that’s taken into custody by animal control or surrendered to the shelter as a lost pet. The first thing the shelter, humane society, or veterinarian is required to do (once the animal has been checked for injuries or health concerns) is to scan for a microchip. Microchips are not required by law, but having one could be life saving. It’s possible your cat could be mistakenly taken in as a stray if it gets lost in public. A collar never hurts, but they can slip off.

All shelters, animal control stations, etc. are required to scan for the chip. It’s the best investment you can make towards getting your cat back if it wanders off and doesn’t return, according to Jackie from Cat World.

3) In the Event of an Emergency, Cats Can Ride

In the event of a major emergency like a natural disaster, people may board public transportation with their pets without issue as long as the pet is properly secured by either a leash or a carrier. Most public transportation options do not allow animals on a normal basis, so it is important to note that your pet is guaranteed safe passage along with you should the worst occur.


Most of New Jersey’s cat laws fall on the shoulders of local government rather than the state. Landlords and building owners have a right to decide where cats are allowed within their buildings. It is still important to know your rights as a cat owner, and to know that your furry companion is safe and protected under your state’s laws, too.

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