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My neighbor has a very territorial cat. He often hisses as I walk to my house. I try to avoid him, but last week he was in my yard and he bit me. Are cat owners liable for injuries caused by their cats?

Sometimes. In order for the owner of a domesticated animal to be liable for his pet’s bite, the owner must know or have reason know that the animal is likely to bite.

If a cat is normally peaceful, an owner would not expect the cat to bite. But if a cat is territorial and hisses at others, there is good reason to believe that the cat may bite in the future. In this case, the owner has a responsibility to keep his cat from harming others. If he doesn’t, he could liable for any injury that results.

Signs that a cat is abnormally aggressive:

  • The cat has previously attacked or tried to attack a person without provocation
  • The cat bristles its fur and growls when strangers come into the home
  • The cat growls, hisses, howls, or yowls at others

 

Bear in mind that even a normally docile cat can bite. While a responsible cat owner is familiar with his pet’s personality, he realizes that even the gentlest cat can be dangerous if it is hurt, sick, angry, or frightened. A responsible cat owner takes steps to protect others from the cat in these situations. If an owner does not use reasonable care to prevent cat bites, he may be held liable for any injuries.

Some examples where an owner may be responsible for a cat bite:

  • A bookstore owner brings his cat to his shop despite a history of growling and hissing at strangers. The cat bites a child who reaches past it for a book.
  • An owner of an aggressive cat allows his cat to roam free. The cat bites a neighbor who offers it a saucer of milk.
  • A visitor to the cat’s home is bitten. The cat has bitten before and the bite required medical treatment.

 

If a cat bit you and you think the owner may be liable for your injuries, your first step should be to contact a Wausau personal injury attorney. The attorney will let you know if you have a case. To schedule a free consultation, call Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham