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Cats and Neighbors

Neighbors can be wonderful! We can share common interests in cats. We can help each other when we go on vacation, taking care of cats and mail and so on. But not all encounters with neighbors are positive experiences. Our cats can sometimes cause us to interact with neighbors in ways we’d rather not. Occasionally our cats do something—or our neighbors or their pets do something—that causes conflict.

Keeping Peace in the Neighborhood

Cats are very social creatures. They like to hang out with others and wander into neighbor’s yards. Here are tips for keeping peace with the neighbor:

Your Cat

If your cat goes outside and likes to visit your neighbors, here are some things you can do to let neighbors know that you are a responsible cat owner:

  • Whenever your cat goes outside, put a very bright breakaway collar on her. Make sure that your phone number is on the collar, and add a bell. The collar will let others know that your cat is not a stray, and the bell warns birds as well.
  • Feed your cat well and make sure he or she is fixed. A well-fed, spay/neutered cat is not likely to roam very much.
  • Train your cat to stay in your yard (see Outside/Inside Training), stop letting her outside, or restrict her outdoor access to the daytime only. (The less your cat roams unattended, the less conflict you will cause in the neighborhood. Cats prowl more at twilight, when birds and mice come out.)
True Story

There was a biscuit factory in England that was losing thousands of dollars’ worth of food to mice. The owners tried traps and even hunting dogs. But the dogs ate more biscuits than they saved. When all else failed, a dozen cats were brought in. Within two weeks, all the rats and mice were gone and the factory inventory was saved!

  • Put water and a bird feeder in your backyard to keep your cat inside her own area.
  • Praise your cat when she brings home mice, but say nothing about birds. Don’t yell at your cat for killing prey, because that will only confuse her. It’s natural for cats to bring home their food or live cat “toys.” Quietly dispose of any prey when she’s not looking. Feeding more natural or raw foods may cut down on the amount of prey she brings home.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Tell them that you own a cat and that you don’t like your cat going into other people’s yards. Give them permission to scare your cat should she go into their yard. Give them your phone number and tell them to feel free to call. Avoid making them afraid of you, which would make them more likely to call the police or animal pound instead of calling you.
  • If a neighbor complains to you, be sympathetic. Tell him you understand his frustration, apologize, and promise to do something about it. Then follow through.
Did You Know?

  • A study of feral cats found that birds constituted just 4 percent of the cats’ diet.
  • Ninety percent of birds escape cat attacks, but only 20 percent of mice escape.
  • Mouse “squeaks” are at the sound and frequency that cats hear best.
  • It’s been proven that better-fed cats make better mousers.

The Neighbor’s Cat

Cats like to hang out with cool people. So if someone else’s cat likes to hang out with you and your cat, it’s because he thinks you are neat. But there are things to consider when it comes to neighborhood cats:

  • If a neighbor’s cat is hanging around, either tell him to go away each time, or let him hang around as long as he doesn’t start trouble. If you let him hang around, give attention to your cat only. This helps let your cat know that the strange cat is not really important in your life. She’ll have no reason to be jealous. Don’t touch a strange cat or let one inside your house—strange cats often won’t leave.
  • If a neighbor’s cat is coming into your house through the cat door, you may need to surprise or squirt him sometime to scare him out of the house. Close the door when you are not at home to watch. It’s best to avoid the use of cat doors because they allow a cat come and go as she pleases, which can cause more problems. But if you must have a cat door, there are special magnetic doors and collars that will allow only your cat to go in and out. There are drawbacks with that kind of door—the collar does not breakaway and if she loses it, she won’t be able to get back in.
  • Don’t complain to your neighbors about little things, such as their cat coming into your yard. Unless a situation is very serious, complaining often solves nothing and makes matters worse. It’s best not to complain about a dog that seldom chases your cats, because accidents do happen, and besides, occasionally upsetting your cat can make her more respectful of her outdoor privileges.

Deterrents/Guards

There are several ways to deter cats from getting into yards or gardens. There also are things that you should never use for this purpose.

  • Bury landscape netting below the surface of loose dirt to prevent cats from using the soil as a litter box. They’ll get their claws caught and won’t want to dig there. Pine cones and decorative rocks also can help.
  • Don’t use mothballs; the fumes can permanently damage cats’ kidneys. White onions or orange peels work for a short while. Cat owners we have worked with have consistently reported that spray deterrents/repellents don’t work, whether used inside or outside.
  • If your cat is using a child’s sandbox as a litter box, cover it when the children are not playing in it. Try putting a litter box outside in your yard.
  • Sprinkle ammonia or vinegar in the garbage before putting it out. This may deter cats, but won’t stop dogs or raccoons.
  • If there is a special area of a yard that all cats must stay out of, try one of the electronic choices on the market. Sonar devices emit sound waves as a deterrent. One popular brand is CatStop Ultrasonic Repellent by Contech Electonric . A motion-activated sprinkler is another option, such as The Scarecrow by Contech Electronic . Although we strongly discourage squirting a cat in the face with water, if a cat is on the verge of being killed by a neighbor for trespassing, this is another fairly inexpensive alternative. Position the motion activated sprinkler so that it comes on when the cat gets near the property line, and this can help with keeping your cat in the yard.
  • A fence guard is a wire netting that attaches at the top of a fence. It’s U-shape is designed to keep cats inside the yard. The cat can still climb the fence but the fence guard will prevent your cat from jumping over the top. Ads for fence guards often are found in the back of cat magazines, but ask your local pet stores and fencing companies about them too. Or search the internet for keywords such as “cat proof fence.”
  • Electronic fencing, also known as an “invisible” fencing, can help to keep a pet in the yard, but it should be used as a complement to outside training (see Outside/Inside Training), not as a substitute for it. The “fence” is installed by burying a wire along the perimeter of the property. The cat then wears a special device on his collar that the wire will detect. As the cat approaches the property line, the collar may vibrate and then emit a shock if the cat continues to walk toward it. Others just shock. Some models may require a special adapter to tone down the severity of the shock so that it’s suitable for a cat. Manufacturers recommend that you teach your cat what the yard boundary is first, before you begin the vibration and shock treatment. It’s cruel to just install a shocking device with no warning to the cat. That said, if you don’t approve of using shock treatment to train your cats, it’s very cheap and easy to train a cat to stay in the yard without installing expensive electronic gadgets. We don’t recommend spending a lot of money on cat training, period. A good electronic fence can be very expensive. Don’t settle for something cheap or you may not like the results. Call different companies. Ask what kind of guarantee they have, and how safe their product is for cats.
  • Another option is to install a chain-link cat kennel. Make it so the cat can access it from the house by way of a cat door. Your cat can’t roam, but she can still get fresh air. Put in an outdoor cat tree, shelves, or a dog house if you can. Add a padlock to help keep your kennel secured.
  • A dog will usually keep a cat out of its yard. Buy one for your neighbor. (Yeah, right!)
Shopping List

Optional

  • fence guard
  • outdoor kennel

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