Steve Dale is a certified
Tricks to keep
animal behavior con-
sultant, who’s authored
several books, including
the ebook Good Cat,
and has contributed to
many, including The Cat:
Clinical Medicine and Management, edited
by Dr. Susan Little. He hosts two nation-
al radio shows, and is heard on WGN
Radio, Chicago and seen on syndicated
HouseSmarts-TV. He’s on the Board of the
American Association of Humane-Animal
Bond Veterinarians and Winn Feline
cats at bay
For any outdoor offenders, a
motion-detector sprinkler (such as
the Scarecrow, available at some
hardware stores and online) might
work. After all, they’re cats; getting a
shower might be all that’s needed to
dissuade future visits.
When it comes to keeping cats
out of gardens, people have tried all
sorts of creative methods. My favorite: lining the perimeter with balloons. How festive is that?! When a
balloon bursts, the spooked kitty isn’t
likely to make an encore appearance.
Coyote or wolf urine may predictably make the cats think twice about
a neighborhood’s safety. A variety
of other odors might be tried, from
scattering orange peel to using lots
of rocks (which cats might not feel
comfortable walking on).
Community cats might effectively
be redirected away from your garden, your car, or your windows by
strategically locating cat food and a
traditional litter box where you won’t
mind the cats hanging out.
For many people, any of these
methods will work; others insist that
nothing helps to deter outdoor cats,
or they’re just unwilling to try.
Of course, I support live trapping
and relocating community cats
(they often appear as a group).
Before relocating they must be
spayed/neutered in a process
While many shelters lend live
traps, many don’t. And who pays for
the spay/neuter? And what’s the plan
to relocate the cats? What about
property owners who merely won’t
bother and can’t be swayed to do the
Some communities don’t
even offer TNR, which means, in
some places, trapping the cats
and delivering them to a shelter
The easy solution is to trap the
cats and euthanize — but that’s not
an ethical response. There’s also a real
dollar and cents cost to euthanizing.
Research suggests that even residents annoyed by community cats
don’t want them to be killed.
The best long-term solution is
for a community to actively support
TNR as an acceptable model.
Owned outdoor cats
When one cat is a solitary offender,
odds are it’s an owned indoor cat
causing the problem. Sometimes
the owner is known, usually a nearby neighbor.
I always believe in attempting
to have a reasonable conversation
with the cat’s owner and explain
that your garden smells of cat
urine, your car is getting scratched,
or that you’re now dealing with
urine marking inside your own
home because of your indoor-only
cat’s response to the intruder.
If the neighbor insists that the
cat refuses to be an indoor-only
cat, offer enrichment ideas to keep
the cat happy inside. However, I
understand that not all cats can
easily be transitioned to indoors
only. And, in reality, some neighbors
just don’t care.
If you know the cat is friendly
and likely owned by someone nearby — but you’re unsure who that is
— attach a note to the cat’s collar.
When the cat returns home, the
owner will read about your concerns, and, hopefully, do something
I’m opposed to communities
mandating cats be kept indoors but
prefer encouraging indoor-only cats
via an ordinance. To further encour-
age this notion, if a known owned cat
does damage, the cat’s caretaker pays.
I realize that many cats allowed
outdoors their entire lives might
be a challenge to acclimate to
indoors only. But the notion that
cats are “meant to be outdoors” is
just wrong in today’s urban society
and not in the best interest of
cats. Dogs don’t roam outdoors;
cats shouldn’t either.
Indoor/outdoor cats aren’t
likely to live as long as those who
are inside only, due to a myriad
of threats including cars, coyotes,
fights with other cats, and, without
appropriate vaccines to protect
against retroviruses and flea/tick
While you may think that
national bird protection groups
sometimes exaggerate the numbers
killed by cats, the reality is that
even well-fed outdoor cats do kill
some birds and other wildlife.
It’s all a tricky issue: navigating
neighbor rights with cat welfare.
Killing cats isn’t right. But, people
have rights, too.