Q: My daughter and I built shelters in our backyard for our feral cats, and now the neighbors are complaining that the cats are using their garden as a litterbox. What can we do?
A: My advice is to address this situation immediately, and I think you’ll be able to nip it in the bud. The objective is to prevent the neighbors from calling animal control or trapping the cats and taking them to a shelter.
It’s up to you to make sure the cats are good neighbors. Cats are territorial and will remain close to their food source. Ensuring that the cats are neutered will dramatically reduce their tendency to roam and will help keep them from unwanted areas. And, you need to create a place for them to use as a litterbox. I suggest using a large box filled with sand, mulch or soil. Place the box in a discreet, safe area of your backyard. I use sand in my yard for my colony.
If you feel that you can approach your neighbors, be sincere and ask what their concerns are. Listen, and then politely tell them that you want to respect their situation, and you want to help the cats to live on good terms in the neighborhood. Be prepared — some people won’t be nice, but most will be mindful that you are not fighting them or arguing and will realize that you just are trying to resolve the situation.
Offer simple, nontoxic solutions to keeping the cats out of their yards. Here are a few:
- Scatter fresh orange and lemon peels or spray with nontoxic citrus scented fragrances. Coffee grounds and pipe tobacco also deter cats.
- Plastic carpet runners, which can be found at local hardware or office supply stores, can also be used when placed spike-side up and covered lightly in soil. Or, set chicken wire firmly into the dirt with the sharp edges rolled under.
- Place some of the following over soil: Branches in a lattice-type pattern or wooden or plastic lattice fencing material artfully arranged. You can disguise these by planting flowers and seeds in the openings. Try embedding wooden chopsticks, pinecones or sticks with dull points deep into the soil so that only an inch or so protrudes from the ground.
- Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large attractive rocks to prevent cats from digging.
For more tips, visit the Ally Cat Allies website. Remember that most people don’t want any harm to come to the cats and can learn how to co-exist with neighborhood cats.