Cats: Begone!
February 20, 2012 3:16 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my neighbor's cats out of my hair (and yard) ?!

This fall, I bought and moved into a single detached house in a relatively densely built neighborhood (there is only 5 feet separating my house and the neighbor's driveway). My next-door neighbor feeds 3-5 cats who spend a majority of (if not all) their time outdoors.

They often defecate in my backyard (there is a small hole in a fence separating my back yard from my neighbor's, which I intend to repair in the spring) and have on multiple occasions, tried to enter my house as I enter and exit, and most recently, jumped into my car while I was unloading groceries. They also spent time underneath my porch until I fixed a small hole in it weeks ago.

A portion of my driveway (with the detached garage) is also fenced in, but I would really prefer of being able to keeping it open at my discretion.

Meanwhile, I'm also really looking forward to spend time on my porch in the warmer weather and am not looking forward to the spring when they will defecate (I've already caught them doing it upon a different neighbor's lawn furniture) and sleep on my porch swing and furniture.

Besides the cats, my neighbor [yes, she is one of those old cat ladies] is otherwise cordial and a great neighbor who has lived there 20+ years. Are there any solutions that would discourage the cats from entering my house and property ?
posted by fizzix to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Get a dog? Other than that, you really can't keep cats out, unless you build a giant cage. Or you could try being nasty to them whenever you see them.
posted by thylacinthine at 3:27 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Spread citrus peels about - especially on the furniture.
posted by mightshould at 3:39 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

And, you can also purchase a water sprinkler that has a motion detector so it sprays the kitties with scary water.
posted by mightshould at 3:42 PM on February 20, 2012 [11 favorites]

Don't know if it'll work with cats, but maybe try lots of black pepper, poured on the problem spots. Cheap, biodegradable, and at least with dogs and squirrels it's effective.
posted by easily confused at 3:45 PM on February 20, 2012

I suggest you get a dog and/or large male cat and motion-activated sprinkler. There is really very little you can humanely do to keep the cats out. On a positive side, they keep rats and mice populations down. Just don't be the jerk who complains about the neighborhood cats. It is like the people who complain about the neighbor's falling leaves.
posted by fifilaru at 4:02 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm cat anaphylactic and I asked a vet about a humane way to deter them, she suggested double sided tape on the fence. Apparently they hate that.

I also considered getting my husband to attach a note to the collar threatening poisoning if it ventured in to our yard again. Not that we would do that, ever.

Cats that roam are a danger to native animals and true animal lovers keep them inside. You owe it to the environment to not let this go.

Also, another idea... catch it and take it to a shelter. If you do that often enough, she'll keep them inside and they can't murder the native fauna or annoy you.

My council has laws about pets that cause harm, and cat shit alone is harmful to pregnant women.
posted by taff at 4:08 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had feral cats pooping right by the front door to our office building. In the summertime, the stench was unbelievable. I've had cats all my life and never had any idea how bad cat shit could stink. What finally convinced them to move on was the use of a food-service size container of cayenne pepper from Costco, liberally sprinkled on their favorite spots. If you have the prickly type of pine cones lying about, you could also try covering their pooping spots with those. I haven't tried that, but it seems like it could work.
posted by HotToddy at 4:12 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our neighbor is next to another neighbor who has multiple outdoor cats (5+ now, and counting?).

When cleaning cat poop, he uses a shovel to throw it right back over the wall into her yard.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 4:27 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

You can by coyote or fox urine as a repellant. But them you have coyote or fox urine on your fence.

Most Red fox urine is advertised as coming from "meat-fed" fox so that you don't waste your money on pee from kibble-fed fox, I guess.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:28 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I use a motion-sensing sprinkler to keep my neighbor's cat from pooping in my garden. It also keeps the meter reader on his toes... sorry about that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: thylacinthine: "Get a dog? Other than that, you really can't keep cats out, unless you build a giant cage. Or you could try being nasty to them whenever you see them."

She was ambivalent about a dog but she's a nurse who works 12 hour shifts.
posted by fizzix at 5:55 PM on February 20, 2012

Regarding the hole in your fence: can't you block it with something large and heavy until you're able to get around to repairing it?

That said, cats can get over practically any fence -- my yard is circumscribed by a 6' - 10' (height depends on which side) redwood fence, and one reason my four cats stay indoors aside from supervised play sessions outside on occasion is because I have seen even my senior kitty (she'll be 11 this year) RUN up and down the back fence like it was nothing. I'd love to enclose my yard so that they'd not be able to get out at all, but cat-fencing systems (at least any that actually work) are expensive. And that's what you'd need in order to keep them out via the "barrier method".

...which basically means you're best off using deterrent methods. I've experimented a bit with this myself, back when neighbor cats were coming over and pooping in my vegetable garden, and by far the most effective thing I found was a liberal sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Like, you want to get a warehouse-store-size container and sprinkle it on the area you want the cats to stay out of until the ground starts looking reddish.

Obviously you don't want to do this on your furniture, but honestly, cats going to the bathroom on furniture outside is very strange and unlikely to happen unless the furniture was peed on by another pet in the past. My guess is that the cat you saw making a mess of your neighbor's lawn furniture was engaging in some sort of scent-marking behavior, meaning the furniture probably smelled like something that triggered said behavior. Cats are very instinctually driven to bury waste and to deposit it in soft, sandy substrates, which means that your garden is a much more likely target for crapping en masse than your porch swing, etc.

I've also heard of some people having good luck with water-squirting systems, but those can be a pain to set up -- what you might try is just running a lawn sprinkler for a while when you're figuring the cats might be liable to show up. They'll learn pretty quick that your yard isn't a pleasant place for them to be.

Oh also might want to see if you have any rodent issues in your yard, because if you do, that might be attracting the cats. And if this turns out to be true, and you decide to employ any chemical pest-control methods, PLEASE let your neighbor know so she can keep the cats inside while this is going on.
posted by aecorwin at 5:58 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding fox urine. Always works well for keeping cats away from outdoor marijuana grows. So I've been told.
posted by timsteil at 7:22 PM on February 20, 2012

I have found that putting a foot or so high layer of wire mesh at an angle around the inside of the fence can help deter cats too. Keep the wire loose and wobbly, cats hate unstable footings so you want it to look and feel unstable.

You can get very mild electric fences, run a wire around the top of the fence instead if you want something neater. I have used both these methods to keep my cats from wandering when I lived near a busy road, and to keep the neighbours cats out.

You can also get motion sensor activated water sprinklers and ultra sound devices I haven't used either of these. I haven't tried these but have heard mixed results.

Oh and reading a gardening catalog a few days ago they were selling what they called a "Piss Off" plant which they said repelled dogs and cats but I can't remember the real name of the plant.
posted by wwax at 7:56 PM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: Hmm, then probably a dog isn't the best solution. But a dog, or a big, well fed cat is a great deterrent, cats are so territorial, they tend to keep each other away (except for occasional sex related squabbles, if that's relevant to the particular population).

I used to put bamboo skewers in my garden, pointy end up, with about 4- 5 inches sticking up, cats will *mostly* try to use freshly disturbed soil for a toilet, and the spikes will poke them when they leap onto the garden (but they are light enough and quick enough to not become impaled, I'm sure your sister doesn't want cats on pikes all over her yard). Cats hate citrus smells and loud noises, so I second the suggestion of citrus peels, but you could also try something citrusy, like cleaning spray, diluted with water in a spray bottle to keep on hand to be unpleasant to any cats she sees (especially if they try to leap into her car! how forward). Sprinklers are a good idea, but if she does too much to anti-cat her yard, she's going to start looking mad herself. She could wipe the garden furniture down with the citrus stuff too, in preparation for the nice weather. But really I think being unpleasant to cats is enough to discourage them. Chasing them off, hissing, squirting, all that stuff is very annoying, and might be enough to keep them out for the most part.
posted by thylacinthine at 10:43 PM on February 20, 2012

Definitely unpleasant (to cats) scents are the way to go here--pepper, or small amounts of fox or dog urine. Cat noses are more sensitive than ours, so it'll most likely take amounts too small for a human to notice. Sprinklers are a good idea too.

Do not get a cat or a dog specifically for the purpose of repelling neighbor cats. For one, that's not fair to the cat or dog. For another, some cats don't really fear dogs and will in fact stalk them and fight them whenever possible. With a cat, either it'll be so territorial that you'll have constant fights in your front yard (leading to vet bills and bad feelings between you and your neighbor), or it'll become buddies with the neighbor cats and they'll all hang out on your front porch.

In response to another answer:

I also considered getting my husband to attach a note to the collar threatening poisoning if it ventured in to our yard again. Not that we would do that, ever.

ABSOLUTELY DO NOT DO THIS. In the best case, you'll wind up with a vendetta against you from the cat owner, who won't know you don't actually mean it. Worst case, the cat stumbles into some pesticide or a puddle of antifreeze and dies, and then you've got the police coming around--and hey, there's a paper trail leading right to you. Either that, or you're being harrassed by the owner, who will most likely be contemplating all sort of nasty extra-legal things at this point.

Also, another idea... catch it and take it to a shelter.

Jesus fucking Christ. Don't do this either, unless you enjoy having your car keyed. You have a right to keep other people's pets out of your yard, sure. You do not have a right to steal them and risk them getting euthanized by an overburdened shelter.

posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:37 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I forgot to mention noises. The cats I've known absolutely hate the sound of, say, a small jar or can a quarter-full of pennies being shaken vigorously. They're also not crazy about the sound of rustling plastic shopping bags for some reason. If you do that whenever you see the cats, they'll stay out of your yard at least part of the time. (The rest of the time they'll most likely be daring each other to go into the Scary Noisy Yard That Smells Like Pepper and Foxes.)

(And now I just realized I contradicted myself with the dog urine/some cats don't fear dogs thing and forgot to close my italics tag. This is what I get for posting with a cold.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:48 AM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: Seconding red pepper. We get it by the pound at Indian food stores, and use it to keep critters out of our garden, compost, and bird feeder (birds are immune). It doesn't physically injure the cats, and they will quickly learn the scent, so you'll be able to use just a few grains eventually. We use it to keep our own cat out of places we don't want him to go--humane and effective.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2012

A neighbor who lives next to the crazy cat lady on our street replaced her lawn with stones.

I've tried animal urine, but it just makes them bury it. I am going to try cayenne next.
posted by canine epigram at 7:08 AM on February 21, 2012

Among all the cat repellants sold at Petco, I'm not recognizing the one that I've used before, but I suspect all the brands are somewhat equivalent. It's not predator-urine-based, or cayenne-based, but "bitter apple" whatever that is; it doesn't smell good, but it's not offensive, just kind of chemically. I used it on the hallway door of my apartment to keep houdini-cat from lying in wait for me to come home, and it (along with other techniques) broke him of the habit. Drawback - if you can't (at least faintly) smell it, it's not working, should reapply daily until you've got hte cats convinced as a habit. It was a bit strong for me to want to use on my sofa, but I bet it would work as a deterrant on your porch furniture. Especially since an indoor cat only has so many options of cozy sofas to sit on, but an outdoor cat has the whole neighborhood - so you don't have to make it infinitely unpleasant, just less appealing than the neighbors across the street.
posted by aimedwander at 7:42 AM on February 21, 2012

A dog in the backyard might not even work. I'm having a problem with the feral and/or outdoor cats in the neighborhood peeing in my backyard (the garage, my husband's motorcycle, the neighbor's grill, etc.) and I tried having my dog mark the area to warn them off but they seemed to take it as a personal challenge and have continued to pee all over.
posted by crankylex at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2012

Do not threaten your neighbor's cats. Cayenne, double-sided tape, citrus peel, cat repellent, motion-activated watering, etc., are all good ideas. Also, I would talk to the Cat Lady. Mrs. Hoarder, I know how much you love your cats. But they use my yard as a litter box. What can we do about that? When people don't know their actions are obnoxious, they have no reason to change them. It may not accomplish much, but I'd still try.
posted by theora55 at 4:17 PM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: thylacinthine: "

I used to put bamboo skewers in my garden, pointy end up, with about 4- 5 inches sticking up, cats will *mostly* try to use freshly disturbed soil for a toilet,......

She had a very large tree and its stump removed from her backyard in the fall and there's a large pile of wood chips/mud there. This explains a lot.
posted by fizzix at 5:54 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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