Bloodthirsty cat leaves corpses strewn about neighborhood!
April 21, 2012 2:25 PM   Subscribe

My cat is leaving her dead prey in our neighbor's front and back yards, and he doesn't like it.

My indoor-outdoor cat is a terrific hunter. She used to occasionally leave her prey on our front doorstep. We would properly thank her and admire her fierce hunting skills (while inwardly cringing). She also recently pulled the wonderful trick of bringing a live mouse into the house and then ignored it while we all shrieked and hopped around.

Anyway--our lovely next door neighbor, the young father of a family I would like to continue on good terms with--just buttonholed me and complained that he keeps finding dead mice in his front yard, and now his back yard. His 3-year-old son was freaked out recently by finding one while he was playing outside. The guy was friendly about it, but obviously bothered enough to bring it to my attention. He admitted that he has no idea how we will make it stop, but he'd like us to try.

Not sure these details are at all relevant, but...we live on the 2nd and 3rd floors of a large two-family house on a densely populated suburban side street. Our two cats are let in and out through the downstairs front door by us--we rent so we can't install a cat door. And there are no windows accessible to the ground, so a window-installed cat flap is not possible, either. Also, and this is important, we are not willing to keep the cat indoors full-time. No lectures, please, from anti-outdoor cat people. Thanks.

Our downstairs neighbors have occasionally found a dead mouse left on our communal front porch; they're pretty earthy types so they didn't seem bothered by the fact that at least one of our cats is killing innocent little animals, though they obviously would prefer not to have to deal with the little corpses. The problem is the cat leaving them in the next-door neighbor's yard. How can we possibly exert any control over this?

Thanks, all!
posted by primate moon to Pets & Animals (37 answers total)
You can't, as long as you're letting your cat outside.

I would suggest you tell the neighbor, "I'm terribly sorry. Please call me whenever you find a gift from my cat and I will come remove it." That's the best you can do.
posted by jayder at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Tell neighbor that you can't control the cat killing mice as that's just what cats do...that if he finds a corpse to contact you and you will clean it up.

He's responsible for discussing where the mouse went to with his children.
posted by inturnaround at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2012

Cat Enclosure
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:32 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

And buy the neighbor a six pack
posted by Murray M at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Put a bell on your cat so the prey can hear her approaching.
posted by w0mbat at 2:40 PM on April 21, 2012 [31 favorites]

I am in your neighbor's exact situation. Except it is chipmunks, not mice I find. I think saying:
Tell neighbor that you can't control the cat killing mice as that's just what cats do is the exact wrong thing to do. I know the nature of cats. Plus it makes me seem like I am unreasonable. You chose to let your animal roam & you must be proactive about cleaning up after it. Not much different from a dog crapping in a neighbors yard.
posted by R. Mutt at 2:53 PM on April 21, 2012 [27 favorites]

What about a motion-activated sprinkler that sprays near the front and back doors of his house to scare off your cat? You would have to buy him one that has several remote controls so his family can turn it off in order to approach their own house. As well as provide signs to warn guests/delivery/mail people and pay for alternative mail delivery options. This IS overkill and imposes on a lot of people for the benefit of your cat, but personally I would find the described situation completely unacceptable and expect you to find and pay for the solution. You should assume your neighbor expects the same based on him adhering to the social contract of not complaining to the neighbours unless something is serious and needs to change. The most important thing is to take his concerns seriously and show him through your actions that you are trying to be a good neighbour; a dismissive attitude of "that's what cats do and YOU are the problem" from you will escalate the situation (the outdoor/indoor cat divide runs VERY deep).
posted by saucysault at 2:57 PM on April 21, 2012

He's responsible for discussing where the mouse went to with his children.

To be fair to him, he may be more concerned about scavengers/insects/diseases that his child is exposed to because of the frequent dead animals more than a philosophical discussion about death.
posted by saucysault at 3:04 PM on April 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

I agree with R. Mutt. We have a neighbor who lets her cat out, and it kills geckos and little mice all the time, and leaves them near the doors of people's apartments. It's pretty gross, particularly because the kills attract pests like flies and ants, so it's like the icky gift that keeps on giving.
posted by spunweb at 3:05 PM on April 21, 2012

w0mbat has it: bell the cat.
posted by trip and a half at 3:09 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

'Natural' or not, the actions of your pet are your responsibility. If your cat can't be trusted outside, you'll have to supervise it when it has outdoors-time. Thats what I do.

Someday a kid could be playing outside with their pet rabbit or rat, and if it gets ambushed by your cat, "thats just what cats do" isn't going to cut it.
posted by Hither at 3:10 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Heh, belling the cat might just make her a better hunter. My sister's cat Nala once caught a low-flying bat while belled and blind in one eye.

After it was good and dead, I believe I heard her mutter something about "breaking her damn hip" to show the kittens how it was done.
posted by spunweb at 3:12 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bats are a bit of a corner case: belling the cat will almost certainly dramatically reduce the amount of ground critters caught and presented.

Also, concerning the second-floor issue, you might check out a cat ladder. But do bell the cat.
posted by trip and a half at 3:17 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you could invest in an invisible fence. They are not just for dogs.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:25 PM on April 21, 2012

nthing bell the cat. I think the least you should do is offer to have them notify you so you can immediately remove any dead animals the belled cat still manages to leave. To be honest, if I were your neighbor I would still find this upsetting and unacceptable - natural or not. And I'd find it irritating that you were just "not willing" to try having your cat be an indoor cat; it makes it sound like you don't care that much about rectifying the situation.
posted by asynchronous at 3:27 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

It also occurs to me that you might have a discussion with your neighbor about the pros and cons of having a property overrun by uncontrolled vermin versus finding a few dead corpses. I don't know your exact situation, but there are very specific reasons why cats have been kept by humans and encouraged to kill mice and rats. Some people in some social situations would be very grateful for a good 'mouser' in the proximity.
posted by trip and a half at 3:44 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: These are some good, thoughtful answers.

-Can't bell the cat; can't keep a collar on her--and we have TRIED!
-No fence; we rent, so can't install stuff like that; also, downstairs neighbors with whom we share yard have young kid (11?) and I suspect would be appalled by the idea of a fence, seen or unseen.
-There are many cats seen around the neighborhood; it's something we all live with.
-I think the best answer is to offer to clean up any bodies when reported, accompanied with a little "sorry and thanks" giftie for the neighbor. I'll keep an eye out here for any more creative suggestions. Thanks again!
posted by primate moon at 3:45 PM on April 21, 2012

Best answer: Rather than wait for your neighbor to report a dead animal to you (putting the burden on them,) why don't you run over to check every time you let the cat in? It's far more proactive, and might go a long way to appeasing your neighbor.
posted by punchtothehead at 3:49 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Punchtothehead, this is a great idea. Embarrassed that it didn't occur to me. Thanks!
posted by primate moon at 3:51 PM on April 21, 2012

why don't you run over to check every time you let the cat in?

Make sure they know you are doing this, too.
posted by grouse at 4:00 PM on April 21, 2012

I would feel VERY uncomfortable with a neighbour going into my backyard (or even front yard to be honest) several times a day to check for dead animals, even if I recognised they were trying to solve a problem they created. Different people have different standards, of course.
posted by saucysault at 4:01 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

umm, I don't think it's necessarily okay to just wander around a neighbor's yard every day either. Honestly, I don't really see a solution to this other than to maybe not let your cat outside, or if you do to put it in a harness/leash system. Is it a good idea to have a cat outside if it can't wear a collar at all, even for identification?
posted by Think_Long at 4:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Birdsbesafe is a safety collar that supposedly reduces the number of birds caught. It's still a breakaway collar. Many links suggest that it is possible to train a cat to wear a collar. It might be worth trying an actual training program with him, as outlined by a trainer, instead of giving up on that idea. Maybe you can also put a little gps chip on the collar so you can fetch it when lost. FWIW I wouldn't be super thrilled about recurring dead rodents in my yard, especially with a child, and nor would I want to have someone poking around several times a day.
posted by barnone at 4:49 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to put some sort of deterrent in between the yards? We've had luck with orange peels in keeping our neighborhood ferals out of areas we'd prefer they not inhabit. And you get to eat extra oranges! Win-win.
posted by tigerjade at 4:54 PM on April 21, 2012

I would think that if the neighbor actually complained to the city or animal control this could become a much bigger problem for you.

I would try much harder than letting them know that cats just do things like that...sounds like you already have the same feeling or you would not have asked the question.

Dead animals + a 3 yr old are a recipe for disaster. Kids pick things up, put their hands in the mouths and lots of other activities where a dead mouse could get involved. Live vermin are bad certainly, but at least they are usually smart enough to get out of the way...
posted by NoDef at 5:26 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

How do you know it's your cat if there are lots of cats in the neighborhood? My first thought on reading this is that your neighbor may have a mouse infestation, which is why the corpses are in his yard, whoever is catching them. That's really more of an issue, and something I would investigate if I were your neighbor.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:52 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

no fence; we rent, so can't install stuff like that; also, downstairs neighbors with whom we share yard have young kid (11?) and I suspect would be appalled by the idea of a fence, seen or unseen

Either I am not understanding you or didn't realise that invisible fences are, actually, invisible and require no major construction. But you said that collars are not an option (which are needed for invisible fences) and that you aren't willing to keep the cat indoors. That other cats are in the neighbourhood does not absolve you of the fact you know YOUR cat is a problem right now for a specific person (I am assuming he has seen your cat in action). You reinforced the behaviour earlier with your praise and the cat does not realise it is upsetting people with the corpses. Can you train the cat to NOT attack rodents?

Renters with outdoor cats already have a bad reputation of not being invested in creating a harmonious community, you may also be fighting against the perception of your neighbour that your expected takeaway opinion is probably "oh well, that's what cats do, out of my control". Three year olds scream a lot too but most neighbours would expect parents to control undesirable behavior. It sounds like you recognise the neighbour has a legitimate complaint about a problem you have created but you are not invested in finding a solution that makes you as uncomfortable as the neighbour already feels. My neighbour takes his cat out on a harness and leash, maybe such a setup would compromise on outdoor time while providing an opportunity for supervision and behaviour correction when hunting prey?

I'm sorry, but I do think the attitude towards outdoor cats has changed significantly in urban and suburban communities and you will not have as many allies as you once may have; neighbours do now expect other members of the community to make more of an effort in working together collaboratively and proactively.
posted by saucysault at 6:10 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

You mentioned that you haven't had much luck with cat collars. We had the same problem with our mighty indoor-outdoor cat (who managed to go through a break away collar just about every day). A neighbor suggested these Kakadu collars, which work great. Rather than a break away closure, the Kakadu collars use a traditional buckle, which sounds scary. BUT the collar itself is made of super stretchy woven elastic. Kitty can slip out of the collar if he/she gets caught up on something, but it's much tougher to actually snap it off. Works really, really well for us. Bonus: the bell is *super* loud.
posted by muirne81 at 6:48 PM on April 21, 2012

Response by poster: "but you are not invested in finding a solution that makes you as uncomfortable as the neighbour already feels..."

" a dismissive attitude of "that's what cats do and YOU are the problem" from you will escalate the situation..."

"it makes it sound like you don't care that much about rectifying the situation."

Sheesh! What the hell? Where are all these assumptions about my attitude coming from? Obviously, I care about my neighbor's unhappiness and take it seriously, otherwise I wouldn't have started working on solutions by writing to Ask MeFi. In my original post I said my neighbor was a lovely man with whom I want to maintain our friendly relationship. And here I am, trying to find solutions.

To the others, thanks again for some great ideas. Muirne81, I think I'll definitely try out the Kakadu collar.
posted by primate moon at 7:30 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

"Sheesh! What the hell? Where are all these assumptions about my attitude coming from?"

I wrote "I'd find it irritating that you were just "not willing" to try having your cat be an indoor cat; it makes it sound like you don't care that much about rectifying the situation." To me, the "not willing" part made it sound like you're, well, just not willing to try probably the most effective solution.

I'm saying this because you don't want to piss your neighbor off by giving the impression that you're ruling out solutions that would be too inconvenient for you; and you're giving a bit of that impression here. This is something to be careful of when you discuss this with your neighbor.
posted by asynchronous at 8:08 PM on April 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Mod note: Folks - back it up. Be helpful or go to MetaTalk, those are your options. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:55 PM on April 21, 2012

Not sure it would work but, when I had a neighbor's cat showing up outside my window yowling every night, I sprayed the bushes with some cat repellant spray I got at the pet store. The cat didn't come back for a few years (it does wear off quickly outside so ymmv) and then I just repeated the spray. If there's one or two places in particular the cat likes to leave "gifts," could you try spraying those places and see if that changes anything? I'd talk to your neighbor about this first (might not want chemicals around with the kiddos - look for a non-chemical repellant?) and ask him if he'll agree to some experimentation in this manner.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:55 AM on April 22, 2012

I would have thought that the neighbour would be glad that your cat is reducing vermin in the neighbourhood - in fact, your cat is performing a very important community service! I would suggest you point out that the cat is reducing the number of pests surrounding your houses, and then come up with a plan together to manage the dead mice (e.g. the two of you taking turns to check on the back yard, as others have suggested).

Also, please point out to him that if your cat is catching mice in his back garden, they are almost certainly in his house (which can be a serious health hazard). Your cat is simply being an excellent mouser, and he should be happy about it!
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 4:38 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am sorry you misunderstood me, primate moon. I was not saying you HAD a dismissive attitude, but that if you approached the neighbour with that attitude it will most likely make things worse. Your neighbour is most likely aware that "dead mouse=one less live mouse" but still thinks this is enough of a problem to approach you. Many people in this thread have advised you to basically tell him this isn't a problem (and actually be grateful!) It IS a problem, to him, and invalidating how he feels and making him feel dumb is not the way to solve it.

Obviously you understand your position quite well, I am trying to make you understand the position of your neighbour so you continue to have a good relationship. Most likely, the neighbour does not want your cat or dead rodents on his property; your two solutions (putting the onus on him to search and then call you while preventing his child from going outside or you examining his property several times a day) impose on him. If I were him and those were the only two solutions you proposed I would feel you are not understanding that the problem I expected you to solve was proactively -preventing- the dead rodents from being left at all and possibly even expecting that your pet would not be on my property without my permission at all.

Again, I am sorry if you felt attacked; I hope by you presenting several solutions your neighbour will be appeased. Sometimes just by showing you take concerns seriously the person with the objection feels understood and validated; they then may relax and are more understanding of solutions that are difficult.
posted by saucysault at 6:17 AM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes on the bell, and trying other collars. Also, yes on leash training!

Leash training a cat gives them outdoor time, and protects your cat (and your investment in your relationship with the neighbor) at the same time. I've harness and leash trained several cats. It's not too hard. Of course, you don't go in with the same expectation as you do when walking dogs. In my experience, it's more the cat walking you. But it does enrich their quality of life with the outdoor stuff. Also, neighbors find cats-on-a-leash FASCINATING. If the neighbors know and admire your cats, they will cut you some slack with them. ;-)

When my indoor cats needed some off-leash outdoor time, I supervised them. Of course our yard was fenced, but to a cat that doesn't mean much. However, they were on pretty great voice control (you know, for a CAT). Can you make time to train your cat? A cat is at least as good a pet as a dog, and deserves at least as much care.

In many suburban neighborhoods, it's illegal to let your cats roam, for many good reasons. If you don't keep on good terms with this neighbor (and there may be other neighbors whom you DON'T know, but who are having this problem) kitty may end up at Animal Control. Lose-lose situation. I'm currently doing a Trap-Neuter-Release program with the feral cats in my neighborhood. The neighbors know this, and they come to me with problems with the cats. I spray one neighbor's hedges (with their permission) with cat-deterrent spray, to keep cat feces out of the way of their dogs. So far, so good. A perimeter spray of your neighbor's property, with their permission, might help you. DON'T USE RED PEPPER, despite advice given the 'net. If your cat gets it into the eyes, you will have major major problems, and perhaps a blind cat. Use a commercial product easily found at the local pet store. I've heard citrus peels work as well, but I'd avoid it in a situation where mice are a problem.
posted by theplotchickens at 6:38 AM on April 22, 2012

where is the picture of the kitty?
posted by ibakecake at 8:40 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't pass up an opportunity to mention the catbib.
posted by Arethusa at 9:56 AM on April 23, 2012

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