Neighbour threatening cat.
June 3, 2012 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Our neighbour of six months has been ignoring us since her arrival. On Friday she threatened to kill our cat after it hissed at her dog. Some perspective on what we might do would be useful.

Me, SO and our adopted stray cat live on the top two floors of a 4 storey house. On the bottom two floors (and with a common landlord) are a woman and her dog. We share a large, long narrow garden which runs up to both of our parking spaces.

When she moved in we made a point of saying hello to her whenever we met on the doorstep or in the garden, either individually or when both of us where there. On every occasion she has ignored us and declined to acknowledge us in any way. She has also ignored friends of ours when they say hello.

We have a cat who likes to spend his days in the back garden; he is a fairly elderly male who is sociable with humans but not dogs. He will only act aggressively with dogs when they come close to him. He has no teeth and cannot run or jump due to a back problem. We think there may have been a number of incidents where the dog and cat have faced off but we are not aware that they have attacked each other. The cat when driven will bash or claw a dog on the nose if it does not back off, but we are not aware that this has happened with this dog. The dog is a small spaniel and friendly. On nearly every occasion we have seen the dog it has been with its owner and she clearly dotes on it. It is not allowed to approach us.

Two evenings ago we were sitting in the garden and our cat was lying in the shade on the path. Our neighbour walked down the path with the dog on a lead. She stopped when she saw the cat then deliberately carried on so the dog had to move within 2' of our cat. The cat jumped up and hissed at the dog, which moved away, and our neighbour then moved to kick it. The cat ran under our table. The neighbour then went ballistic, shouting at us, suggesting the cat was feral and threatening to kill it if it ever went near her. These are the first words she has ever said to us. I suggested she was crazy (which may not have been my finest hour but I was somewhat taken aback, but literally my only words) and she then let us have a mouthful of abuse before moving into her house. We could hear her shouting with some colour about our qualities for at least 10 minutes afterwards.

On reflection I think she was attrempting to provoke a confrontation, but if so it was hardly done in a very constructive manner. She has few visitors and may lack social and negotiation skills. (Our other neighbours have said similar things.)

Our next door neighbour has suggested she previously saw bad neighbour throw an apple at the cat.

So what to do? We are loathe to make him a f/t indoor cat as he is used to sitting out all day, begs to go out, loves the sunshine and enjoys company, which he can get from our next door neighbours who adore him. But we don't want to let him out when she may be serious.

My first approach would be to go for rational communication but nothing in our limited history tells me that is going to work, given we haven't had a single polite word out of her.

We have called our joint landlord and he will come and see us on Wednesday. Is it reasonable for us to ask him to give the neighbour notice? What other action might we ask him to take?

I am considering making a police report when the long holiday weekend is over. Would that be worthwhile? Will they do anything?

What else might we do to address this?

We are in the UK.
posted by biffa to Human Relations (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Call the local law enforcement. She threatened to kill your cat, and a (not so)friendly chat with a uniformed officer might cool her jets. I'm very sorry.
posted by cyndigo at 1:45 PM on June 3, 2012 [17 favorites]

She threatened to kill your cat. I would file a police report over that. However, I don't think it's reasonable to ask your landlord to evict her.
posted by Ruki at 1:45 PM on June 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

She sounds extremely unstable. I would tell the police and landlord.

Our next door neighbour has suggested she previously saw bad neighbour throw an apple at the cat.

Collect all the information on these incidents that you can. Begin documenting any new incidents in as much detail as possible. Sadly, do not let the cat outside without your supervision.

If she has mental illness, that might become apparent when an officer speaks to her or they would check and something could be done.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Police now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:54 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely call your landlord first - they should be aware that they have a potentially violent person in their building threatening other tenants. Then call/stop in at the local police station and see if they have any advice. I'd hazard a guess they'd be more than happy to send someone out (maybe a Community Support Officer?) and visit her to let her know exactly how she's breaking the law. You might also want to contact the RSPCA and see if they have any advice.

And keep the cat in. I have a cat exactly like yours - she's miserable if she can't go and sit out in the grass of the back yard. But if one of my neighbours was threatening her life? It's a temporary and valid solution. Perhaps you can rig up some new window seating for kitty until this is resolved.
posted by saturnine at 2:09 PM on June 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you have a balcony? If so, a fallback is that you could screen it in for the cat so it could be outside without having to go downstairs. But I will nth calling the police to have this threat on record. In a best-case scenario this woman would get the help she obviously needs before anyone or animal got hurt, including herself.

Document it with your landlord; if she's been here a while she probably had run-ins with previous tenants. Maybe the landlord knows how to calm her down.
posted by emjaybee at 2:10 PM on June 3, 2012

Yup, she definitely needs to know that she is on the cops' radar.
posted by Ardiril at 2:20 PM on June 3, 2012

I suggest you read Marc Macyoung's section of No Nonsense Self-Defense on "Problem Neighbors (Those who live by the fued)":
If you have a problem neighbor who is intentionally going out of his way to harass you, then odd are, you've crossed someone who 'lives by the feud.'

Want to know the scary part? In the mind(s) of the feuder(s) -- no matter how much damage, harassment or torment he/she/they have inflicted on you -- they consider themselves to be the victims(1).

They are only doing this because of the wrong and injustice YOU did to them. And the only way the balance will be returned is when you have suffered more than they.

Does this sound insane? Well, to tell you the truth, it might be. Quite frankly though, that doesn't matter. You still need to find a way to stop the trouble. The only thing actual insanity does, is slightly alter your tactics...
Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:32 PM on June 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah she's nuts and you are well within your rights to want her gone if she threatens you again. Whatever her problem is? it's not your problem nor should it be. I'd make it really clear to the landlord that this has the potential to rapidly become an "us or her" kind of situation and I'd make it clear to the police that you think she's unstable, you have zero tolerance for her shit AND you are afraid she will harm you or the cat. Hopefully if everyone is on the same page she'll back down, keep her nose clean and move out when she can because I guarantee this is not the first time she's run afoul of other people and she will already have learned when to dial the crazy back.

Be firm and absolutely never give an inch to her or entertain any ridiculous scheme that she comes up with even if she tries to use the landlord or the police as an intermediary and you feel pressured to agree. Seriously, give people like this an inch and they take 10 miles.
posted by fshgrl at 2:56 PM on June 3, 2012

I strongly suggest that, while you also involve the police and the landlord, you also accept that your indoor/outdoor cat should be an indoor cat except when you are outdoors with him. This will hopefully not be a long-term issue, and I'm not even sure she would actually harm your cat, but this is not a risk I would be willing to take (I actually moved when I had neighbours who threatened my indoors-except-when-they-escaped-once-every-two-months cats). Especially as she might get angry once you involve the landlord and police.
posted by jeather at 3:23 PM on June 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I just went on the RSPCA's website and posed the following question to their livechat help:

"A neighbour threatened a cat's life. What to do?"

The answer was immediate and unequivocal: contact the police and make a report.
Included links to locate nearest police station. Included request to report any actual incident to the RSPCA. Included links to information on how the RSPCA has handled such reports in the past. Included links to laws re cruelty to animals and court proceedings. Included...

You get the idea. They take this very seriously.
posted by likeso at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2012 [11 favorites]

I've had plenty of beloved cats. I know about crazy neighbors, and I've parsed mentally ill tenant issues from the land lord side....

The kindest thing you can do is report this to the police. I know that seems contradictory, but hear me out.

I feel badly for your neighbor, as she obviously suffers daily on an extreme emotional level. However, animal cruelty and threats are not to be overlooked. It's possible that the difficult yet prudent actions you take today might result in this person getting the help they need down the road. This is how it worked out for me when I dealt with this type of crazy.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Thank you for stepping up and doing the hard thing.

Yep. Kitty can now only go outdoors with supervision. It sucks. I know.

Best to you. I hope your neighbor gets the help she needs. It sounds like she has a difficult life.
posted by jbenben at 7:01 PM on June 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

1. Call the police. Frame it as a question: "We have a strange situation with a neighbor and feel somewhat threatened, and we're not sure quite how to respond. Do you have any suggestions?" Then tell them what you've told us.

2. Call the landlord. Tell the landlord you've contacted the police to ask them if they have any suggestions about how to deal with this person, who you feel has behaved in an unusually threatening way that no other neighbor you've ever had has behaved in.

3. Document, document, document. Every incident and bit of info so far, with dates and times and sources, and every single incident/bit of info that presents itself in the future, with dates and times and sources. Keep this document up-to-date and handy.
posted by mediareport at 7:03 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh, you have my sympathies.

Be forewarned that even if you get your landlord to agree to evict her, it could take awhile. I'm not saying that you shouldn't suggest this to your landlord, just that you'll still have to take interim measures, like not letting your cat outside without you. As a personal anecdote, I had a crazy neighbor once. She'd wake up at all hours and start yelling and banging things around. I think she'd even threatened to blow up the place. She'd sit on the stoop and at turns be threatening or incredibly friendly. I never complained about her because I was young and the rent was cheap and well...I guess I just didn't know any better. At some point she must have stopped paying her rent and the landlords tried to evict her. Social Services got involved and I seem to remember that it took at least three months, possibly longer, before they were able to legally get her out of the apartment. FWIW, this was in Boston back in the early 1990s. I imagine that the eviction process, and tenant and landlord rights varies depending upon where you live, but I thought that I'd throw it out there.
posted by kaybdc at 7:32 PM on June 3, 2012

Oh hey, this has happened to me too. I have a fully enclosed, private patio (walls on either side, roof, fencing up to the roof, no holes, which I know because I check religiously). When I first moved in, my neighbor with an abutting patio, directly across from me, never said hello. Then, one day, she saw my cat and said she would kill it. When I asked "why", she repeated that she would kill it, she would leave poison on my patio, and cats "attract mosquitos". (My eyes could not help but look at the stagnant water in various containers on her patio, but I said nothing since her tone and demeanor were the embodiment of mental illness.)

I went straight to the police. They took me seriously. They also let me know not to engage her, so that she really would have no grounds whatsoever to argue self-defense. Then I went every single time she cut my fence and left me "presents." One day, one of those presents was a large, fresh turd of human origin, or she had somehow found a huge dog nearby, but I've never seen Great Danes or Saint Bernards in the neighborhood. Anyway. Another neighbor in her building had been harassed by this woman, so together we went to the police, armed with my photos of clearly-fresh poo on my patio and the bits of poo stuck to the hole she had cut to put it through the fencing.

Just an aside, when you move to France, you never quite imagine that one day, you'll be sitting in front of a gendarme and using "merde" literally.

With the joint complaints from my neighbor, we were able to get a hearing before a judge. Mentally-ill neighbor spat at and insulted the judge, so it went pretty quickly, and she was fined. The judge told her that for every single complaint afterwards, she would be fined again.

She's behaved (sort of) since. ("Sort of" meaning, she still comes outside and screams randomly. But she doesn't threaten my cats or damage my property any more. I don't let the cats outside when she's out. Just once I did, and I found her singing to them. When I came out to herd them inside, she said in a sputtering, deep voice, apparently meant to be terrifying, "Qu'est-ce qu'ils sont BEAUX ces CHAAAAATS. Ohhhh oui, ouuiiiii." ("You have such LOVELY KITTIIIEEES. Ohhhh yes, yessss.")

Go to the police. Document, document. Do not engage. Ignore her taunts, but document. I know loving animal owners don't think of their pets this way, but they are "property" and you have the right to protect your property when it's not infringing on anyone else's (which your cat is clearly not).
posted by fraula at 12:58 AM on June 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

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