Help Me Get Rid of Feral Cats!
June 25, 2012 9:27 PM   Subscribe

There are many feral cats in our neighborhood, which is extra annoying because 1) they drive my dogs bonkers, 2) they leave their droppings in our yard almost daily, which are super stinky, and 3) some spread fleas. Do you have suggestions for how to get rid of them? I may get cat traps from the humane society, and someone suggested sprinkling coffee grounds. Are there any other good ways to repel cats with something that is nontoxic for dogs?
posted by lirael2008 to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One fewer worry: cat fleas and dog fleas are not the same species.
posted by zadcat at 9:30 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best thing would be to contact a no-kill humane society and ask them what to do. Often time they will know someone who handles this sort of thing. If possible, simply "getting rid of them," is not the most humane nor responsible thing to do.
posted by DeltaForce at 9:38 PM on June 25, 2012

If you have that many it's likely someone is feeding them. It might even be that a group of people who do not live in your neighborhood are maintaining a feeding station, I used to have that problem. If someone is feeding them you will have to try and convince them to stop- good luck with that, people are insane about feral cats and will insist that they are harmless and invisible, no matter how much you explain that they are killing birds, spraying everywhere and shitting all over your vegetables. Another thing you can do is trap them on your property and bring to the pound or (if you know they're not pets) have them euthanized- I'll probably get banned from Metafilter for mentioning that as an option but I've done it and so has pretty much anyone in a rural area where people like to drop unwanted pets off. There are not homes for all the cats in the world, unfortunately.

In CA we had a neighbor who fed coyotes, which I thought was utterly infuriating (not to mention illegal) until someone else started feeding feral cats. Lets just say the coyotes won that war.
posted by fshgrl at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2012 [8 favorites]

My cat loathes citrus; you could scatter orange peels?
posted by Occula at 9:49 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

>I'll probably get banned from Metafilter for mentioning that as an option but I've done it

hardly. Feral cats should be shot. Can your council assist? Ours offers cat traps.

But seriously, I don't know of any way to safely and easily deter cats. Apart from having a large and scary dog, if they want to be in your yard you will have to either catch them and kill or remove them, or scare them off. Not easy.
posted by wilful at 10:06 PM on June 25, 2012

Coyote urine will deter cats from your yard pretty effectively, if applied periodically; at least that has been my family's experience.

"Feral" cats that are being fed are, in many states, actually pet cats. Trap or harm them at your peril; you might succeed in winning that particular battle if the cat is on your property, but do have a care for what might happen if your dog ever got off its leash and ended up in an embittered cat-owners yard.

Maybe they might be honorable enough not to but a bullet in a cat-killer's wandering dog simply out of spite...maybe they might not. Think hard; everyone has something to lose, and killing anyone's animals, however little you may think of them, is a step that you can never back down from.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:15 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Beyond the annoyance and poop factors you mention, left unaltered, free-roaming cats continue to reproduce creating more homeless kittens. You might consider looking into a local feral spay/neuter clinic (like this one) who may be able to help. I agree that feral cats are a problem but would rather see a sensible and humane solution. (Full disclosure: I love cats, have 5 indoor cats and a dog.)
posted by lois1950 at 10:23 PM on June 25, 2012

To be clear: a feral cat is by definition not owned by anyone. Feral cat feeding stations do not make the cats the property of the people staffing them (unfortunately). No one is suggesting killing anyone's pets here.
posted by fshgrl at 10:26 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

hardly. Feral cats should be shot.

Hardly. What else will keep the feral rabbit population down?

But back to the question - I've considered rigging up a motion sensor to a sprinkler switch. You can send the cats running & water your lawn at the same time!
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:49 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trap-Neuter-Release programs are becoming widespread. There's some pushback out there, but they seem far more humane than the alternative. In the long run, a neighborhood consensus that the cats are a problem might be necessary, so as to discourage the back-porch feeders; encouraging neutering of owned cats in the area will probably also be ultimately necessary.

I know that our feral cat problem significantly dropped when my cat chose being indoor/outdoor (he was actually born in the barn on our property and at least 25% feral to begin with), and sort of marked out much of the yard as his territory. We also have a cat-chasing dog, so that's an added level of discouragement. In the end, though, we won't be really rid of them until I can seal up the barn and make it less of an attractive nuisance in feline terms. Much as with rats, half of the battle is about eliminating habitat.
posted by dhartung at 11:04 PM on June 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

You might also want to look into investing in a couple of these cat sprinklers.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:10 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I once lived in a house with the same problem. We enjoyed some success by sprinkling around the yard a very stinky rock that repels cats. We also got a dog.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:14 AM on June 26, 2012

Although cat fleas and dog fleas are different species, that doesn't mean they restrict themselves to only living on the host for which they were named.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:11 AM on June 26, 2012

Feral cat feeding stations do not make the cats the property of the people staffing them (unfortunately).

This is not the case in Virginia, or at least it has been successfully argued that way by people who have been feeding and managing colonies of feral cats.

There is a very thin line between what one person might consider "feral" and what another person might consider outdoor "barn cats", which are pretty normal in some places, and that earns them some protection as domestic animals in some places and situations.

That said, I fully support TNR programs (with an emphasis on the R) and one of the best ways to manage feral cats is to get them vaccinated, neutered, and regularly fed so they don't wander as far. Alley Cat Allies is a good organization and can set you up with a volunteer familiar with the TNR process and programs in your area.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:46 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check to see if any of the cats have notched ears (not torn, but notched). If so, there is a half decent chance they are being managed by a TNR program. Talk to the people maintaining the program about colony and moving the feeding station. Read up on local law, the provisions for taking care of feral cats vary from place to place. Some places may consider them hazards along the lines of feral dogs, others may limit your actions

That said, having seen what an indoor/outdoor cat can do to the animals living around a neighborhood (this was until I wised up), if you run into resistance, contact a local bird watchers association. These groups tend to really despise feral cats, which are one of the few invasive species we tend to nurture beyond when they are pets.
posted by Hactar at 8:42 AM on June 26, 2012

Seconding Alley Cat Allies. Also Best Friends - both have a ton of literature on their websites, and there would most likely be someone there if you need to speak to a person (I haven't).

If it turns out that someone is feeding the cats it is likely they are forgetting the N part of TNR - neutering. One simply cannot feed feral cats without neutering them or there will be more cats than anyone can handle - something Good Samaritans often either forget or claim they cannot afford.

Not only does neutering stop the endless production of new kittens, it stops many of the behaviors that make people hate feral cats - the yowling, fighting, urinating and defecating to mark territory, and the greater activity in hunting (to replenish calories burned in mating and to feed kittens). Well-fed neutered cats are much less obtrusive; and, in the long term, colonies shrink as older neutered cats die off and no new ones are produced. Article by the Stanford University Feral Cat Program (another helpful website, btw) on how neutering reduces feral cat numbers.

So if you can locate whoever is feeding the cats - if someone is indeed feeding them - explain that the cats are causing a neighborhood nuisance, people are REALLY starting to talk in terms of harming the cats, and hand them some literature on TNR. If there is no-one feeding them, you can have them TNR'd yourself if someone is willing to take on the responsibility of maintaining a colony. If that won't work - people just want them gone, full stop - then, unfortunately, trapping and taking them to a shelter to be euthanized is the only way to go. I am very pro-no-kill and anti-euthanasia, but a merciful death is preferable to being shot or attacked by dogs or other vicious things people do to cats "for fun" or because "they are pests."

The big problem with just removing the cats is that it creates a vacuum and if people just continue dumping unwanted cats willy-nilly it's going to be an endless stream of cats with no solution to the problem. The Best Friends website has a lot of papers, past seminar archives and so on to help deal with the dumping problem (which is a community problem) if it comes down to that.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:02 AM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Motion activated sprinklers. It only takes a few sprays before the cats stay away.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:27 AM on June 26, 2012

Thanks--I'm intrigued by the motion activated sprinklers since water is something my grass needs anyway. :)

Although I'm not a cat lover, I would favor the most humane solution...I do think it's ridiculous when people protect feral cats at the expense of endangered birds though (problem in a different part of my state).

What makes things extra challenging is I live near a small shopping center and I think a homeless guy feeds the cats and the chickens. He's kinda delusional so I don't think talking to him would work. There's also a huge weed lot next to my house which is where lots of these stray cats--and the occasional dogs--hang out.

I might try the trap and give to humane society option. I heard though that the cats who are survivors are pretty smart though and may not enter the trap unless disguised??

I'm pretty resigned to the fact that this is going to be an ongoing problem, so want to find the best solutions for my situation. Going to try to convince my husband to try the motion activated sprinkler--hope it works!
posted by lirael2008 at 11:17 PM on June 26, 2012

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