How do I tame this obsessed stalker cat?
January 31, 2013 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Asking for my sister: Her sweet cat is being obsessively stalked by the neighbor's crazy unstable cat. What can she do to curb this?

The cats in question are here.

My sister has a new cat, Sallee. The photo above is how the antics began - with crazy neighbor cat staring Sallee down as she sat inside. Sallee is a few years old and was an outdoor cat before my sister got her, so my sis has started slowly letting her outside. The first time she went out, crazy cat attacked her, so my sister quickly returned her inside.

My sis tried letting her out again a few days later, and crazy cat came after her again, but this time Sallee chased him off. My sis ran after him with a water bottle, but crazy cat just sat there as she sprayed him with water, his eyes locked on Sallee. Then he sat outside the house and yowled as Sallee sat inside.

Aside from talking to the neighbor or keeping Sallee inside, is there anything my sister can do on her end to discourage this behavior? She has the water bottle on hand, but obviously it seems to be ineffective. Both cats are fixed.
posted by Ms. Toad to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Show it love <3!
posted by JamesBlakeAV at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2013

What are the kitty genders/sexual orientations?
posted by oceanjesse at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2013

Sallee is female, crazy cat is male (though both are fixed). I don't know their sexual orientations.
posted by Ms. Toad at 1:21 PM on January 31, 2013 [18 favorites]

Advice for your sis, courtesy of my painful and expensive experience(s) with this type of situation: keep Sallee indoors. She will adapt, and she will be safe there.
posted by little mouth at 1:30 PM on January 31, 2013 [12 favorites]

Crazy Neighbor Cat is not crazy. He is the master of his territory. He has identified a new intruder within his boundaries and is demonstrating his intent to defend his turf against said intrusion. This is a cat thing and, as a human who has no place in Neighbor Cat's world view, your sister is unlikely to discourage him from this very primal instinctive behavior.

Given that you have already ruled out the idea of keeping Sallee inside (the best choice, IMHO), the options are very limited. 1) Let Sallee roam outside and let the cats work it out, risking injury to one or both of them. 2) Walk Sallee outdoors on a leash, enabling your sister to keep vigilant watch for Neighbor Cat to prevent up-close interaction.
posted by peakcomm at 1:34 PM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't know if he's being stalked so much as from the other cat's position, being viewed as a really annoying intruder who has suddenly started coming out of his own territory (your sisters house) and into "stalker" cats territory (every thing else). I don't' think the cat is being unstable, it's just trying to show this interloper off of his territory.

This is simply a territory dispute. You could try just slowly introducing the inside cat outside. Letting it out for a few minutes at a time when the other cat isn't around so it has chance to establish some territory markings and establish a bit of a beach head. But to be honest if the other cat has strong territory urges there are probably going to be cat fights, which are never fun and cat bites and scratches abcess so easily. As long as the other cat has a clear run back to the shelter of it's own territory the fights should not become too extreme as Sallee can always retreat, that's if you take the "let them sort it out for themselves position". It is not a great position and vet bills are expensive if it goes wrong and it can lead to cats scent marking and all sorts other problems.

I'd go with the easier solution and keep Sallee as an inside cat solution. But if your sister really wants the cat to go outside you either need to catproof the back yard to keep Sallee in and stalker cat out or invest in some sort of cage. This will probably make scent marking and yowling worse though.
posted by wwax at 1:34 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Water pistol and constant vigilence. But if she loves her cat, and wants it to live past the average of two to five years for an outside cat, she'll keep her safe inside.
posted by agregoli at 2:04 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

["shoot the cat with a BB gun" answers not helpful and totally derailling. Email suggestions to the OP if you need to.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:27 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

and wants it to live past the average of two to five years for an outside cat

That average is for feral, homeless cats living on the street, not for indoor/outdoor cats in safe/low-traffic/low-wildlife neighborhoods with owners who pay attention bring them in at night.
posted by kythuen at 2:42 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know how effective this would be, but as a chicken owner who is interested in keeping strange cats out of my backyard, I have had this suggested to me. It may only work for keeping the cat away at night, or it may not work at all. I have yet to purchase one myself, but other chicken owners have said they found them helpful. My other suggestion would be a garden hose turned on the stalker cat whenever it ventured into your sister's yard. This might anger stalker cat however, and he might, as others have said, start scent marking or worse.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:00 PM on January 31, 2013

Motion detector sprinkler. My feeling is that this other cat may cause Sallee some distress even if she does stay indoors, just through that staring behavior and yowling.
posted by orme at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2013

Oh my gosh, DON'T shoot a cat with a BB gun!

I think your sister will find some Cat Psychology helpful here, so I'm going to expound a bit.

I'm sort of on the other side of your sister's plight. I have an indoor/screened porch Maine Coon, Cheddar, that is riled up by the new neighbor's outdoor kitties. They come into what he considers his territory.

Now, by our standards, that would be our yard, but for him it's pretty much any place he can see from our windows--so the cats who very legitimately claim the yard across the street (because that's where they live!) have him pacing alertly from window to window.

Cheddar only gets REALLLY freaked out when they come right up to the windows. That he sees as a definite threat, and I get that. So I labelled a water spritzer "Bad Kitty Repellant", to squirt the other kitties and deter them, just like your sister was doing.

Thing is, there are two strange cats, and they are very different, so they have to be treated differently.

Cat One is an extremely friendly young kitten who leaps and frolics after lizards in our bushes, and comes up to us when we leave the house, rubbing against our legs. It's hard not to welcome such a sweet kitten, and my family has been known to go outside and pet Cat One because honestly it is adorable. I'm holding strong out of loyalty, though, so I won't pet the kitten if it is in that specific "front of the windows" space that freaks out Cheddar.

Thing is, it rarely ventures there, because once it came up to the window with an OH HAI WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?! eagerness, Cheddar glared daggers at it, the kitten saw there's no way in hell that's going to happen, and retreated a bit. That cat does not bother Cheddar any more at all, because that gesture of retreat satisfied him that Cat One is respecting his Alpha Male status (which is hilarious, as Cheddar is a neutered, scaredy cat really).

The other cat, an all white cat, is a real problem, though, because his behavior is just like your sister's cat's nemesis. Cat Two is also a full-grown male, and he challenges Cheddar. He'll jump right up on the outside window frame (clearly Cheddar's territory!), meet Cheddar's gaze and meow back at him, which is very threatening cat behavior. Cat Two, like your sister's cat's nemesis, was undeterred by my Bad Kitty Repellant.

Cheddar was just going nuts about Cat Two. He is normally a big purring fuzzball, but I seriously worried about his mental health. He was spending hours anxiously pacing back and forth from window to window, fitfully fretting, alternating between mewing plaintively at us and growling menacingly whenever he caught so much as a glimpse of That Damn Encroaching White Cat.

Finally, I just stood in my doorway and let Cheddar go in the yard, hoping they'd work it out amongst themselves. Cheddar is a scaredy cat, but he is also HUGE, so he let out a banshee like howl and chased Cat Two out of the yard. I was worried they'd get into a fight, and they both yowled like crazy, but the other cat got away and Cheddar came strutting back inside proudly as if he'd fought a bear and won. A few repetitions, and somehow they have worked it out between them so that Cat Two stays away from the windows while still prowling around the perimeter and Cheddar can curl up and catnap again instead of patrolling the windows all day.

Obviously, this approach is not going to work in your sister's case, since her cat is the smaller and younger of the two.

But I'm pretty sure there's yet another factor at play here! I also have a female cat, an absolute sweetheart, and because she came into our household after Cheddar did, when she approaches him she puts her head down submissively and lets him groom her to show her respect for his dominance. And sometimes, my big male neutered cat will try to bite her on the back of the neck, hold her down and mate with her, even though he is physically unable to do so. I hate this and will yell at him (which he ignores)--but she will yowl at him and manage to wriggle free while also getting a swipe or two in, and then once she's shaken him off and they've hissed at each other from across the house a while, things go right back to normal.

Your sister's cat is a female cat, not another male. She is younger than he is, sounds like, but she is also not a kitten. The neighbor's male cat should not feel as threatened by Sallee encroaching on his territory as another male (that is, if he knows she is female). Right now, she likely has him a bit puzzled; he is trying to figure out just how to establish his dominance with her.

Therefore, this big cat jumping on and overpowering her sweet girl cat may not quite be what it looks like to your sister. While he may be attempting to establish his dominance by attacking her, it is more likely he wants to attempt to mount and mate with her to accomplish the same thing. And yes, as my experience shows, even neutered male cats will do this. If he gets on top of her, pins her down, bites her on the back of the neck--well, it's hard to tell the difference between an attempt at mating and an attempt at an attack. They are, sadly, very similar for cats.

I understand why your sister wants to save her sweetie from this neighbor's predatory male cat. I would myself. But her interference might just serve to reinforce his behavior or even escalate it, because he has not established his dominance in a satisfactory Alpha Male cat manner. It doesn't matter whether your sister's cat is actually the Better Cat (of course she is), that's just the way cats decide this stuff.

Sure, she can talk to the neighbor, but short of both of them keeping the cats inside the house, there isn't much humans can do to make this right--it's one of those weird cat things. Deterring the male cat once, even if she could, will not be the same thing as the cats working it out between them; there's no guarantee he won't come back even more pissed off at having been thwarted.

So what's the answer?

I'm afraid that either Sallee is going to have to stay inside and endure the encroaching male cat, which will keep her safe but seriously annoyed at the very least, as others have suggested; or your sister will have to stand back a little more and let the two cats figure this out amongst themselves.

Sorry, I know neither solution is ideal.
posted by misha at 3:17 PM on January 31, 2013

My cat had this problem with the neighbour's Burmese, who had been encouraged by previous owners of our house to treat it as her territory (they even used to let her visit inside). When we moved in and got our cat, Ms Burmese spent hours glaring through the windows, and when we started letting ours outside, there were cat fights.

The cat fights would always end immediately when a human appeared, so we basically went to a solution of only letting our kitty outside when we were around to supervise and chase the Burmese off if she appeared (sometimes with a hose). Because we were always able to intervene quickly, there were never injuries from the fights.

She seems to have got the picture that she is not welcome, but it took about a year. She still occasionally appears, but treats our yard like hostile territory, slinking through quickly on her way elsewhere. Which is the outcome we wanted.

Our kitty, despite being female and spayed, spent a lot of time spray-marking around the garden during that period of establishing territory. Which is kind of gross, but at least she never did it inside.
posted by lollusc at 5:13 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and um... what misha said about the male/female aspect to your problem. The Burmese was not the only neighbourhood cat ours had issues with. There was a big tomcat too. After a period where he stalked our kitty (peering in windows, watching from the bushes), he established dominance in exactly the way misha described, and then basically left her alone after that. He even defended her from the Burmese one a few times as well.
posted by lollusc at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2013

My cat is a bit of fighter (we think mostly because his back means he can't run away), even thug would not be impolite. He has a number of enemies around the garden. It seems things can go a nunber of ways when he meets a new cat.

Other cat is scared off and our cat is the daddy while other cat has to stay indoors. This would obviously be a problem if Sallee is the shut in.

Other cat is tolerated at a distance outside and can go about their business without being stalked.

Other cat and our cat spend months playing chess, having occasional fights and finally come to a truce wherein they eyeball each other but do not fight. Grey cat from two doors down was Fatty's archenemy for months but now they leave each other alone.

Other cat and our cat yowl at each other and fight and this keeps up for months.

Astonishingly, there has been a recent case where other cat and our cat sniff each other up close then sit around like friends. This would be great for Sallee.

So things might go quite differently over time depending on what happens between the cats while they are outdoors - so some patience might pay off. You might try and start by seeing if your cat is ok going out while you are out, keep the water bottle around and make enough noise that she knows you are there to come back to. Long term get a catflap that only your cat cna get through if she goes out so she can get back in. Some aggressive cats will follow another cat into a strange home if they are properly stalking - this happened to a friend of mine. In that instance there was no happy ending, the bad cat used to sit outside the cat flap even when it stopped being able to get in, waiting for her cats.

I have to admit to some relief that you were not one of my neighbours.
posted by biffa at 5:25 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks, all, for this useful advice. I've forwarded it on to the sis!
posted by Ms. Toad at 6:18 AM on February 1, 2013

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