What to do about neighbor's cat?
April 16, 2019 8:52 AM   Subscribe

We have a neighbor, who despite multiple requests, permits her uncut tom cat to roam the neighborhood. Because of this, I've learned I can't open my windows, or her cat tries to attack my cats through the screen. Even if the window is closed, he attacks. I've had to replace two screens just in the last month, and another needs to be replaced after last night.

What can I do to keep this tom cat away from my windows, so I can open said windows? So far, those little plastic windowsill spikes haven't worked, and I haven't wanted to try anything that might disrupt my bunnies or birds or other critters that are allowed to live free in the yard.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it might be time to call animal control. Your cats should not be in danger because of her irresponsibility. An unfixed male cat adds to the overpopulation problem, so that would totally justify the call for me. Another option is putting her on the hook for the damages to your house. If she’s not willing to try to make the situation better, she may need to be pressured into it.
posted by MountainDaisy at 9:05 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]

One thing you might consider is to point some inexpensive webcams at the windows this cat usually attacks and, if the cat damages another screen, send the bill to your neighbor along with a picture of the cat inflicting the damage and a note saying that you will continue billing her for all damage to your property inflicted by her cat. This might at least incentivize her to have the cat neutered, which could have a big impact on the aggressive behavior.
posted by slkinsey at 9:06 AM on April 16 [30 favorites]

The owner is being negligent, so I would say call animal control. You've tried your best to manage the situation and done everything you could do at this point. It sounds like you're being so patient. At this point, the owner, vis a vis the cat, is not allowing you and your animals peace of mind and freedom in your own space. Good luck!
posted by jj's.mama at 9:13 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]

I was going to say its time for animal control. However, I would emphasize that you should inform your neighbor about your intentions first and show validation of your concerns first (pictures of torn screens, picture of their cat on your property, ideally video of their cat causing the damage).
You want to minimize the surprise on their side if and when they get fined (or whatever happens) if you want to maintain somewhat decent relations with your neighbor (recommended)
posted by kookywon at 9:28 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]

We're fairly rural, so animal control for loose cats at night...not so much a thing. They go off duty at 5pm unless there's a wild animal, or loose horse. Pretty much they assume loose cats will be eaten by coyotes, which was true until the ranch over yonder was sold and they put a zillion houses there, and drove the coyotes out. Also, it's not a no-kill shelter, and I don't want to condemn Kitty to die. (I doubt he is tagged, chipped, or registered.)

The neighbor is a heavily armed trumpinista, who is Never Wrong About Anything(tm) and I tread carefully near her. I have told her about the screens, and she does not care. This same cat has destroyed the screens of another neighbor's patio, they spent 6 months trying to get her to pay for it, before deciding that a couple hundred bucks in materials was easier than dealing with her.

So, animal control isn't really an option. I'm hoping someone knows of a barrier method or something similar that might work.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:33 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]

Can you replace the screen with a storm window? Depending on how your windows operate, you might even be able to have a screen over the upper sash and slide that sash down for air circulation.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:38 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]

motion activated sprinklers?
posted by amtho at 9:44 AM on April 16 [33 favorites]

Pigeon spikes

bird repellant gel

(this worked GREAT on pesky pigeons)
posted by kookywon at 9:48 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]

Animal control is unlikely to do anything about a cat in a rural area, and even if they did, your neighbor sounds like the type who would just get another unaltered cat and let them roam around the neighborhood. :(

If you really want to do a good deed for all concerned, you might see if your local shelter offers a free spay/neuter program. Many shelters let you borrow humane traps, and it doesn't sound like your neighbor would even notice if her cat went missing for a day or so, so you could probably get him neutered and that would at least cut down on the destructive behavior.

This is WAY above and beyond the call of duty, though, and definitely not something you should *have* to do. But it would be a kindness to the cat (neutered cats live longer and get fewer cancers!) and to your cats. Might be worth looking into, if you're willing and able, but again, it's totally understandable if you're not.

The only other viable option I see is barrier/deterrent methods and sturdy security screens. I had to put one of these on my kitchen slider screen to prevent my indoor cats from destroying the screen and busting right through it: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Unique-Home-Designs-36-in-x-30-in-White-Steel-Pet-Grille-ISPA800036WHT/203077142
posted by aecorwin at 10:07 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]

Trap and take to a shelter. I know it sounds like the nuclear option, but I don't see you having any other way to take care of it.
posted by Dolley at 10:18 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]

She's already clearly fine with the cat not coming home one day. That's just the agreement you make when you allow/encourage cats to live outside.

I would not bother with trying to additionally pursue any responsibility from her. Just be careful about where you put the humane trap and don't get seen taking it to the shelter. Again, she's already made it clear it's an acceptable risk that this happens, and rehoming or euthanasia is at least kinder than the other dozen ways kitty likely eventually meets his end.

If you want to try a motion-sensitive water or sound deterrent, it might work but you may end up sinking a fair bit of money into gadgets that the cat still ignores/outsmarts.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:29 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]

You could try putting something sticky (and non-toxic) on and around your windowsills. Cats hate sticky paws.

There is a brand called Sticky Paws, or you could try something DIY.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 10:32 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]

I would treat the cat like a stray, since the owner basically does, and see if a Trap-Neuter-Release operation would . . . . trap, neuter, and release this cat.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:45 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't do trap/neuter/release on a cat I knew had an owner, especially the heavily armed aggressive person you describe here. I think that even if she doesn't value the cat's quality of life herself, the idea of someone else altering her property would provoke a disproportionate response. Please keep yourself safe.

Maybe some kind of predator urine? Possibly your own? The internet suggests mothballs to keep coyotes away from your house - maybe that would work? Sticky or crinkly things might keep it from jumping up - try tinfoil?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:06 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]

Sheesh. I'm a little surprised by the recommendations for the nuclear option. I'm also a little concerned that if you neutered her cat and she found out, she'd be pissed and make your life hell. It's really presumptuous to do something like that to someone else's animal, regardless of how much you disapprove of their lifestyle. It's not abuse to let a cat go unfixed and free roaming in a rural area!

There are some scents that cats find repellent.
Nature's Miracle® Just For Cats Pet Block Cat Repellent Spray
PetSafe SSSCAT Deterrent Cat Spray
Homemade spray recipes

There's also water:
Motion activated sprinklers

Cats also hate to walk on certain surfaces. Laying down some chicken wire might do the trick. Anything foil like or with variation that would be unpleasant under their paws.

Also sometimes just scaring the shit out of a cat a few times is enough to deter them for life.
posted by purple_bird at 11:08 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]

If your current screens are plastic/fibreglass you might want to upgrade to aluminum screening. It's much much sturdier and harder for animals to damage. Obviously this doesn't keep the cat away, but it can reduce the impact of his visits on your life while you figure out that piece of the puzzle.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:11 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]

How about security bars covered in chicken wire? Or might be possible to do cheaper with a trellis across the window. If you don't like the look you could plant evergreen creeping vines underneath. I have a window trellis with morning glories covering the bottom of one window and it is lovely, though you do lose the view.
posted by veery at 11:29 AM on April 16

the idea of someone else altering her property would provoke a disproportionate response

If the situation were reversed, she'd have killed your cat a long time ago ... but if she finds out you've touched her cat you will likely have a problem. So whatever you're going to do, do it quietly?
posted by turkeybrain at 11:31 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]

Sticky Paws saved (part of) my sofa! It needs to be replaced fairly often (I guess moreso outside?), but it's relatively cheap and a few months of knowing that windowsill == ew on my paws might discourage the tom for life. You could probably rig something up with double-sided tape or even just plain packing tape, for a fussier but cheaper solution.
posted by kalimac at 11:51 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]

We had a similar problem at a business I used to work at (cat trapped in building overnight, cat injured in building, repeatedly requested owner to contain/control cat). The last straw was when the cat was trapped inside because she was so sick and lethargic she wouldn't move. I took her to my vet, who discovered infected bites, probably from a dog. I paid for her treatment and found her a good new home.

Weeks later, the owner showed up at the business asking about her cat. The owner explained that due to her negligence, one of the employees took the cat, paid for its needed medical care, and found it a new home - and we weren't going to tell her anything more.

She cried then. She didn't care that her cat had repeatedly gone missing, had repeatedly been injured. No. She cared that someone made off with her property. Tough shit, lady.

Shiloh the cat had a long, pampered, and happy life, and I smirked every time I saw her after that.

In your case, I doubt this would be an effective solution in the long term, because your neighbor will undoubtedly just replace the cat with another. Also, she's aware that her cat is a nuisance, since you're not the only neighbor who's complained. Odds are she's privately relishing using the cat to annoy her neighbors. So yeah, this will continue.
posted by Lunaloon at 12:08 PM on April 16 [14 favorites]

If part of your goal is to get compensation for (future) broken screens, you can film the cat's destructive behavior and then take the neighbor to small claims court.
posted by hydra77 at 12:38 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

I sent you an MeMail.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

You should be able to make a grate to go over the screen, say, an inch or so out from it. Use sturdy hardware cloth and maybe some rabbit fencing.

Havaheart traps come in various sizes;perhaps the other neighbor would pitch in for neutering?
posted by theora55 at 2:18 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

In the long run you may also want to lobby for the animal control department to change their policies now that the environment has changed.
posted by soelo at 2:20 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]

How do you feel about getting a dog?

Even a smallish dog that is apt to bark at people/cats invading their territory could be a good deterrent.
posted by brookeb at 2:57 PM on April 16

Is it only happening at night?

At my last house, a neighborhood cat would roam into our yard (only seemingly at 2am) and its presence was enough to make our two cats flip out. It never got close enough for us to put anything on the outer window sill.

Animal control was no help, we didn't know which house the cat belonged to and running out to scare it away didn't deter it from coming back the next night.

We finally had to put the cats in the basement to be able to sleep. Not an ideal solution but the only thing that worked for us.
posted by Twicketface at 3:10 PM on April 16

I have accidentally done TNR on a tomcat who turned out to have an owner. (I was planning on adopting him as a barn cat, but he went home as soon as he was able to go outside.)
Fortunately I never heard anything about it from the awful owner, but I imagined he had some awkward conversations with his cat buddies.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:37 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

We got our second cat because he was an unaltered male cat hanging around my inlaws' house and bothering their existing cat through the window. We're not sure if he belonged to a neighbor or was dumped there (they live in a semi-rural area). My inlaws took him to the vet and got him neutered, and we took him back home with us three states away. Now he's an indoor-only kitty who is cuddly in the mornings and likes to play tag and fetch-the-hair-tie in the afternoons. I think he's much happier with his life.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 4:11 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]

My parents were this lady, except in a suburb, and in their case the nutso right-winger was the annoyed neighbor, not them. ANYWAY. Believe it or not, the neighbor got a restraining order placed on my parents’ cat. Obviously, that’s meaningless as far as a cat is concerned, but I assume it set her up to take legal action if necessary. But, more relevant to your situation, this is what finally prodded my highly-inertial parents to get the cat neutered.
posted by the_blizz at 6:46 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

Just a follow up to say I've ordered/made all the things. (Not a trap, all the things except a trap.) Testing begins tonight. I'll report back on what, if anything, works before I close out the ask. Thanks everyone!
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:22 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]

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