The neighbor cat cometh
November 23, 2021 7:21 AM   Subscribe

The neighbor cat is becoming increasingly attached to us, but the neighbor doesn’t seem to like that. What’s the best thing to do here? We also really like the cat but would it be better to try and scare it away?

Previous question was about dead mice and birds appearing in our yard and some suspected (and we suspected) the neighbor cat was bringing them to us. The neighbor cat (tax here) is an indoor outdoor cat that frequently wanders our street. When I first saw it, I thought it was a stray without a collar, so I gave it a snack and it kept coming back. My partner is allergic, so in the warm months, I would sit outside and pet it on the porch. Then, he would start waiting by our front door and rush the door and come inside. We’d have to shoo him out but he would hunker down or play dead and roll over so we couldn’t get him out until we picked him up. This happens at least once a week but we’ve been better about blocking him from coming in.

Come to find out, the neighbor used to work on this house for renovations so he used to come over with his dad. I’ve talked to the neighbor and they said he’s a very friendly cat and visits lots of people. Seemed we were fine!

But now, the cat comes over daily and likes to just park itself on our porch, which seems to irritate the neighbor. They tell me they have to walk over to my house everyday to pick him up and aren’t happy about that. I also mentioned that he’s tried sneaking inside the house and they were not happy about that, although I’ve told them that we are not trying to encourage it and put him back out every time quickly. I also told them my partner is allergic to at least make it clear that we’re not trying to steal their cat.

It’s feeling a bit awkward and I’m not sure what the polite thing to do here… I don’t want to make neighbors mad, but I also like petting the cat (like the rest of the neighbors seem to do) when he visits. They let him out daily because he has a cat door. Should I be doing more to stop the cat from hanging out around our house? If so, how? I did try ignoring him for a week but he still just visits and meows at our door daily. He is very cute.
posted by buttonedup to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, you don't need to do anything. If they let the cat out and then don't like where it goes and what it does, that's on them.
posted by thelonius at 7:22 AM on November 23 [90 favorites]

Tell them to take it up with their cat. Honestly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:32 AM on November 23 [42 favorites]

Cat sounds like a better neighbour than your neighbour. Keep doing what you’re doing.
posted by rd45 at 7:33 AM on November 23 [14 favorites]

Lol this is not your problem. Never feed the cat again and never let it inside. Besides that, you have no responsibility to your neighbors' weird feelings about this .
posted by latkes at 7:35 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]

I think the only possible issue would be that if you're feeding the cat, you should stop.

Otherwise, the cat will go home when it wants to eat. Neighbor should be happy they know where to find the cat. If you let a cat outdoors, you risk never seeing it again (ask me about my childhood cats).
posted by FencingGal at 7:38 AM on November 23 [8 favorites]

Are you feeding the cat? If so, stop. Forever.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:39 AM on November 23

Response by poster: No feeding of the cat! We gave it cat treats in the beginning (a year ago) but stopped after about a month since we thought it might see our house as the canteen. I wonder if a year later he is still expecting treats or just likes us.
posted by buttonedup at 7:42 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]

Aside from the above which is very much true, you might want to offhandedly mention the snack you had for it to the neighbor so he will go there and eat it! (Though cats, ymmv with interest in snacks)

Otherwise enjoy the neighborhood cat, and gently shoo him home at sunset. He will lounge where he pleases.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:43 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]

Yeah, don't feed the cat, but otherwise--if they don't like their cat roaming where it pleases, they should keep the cat indoors. (They should keep the cat indoors anyway or the issue may resolve itself in an undesirable way, but that's up to them.)
posted by praemunire at 7:44 AM on November 23 [10 favorites]

They're being unreasonable. You can't have an outdoor cat and expect it not to make friends. We have several neighborhood cats that are beloved by all and their owners are proud of what nice good boys they are.
posted by something something at 7:52 AM on November 23 [17 favorites]

You would think that knowing where to find your unattended pet would be a GOOD thing - I'm guessing that even if you scared off the cat (which you shouldn't), he wouldn't just automatically return home instead.

Agreeing with the folks who say the cat should be indoors, and that failing that, the owners really have no say over where the cat goes. They should be glad he's someplace safe.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:31 AM on November 23 [8 favorites]

I have a friend who essentially has become the home of their neighbor's cat during the day. He pops over around 6am and leaves at 6pm. I don't think the neighbor minds all that much, but something my friend has done is to check in with the neighbor and ask permission for various things. For example, is it okay if I give Pippin snacks? Can I help to send Pippin home at night? Things like that might go a long way to making your neighbor feel like a co-author of the cat's visitations.

Also, I think it is great you have a cat friend that visits. Our former neighbors served that role with our current cat, who went over several times a day to check in with them, they loved her and she them. It was a major loss for our cat when they moved away.
posted by nanook at 9:11 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

Outdoor cats live an average of 3 years. They don't care about it that much to be annoyed. They can keep it inside if it's that big a deal. In the meantime, love that sweet cat muffin face.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:19 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]

Pet this cat shamelessly. Enjoy!
posted by Omnomnom at 9:22 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]

People who aren't taking care of their cats like this may run the risk of the cat finding other people to love. I seem to recall my relatives ending up with the neighbor's outdoor cat for that reason.

If they don't like it, they can lock the cat inside. I don't think there's anything you can do to stop a perambulating cat. It's not like you're able to pull up the drawbridge over the castle moat here. They gotta suck it up and deal with it because cats gonna cat.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:26 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]

Your neighbour is probably distressed that their current life circumstances is causing their outdoor cat to drift away from them. It's very probable that they work hours that make it impossible for the cat to see very much of them and the hours when they could spend time with the cat are limited- after work they have to run errands for example, so the cat is unable to predict when they can get quality time from them because one day it's gunna be five to six another day seven to ten, another day six to nine and so on.

The worst thing you can do for a friendly well kept cat you meet on your back deck is feed it. Often people seeing an outdoor cat that is begging for attention will feed it, and then the cat keeps coming back and they start to assume they are the only one feeding it because it is obviously "starving". One cat can end up getting hand outs at three neighbours and returning home full and not bothering with their own supper... and then they stop going home and the owner believes they are going feral. The more food it gets elsewhere the less it comes home. It's a small step from there to the original owner saying, "We had a cat but it disappeared..." because when the various people giving treats don't take up being completely responsible, the cat does become feral. There is no home and no set of people it can rely on absolutely.

The cat's owner is probably worried that their cat is getting into a situation like this, and it is very likely that the cat is visiting other people than you. If you have been enjoying the company of the cat you should assume other people have been enjoying it too. Cats who are friendly like this often get kidnapped by a neighbour who fears that when they change their own routines the cat will suffer. They move and take the cat, or they start having to leave for work before the cat comes for its morning handout, so they bring it inside overnights so they can feed it at seven fifteen. Or cold weather hits and the guy nine doors down shuts it in to keep it warm. When spring hits they let the cat out again. It doesn't come back to him for forty eight hours so then they never lets it out again so it won't get lost... There are also enough people who believe that it is so dangerous for a cat to be an outdoor cat that they will self-righteously rescue it. Sometimes they keep it. Sometimes it ends up advertised as needing a home. Cats have even been rescued from their own driveway and taken to an all-kill animal rescue to save them from the danger of being run over.

Next time the neighbour comes over to find their cat give them your phone number -"So you can call if you want to and check to make sure your cat is here before coming over." Assure them that they are welcome to come over any time and poke around your shrubbery and that if you see someone in the dark out there you'll assume it is them. Refer to the cat as their cat often enough that they can tell you are not thinking of the cat as neglected or public property in anyway. If they do call, at least once say, "I was just heading out - want me to bring your cat home on my way?" And when they do come over give them a grin and a wave through the window. It can feel very awkward invading some strangers' yard and what you are seeing as anger might be social awkwardness about having to be in stranger territory. If you know where the neighbour lives, end a session of the cat visiting when convenient for you by taking him home and dumping him on his own doorstep.

That way the neighbour will have back up protecting the cat and keeping him safe. He's adorable! That way the neighbour will know that you are doing everything you can to make sure that his bond with his real home and real owner is kept strong. The last thing you can do is, if and when you talk to any of your neighbours on people in your neighbourhood, talk about the cat and tell them that he has an owner and who that owner is so they don't think he needs to be adopted or fed.

If the cat will wear a collar, it should get one with its owner's phone number on it. I had a custom made tag engraved for my daughter's cat although she is an indoor only cat in case she gets out. It says, "Help me get home" and our phone number. But since this is not your cat you can't get a tag for it. You could always mention though, that you know someone who did this as it will provide significant protection to the little guy. It could also provide closure for the owner if he does get hit by a car, but I wouldn't mention that.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:05 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]

Might it help to take as a basic assumption that the neighbor is irritated at the situation, not at the cat, and not at you? Heck, some people do that as a sort of grumpy-person apology for intruding on your porch so much.

As @jennfullmoon said, cats gonna cat. They are territorial small-animal predators. This cat sees your house as part of his realm. He's making sure no other cat moves in on his territory. If you want, you can joke about it being "Fluffy's Annex," as in "Look how diligent Fluffy is, patrolling his Annex!" Also, you can ask if they want you to do anything differently. If they can't come up with something concrete (that doesn't involve being mean to the cat), then all is good.

You're doing all the right things. There's no need to try to scare the cat away.
posted by dum spiro spero at 11:07 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

Cats pick people. And outdoor cats and dogs have routines and second families all the time. There’s hundreds if not thousands of TikToks and other social media posts of cats coming home with notes on their collars from all their second and third + families they visit. My parent’s cat literally moved to the neighbors at one point when a new cat got added. They told the neighbor to keep it because clearly it wanted to be there.

I would pet the hell out of this cat with no shame. If not you, it will find another neighbor for daily attention if it goes outside.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:12 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

Cat goes where it's loved. Seems it's not getting it where it lives...
posted by kschang at 11:51 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

I suppose you could offer to bring kitty home so neighbor doesn't have to walk over. But I don't know how comfortable kitty would be with that. I'd probably leave things as they are.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:36 PM on November 23

When they have the freedom to do so, cats go where they want. This cat wants to go on your porch, and while it is allowed to roam freely outside it will continue to do so. This is on the neighbours to keep the cat inside, which is where all domesticated cats should be unless they have an outdoor enclosure or are leash trained.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:27 PM on November 29

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