How can I keep cats out of my yard?
August 5, 2004 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I need help deterring cats from my yard. Would like some feedback on products/ideas. see inside for (lots) more.

There have been a few cat visitors to my backyard lately, sometimes even coming up onto our deck. There's 1 in particular that is a regular visitor, and I really need to get it to stop coming around. See, my cat hates other cats, esp. ones that come into her territory. She gets really upset and we can't go near her when she does as we'll get hurt (which has happened if we get too close when she's trying to fight the cat through the sliding glass door; and no, the other cat doesn't run, it just sits there!). So these visitors are a real problem for us.

I think there are two main reasons for the cats coming to our yards. First, I love birds and have birdfeeders. So there are lots of birds for the cats to watch and hunt. I'm not getting rid of my birdfeeders, and I don't think it will stop the cats from coming around as...

Second, our backyard seems to be a cross-through for wild animals. Our house backs to woods, and we're at the edge of a steep hill/incline. We have foxes that trot along the edge to get from one end to the other. I think the cats do the same thing. So even if we were to get rid of the birds, the cats will still be going through our yard (and I'll be very sad with no bird friends).

This one cat doesn't seem to care that our cat hates it, or that we are always chasing it away (I even followed it down the block in the hopes of seeing where it was going, but then it went behind a house and into woods and I had to stop). If we can keep this one from our yard, I think I'd be happy (as long as another doesn't take it's place).

This past weekend we bought Reppers, a solid repellant that goes into cups and has a smell that supposedly repels cats. Not this one. It'll sit right next to the damn thing. There are no cat ordinances, so nothing on the legal end that can help. So I'd like some advice on what to do next. I spoke with the Animal Controller Officer and confirmed that I can trap the cat if it is on my property. I was thinking that if I can trap the animal and get the info on the tag (last year I looked and it was only a rabies verification tag with the vet's number and a tag #), I might be able to get the owner info from the vet. If the owner even cares.

Another option is to try other repellents that are liquid and sprayed every so often. Anyone tried this before? My only concen with these is that it may repel the foxes and other critters from the yard. My only concern about the foxes is I don't want them to start going through the front yard as that might be a problem with people (not sure what the fox would do -- happened once last year when my husband was mowing out back at dusk and the fox went through the side yard and into the street; one of the neighbors on the other side didn't even know we had foxes; but would hate for the fox to get hit by a car, or have there be children around when it does go out front). Now, I'm not ruling this out if others have found it really works.

Another, more expensie option is the Scarecrow sprinkler. It runs around $70 and again would like to know if anyone has any experience with it. I'm unable to find a good description of how it works and want to make sure it will work in my yard before I cough up that amount of money. The side where the cat hides is on the property line where there is no fence, just some bushes, plants that it hides under. The neighbor's swing set is on the other side. Obviously I don't want the thing turning on when they are in their yard as getting them wet is not a friendly thing to do (plus they are nice and would like them to stay that way). So jsut how much control can you get with this thing? And how wide of an area will it detect motion from? I'm worried that something has to pass directly in front of whichever way the thing is facing, which wouldn't be a big help (or I'd need more than 1).

So does anyone have any experience with these types of products? What do you think about the trap option? Any other suggestions?
posted by evening to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I'll have you know that my mother is an animal activist, and has taken to trapping local strays, bringing them to the vet, having them spayed, and then releasing them back to the environment. This is very generous of her, as she pays for surgery, boarding, and transportation. However, trapping is such a horrible process, that she only does it now if the animal is noticeably suffering from injury. So I have many stories of trapping:

Trapping is difficult, time-consuming and ripe with foibles. First of all, I assume you are talking about the rectangular trap where you put the food on one end, and as the cat goes through the device, it walks on a tension plate that closes a door behind it? Because I don’t know of any other kind of device.

With trapping through this contraption, it is first very difficult to lure the cat into the space. Cats are very smart, and will not wander willy-nilly into said narrow spaces. Also, the cat must be very, very hungry for it to go against its common sense, and walk into the trap in the first place to retrieve the food. See, there are just so many chaotic variables.

Also, it will take much time to wait for the cat to walk into the trap…and it is indeed your responsibility to supervise the entire process…because chances are the only thing you will trap is a bird, squirrel, or raccoon. I don’t think you’d want a pissed, scared raccoon stuck in your trap, because you are the one who will need to release it. And please don’t think you can set the trap all day and come back at night, because the neighborhood dog will probably wander in, too. This is just cruel and unnecessary. I can't tell you how many birds have gotten stuck in the traps when they wander in for a snack, and it is very upsetting to watch them frantically beat their wings against the wire.

The second problem with trapping is that most times, the cat will reach in to grab the food, and not walk all the way into the trap. Therefore, when the cat hits the tension plate, the door slams down on its back. Whenever I’ve seen this happen, the cat runs OUT of the trap, not in. At this point, the cat will most likely never go near the trap again, and you need to think of another option because it will certainly remember the trauma of being struck on the back.

The last problem with trapping is that if you are successful, and the cat is trapped, it will be terrified, anxious, and rabid. Expect a lot of hissing and biting. It is not fun for anyone. And what exactly are you planning to do with this cat if it doesn't belong to anyone? Send it to a kill shelter? Can’t you possibly learn to co-exist? Segue...

Here is the best solution I can offer: compromise and patience. My household is in the same situation, as we also have many feral cats that we feed daily. Our myriad indoor cats hate them to the point of marking around the house and getting pissy when we try to pet them. We have learned to simply keep our indoor cats away from the area (backdoor and kitchen windows). We pull down the blinds and keep the back door closed for the duration of the evening when the feral cats come to eat and lounge on our porch.

I don’t like to be morbid, but outdoor cats don't stand a long life-span. Chances are the offending cat won't be around for very long: hit by a car, fight with another cat or raccoon, disease, infections, poisons. But I definitely advise you against trapping. It's always an ugly, traumatic experience for both the cat and yourself.
posted by naxosaxur at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2004

My father had the same problem minus the foxes. He uses < href=",2280,33159&abspage=1&ccurrency=1&SID="> this sprinkler from Lee Valley which looks the same as the scarecrow. Works pretty well and is ajustable for spray arc and sensitivity. Lee Valley has excellent customer service, returning it will be no problem if it doesn't work for you. US price is still $65 though.
posted by Mitheral at 1:02 PM on August 5, 2004

btw: If I recall correctly, a trap large enough for a medium-sized cat cost us at least $50, so it's not exactly a cost-efficient solution, either.

Update: I found the standard model for $40 online, but you'd most likely need a larger size.
posted by naxosaxur at 1:56 PM on August 5, 2004

Response by poster: The trap thing is just something that came to my mind when trying to think of all my options. And didn't think about the cost. Thanks for that info.

The cat was back today (for the second time) and I think we'll try putting something down so the cat can't sit in her/his favorite spots. I'm going to cut up some hardware wire (or whatever its called, like chicken wire), have it come off the ground somehow (connected to some sticks), so it blocks the area. And maybe have some edges pointing up so it won't try to step/sit on it.

any other mad scientist ideas? :)

And if I remember, I'll post back with my results for anyone else who stumbles upon this.
posted by evening at 5:33 PM on August 5, 2004

Try breaking out the garden hose every time you see one.
posted by stavrogin at 6:44 PM on August 5, 2004

You could find some nice female to mate with my dog before he gets fixed next month, for the cat-killing puppies. He's very close to a Manchester Terrier, but a few pounds heavier (26 pounds, mature).

The very sight of cats makes him just tremble with the anticipation of killing them. Otherwise, he's a very affectionate, pleasant creature. Smart too.
posted by troutfishing at 7:40 PM on August 5, 2004

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