Territorial cat is getting injured
August 22, 2004 8:44 PM   Subscribe

MoggieFilter: My cat keeps coming home injured. (more inside)

When I moved into my house, a couple of neighborhood cats seemed to be competing over whose territory our back yard was. Then we added our two cats to the mix (brother and sister, both neutered.)

The male, despite being fixed, is fighting tooth and claw for territory. He seems to have won our yard, and to be pushing the boundaries. Problem is, he apparently isn't all that good at fighting.

He keeps coming home with scratches on his left foreleg. Which he then typically chews and worries at till the wounds are a mess. Once he turned a little scratch into a big sore that got infected and became an abcess.

So we've taken to putting an Elizabethan collar on him when he has a scratch, and keeping him in for days until it heals. And he's miserable (he's a very active cat, and our house isn't all that big,) and we're miserable. And we've gone through this about four times this year.

The question I'm leading up to: is there anything to be done to keep him uninjured?

Obviously, we could try to turn him into an indoors cat (and he'd be miserable.) I could put out a contract on the other cats in the neighborhood (which I don't consider an option.) I could try to build a cat-proof enclosure around the backyard (which is a pretty doomed prospect -- it's hard enough keeping him in the house when we want to -- confinement seems to raise his IQ 30 points.)

So is there some brilliant alternative I'm missing here to keep my kitty out of conflict?

Thanks for putting up with this long post...
posted by Zed_Lopez to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Besides keeping him inside (which would be ideal- he'd get used to it sooner or later,) your best bet would be to build a cat run outside. He may be very smart, but even he would be no match for a steel-framed, chain-link and mesh floor cat enclosure. He's obviously miserable (and unhealthy) getting the catnip beaten out of him by the neighborhood brigade; a little bit of limited outside would have to be better than Elizabethan collars and abcesses.
posted by headspace at 9:30 PM on August 22, 2004

I second the cat run idea. Cats like these a lot, and they are relatively cheap and easy to build. You can make it big enough to snake around the yard a bit. He'll have plenty of room to run and play, but the other cats won't be able to get to him. I'm sure he'll have a great time teasing them from inside the enclosure.

If you build one, don't forget the vertical dimension. Cats like to be up high, so put in a platform or something similar that they can jump onto. It'll make it a bit safer if something bigger and meaner than a cat finds the enclosure, too.
posted by vorfeed at 10:58 PM on August 22, 2004

Right or wrong, I personally would try to support his cause and lurk outside with a gardenhose at the ready. Any cat mess with my cat, in his own garden, would be soggy toast! This won't do you much good if his fights happen in the neighbor's garden.
posted by Goofyy at 2:16 AM on August 23, 2004

I'm with goofyy. Find the other cat and fuck him up.
posted by angry modem at 5:49 AM on August 23, 2004

I wouldn't suggest "fucking up" the other cat for something that's just its instinct. Nature's never to blame, whereas humans have a choice in their continual stupidass behavior. The hose might chase the other cat off for a little while, though.

The cat run is a beautiful idea. Think of the fun you could have creating a kitty playground/obstacle course! Things to jump on an over and through.

Maybe add a little playground slide, something absolutely frictionless, for your own amusement! Just think how fun it would be, watching kitty hit that slide, backpedalling frantically with a wild-eyed look the first few times, then eventually learning to shoosh right down it like a surfer-pro, like an olympic kitty-slalom medalist.

Yup. Good times.

I'd definitely avoid prolonging the situation, though. Cats have wicked immune sytems, but multiple infections/absesses will take a toll over time, and just about every cat scratch or bite deposits bacteria and infection.
posted by Shane at 6:44 AM on August 23, 2004

The first rule of catfightclub....
posted by zeoslap at 7:20 AM on August 23, 2004

Build a run or keep him inside. He's going to end up expensively injured or dead one of these days if you don't take responsible steps to protect him. The presence or absence of testicles has almost nothing to do with territoriality.
posted by biscotti at 8:21 AM on August 23, 2004

Yeah, y'know, Zed, moggie could end up losing an eye. An' it's all fun until someone ... you know.
posted by Shane at 9:06 AM on August 23, 2004

Is there a way that you could modify your fence (assuming you have a fence) that makes it difficult for cats to visit and for him to explore? Like putting mesh or pickets around the top or something? It's a compromise between a cat run (which is good but involved) and letting things be (which is not working). I'm pretty supportive of indoor/outdoor cats in principle, I think access to trees and grass add to their quality of life, but a line has to be drawn when they're getting injured. He will be on the low end of length of life stats if you don't do something. Only let him out when you can immediately monitor what's going on, use the hose until you have a chance to beef up security, but make sure you figure out a way to keep him within the compound too. The wander/dominance bug with male cats is why I've had better luck with female cats.
posted by dness2 at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2004

i once saw a website selling cat-proof fencing. sort of an alternative to razor wire coils for your back yard. it was netting that extended inwards, to keep your cat from jumping out of the yard while simultaneously keeping other cats from getting in. they also had kits to keep the cat from climbing up into a tree to escape. didn't look much tackier than the average back yard fence, and although it probably costs a lot, if you already have a fenced yard it might be worth a shot. this website has photos and a testimonial from a happy user, either of the product i saw or something very similar.

if no fence, then try the cat run. i might try it myself - my cats love going outside, but i never take them out unleashed or unsupervised. we live too near a busy road, and i wouldn't be able to forgive myself for letting them become lost or injured (or worse).
posted by caution live frogs at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2004

Response by poster: I have turned the hose on neighbor cats when I've seen them in the yard... but I haven't seen them in a long time. Like I said, our cat's actually been successful in claiming our yard.

The back yard is enclosed by a fence, but a pretty insecure one from the perspective of keeping cats in.

I guess I'll be working on improving the fence and trying the cat-proofing. It makes me a little sad, 'cause our yard's pretty small, but y'all're right. Repeated abcesses are bad news and the injuries could get worse. "Why can't he be more like his *sister*?" (who hangs around the back yard all comfy and secure 'cause her brother has chased everyone else away.)

Thanks caution live frogs, everyone.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:58 PM on August 23, 2004

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