Our feline friends are second only to dogs in the hearts of pet lovers everywhere. Domestic cats are wonderful companions, but their feral counterparts can cause a lot of trouble through urine spraying and night time cat-calls. They can also create a mess and cause damage to gardens and other parts of your property.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to discourage cats from continuing such activity. In this article, we break down how to get rid of those stray cats on the prowl around your house.
1. Determine the type of cat.
Do the cats frequenting your property display signs of being domesticated? Are they friendly and approachable? They may belong to a neighbor or someone in the area, so check for an identification tag.
If that turns out to be the case, contact the owner and ask him or her to please keep the cat on their own property. The last thing you want is to approach a mountain lion cub that you thought was a cat, so be careful when getting close.
2. Don’t give them food or shelter.
While it is very tempting to feel sorry for stray and feral cats, feeding them will just guarantee that they come back on a daily basis. They may also end up bringing a number of their rootless friends with them.
Make sure that any garbage containers are tightly sealed and do not have holes where small cats can squeeze in. Also, if you have any pets that cats might like to feast on, keep them inside.
Another thing all cats want is a safe and warm place to sleep. You’ll see this more often in feral cats in areas where the winters can be quite harsh. Inspect places where cats could take shelter, such as barns or under porches and homes, and repair or cover them up. With no food or shelter possibilities available to them, most cats will move on to somewhere else.
3. Yard solutions.
Cats like to dig and gardens make attractive litter boxes for them. Try surrounding your garden with chicken wire and make sure that the wire goes several inches under the ground. You can also lay the wire flat over the garden, cover it with soil and put your plants into the various spaces. Any cat that tries to dig down will encounter the wire and stop almost immediately.
If your area is not under water restrictions, using motion controlled sprinklers is a good way to keep cats from settling too long on your property. Cats also have a strong sense of smell and dislike the scent given off by citrus fruit; try leaving orange and/or lemon peels in spots where these felines tend to gather around. They also dislike the smell given off by coffee grounds, tobacco, black pepper, lavender, ammonia and the urine of their predators.
4. Use cat repellents.
There are a number of cat repellents on the market that will help deter felines. These contain scents cats find repulsive or threatening and are best sprayed in areas where they usually gather. Some high end repellants even use a motion detector mounted on top of a spray can that activates when a cat comes into the vicinity. If you are applying the spray yourself, be sure to re-apply it after any big rainfall or storm.
If none of the repellants work, try giving them a big ol’ scare. Dogs are the mortal enemies of cats, so having one patrolling your property will certainly make them think twice about stepping on your property. There are also some cat repellents that include an alarm which sounds out high pitched noises, guaranteed to make a feline flee.
5. Build a shelter.
If feral cats are patrolling areas of your property where you do not want them, one way to change that is by building them a shelter. If you have a section of land where this would be appropriate, plastic storage containers can make for effective cat shelters.
Cut a hole in one side big enough for an adult cat and fill the container with straw; open the lid for easy cleaning access. This will keep the animals less interested in exploring others parts where you do not want them and also provide protection for the animals during the cold winter months.
6. Contact animal control.
Most cities have catch-and-release programs where they catch feral cats, spay or neuter them, and then release the felines back into the wild. While this will not stop a cat from visiting your property, a neutered male will no longer engage in urine spraying, which can be an especially unpleasant annoyance. They are also quieter and less aggressive. Contact the local humane society and ask if they can perform this service for you.
Animal control often has a set of traps they will use, but these traps designed to catch feral cats are also commercially available. The idea is to lure the cat using bait, such as tuna, with the trap then closing once the feline is inside. Traps should effectively contain the cat without hurting it. Once you have trapped the cat, contact animal control to come and get it for their catch-and-release program.
7. Have a cat party.
By the time they reach adulthood, feral cats have become set in their ways and are all-but-impossible to domesticate. However, you can easily socialize kittens under ten weeks of age.
This can begin once their mother has been trapped and removed from the area. Socializing these kittens can take a lot of work, so if you think you won’t have the time, have animal control come pick them up instead.
8. Adopt them.
If you investigate your local humane society, you will likely find an assortment of cats available for adoption. People who can no longer care for cats have surrendered some, but most are strays in need of a home. If you love cats, open up your home to one. You will be doing that animal a favor and lowering the number of cats wandering around loose and creating havoc.
Feral cats are helpful for keeping the rodent population in check, but they can be a significant nuisance for home owners. If you are experiencing this issue, try some of the methods we have suggested. Remember that, unlike weeds, cats are sentient beings, so try the most humane methods available to you. The most humane method of all is to adopt one. Who knows, you might even come to like the little fella.