How do I shoo this cranky neighborhood cat away from our house?

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Awwww, wookit wittle Nacho!

Theresa asks:

I have a pest. It’s a cat — who wants to fight my cat.

My Nacho cat lives inside our rental unit and she’s the queen of her domain. But every now and then — and sometimes, every goddamn night — there is a neighbour cat who comes around, fronts up to one of the windows, and tries to fight Nacho. Nacho gets her tail all fluffy, runs tensely from window to window, screeches and yowls, and punches the window with her paws. Because she can’t get out to release her frustration on neighbourcat, she tends to take it out, via her claws, on our human legs. Ouch. And as a result, Andy and I end up cowering in fear whenever Nacho’s hackles come up like that.

How the hell do you keep a cat away from your house? This cat ain’t here to poop, and it isn’t just casually wandering past. It’s here to fight, or mate, or something. Is there anything we can do, aside from scaring it away once it arrives?

Comments on How do I shoo this cranky neighborhood cat away from our house?

  1. I’d love to know this, too. Our new neighborhood is rife with cats. Who howl under our deck, hiss at our cats through the screens, and are probably filled with kitty disease.

  2. The other cat is probably there because just outside the window is its territory; it doesn’t know why Nacho isn’t coming out and defending Nacho’s territory (inside the house) since those two territories are so clearly (through a window) butting up against each other.
    I’m not certain what to suggest, though. Do you have curtains you could draw over the window? You could try a spray bottle filled with water or vinegar, but that’s a temporary solution; you could crumple up tin foil and put it beneath the window, but it’ll blow away at the next big wind.
    I hope someone else (any vets or animal behaviorists out there?) has a suggestion, but honestly, cities and suburbs have a higher concentration of cats than any wild place would, so there are inevitably going to be conflicts between them.

  3. Make flags by taping strips of tinfoil to the tops of toothpicks or garden stakes and stick them into the soil around your garden. This has the effect of scaring cats because of the moving reflections, and it is also an effective deterrent against birds that eat seeds, berries and newly planted starts.

    Place ribbed plastic water bottles full of water around your garden, doorway or other places where cats spray or defecate. This also creates moving reflections that scare cats away.

    Sprinkle coffee grounds and/or ground-up citrus peels around the areas cats like to go. These all have smells cats don’t like but which aren’t too offensive for people. Be sure to renew whatever scented material you use every few days so it smells strong enough to keep the cats away.

    • or garlic — my cat *hates* it when I try to pet her after I’ve been working with it.

      There are also sprays you can buy that have cat-specific pheromones.

    • Oh, also, cedar can deter cats from coming around. Get some cedar balls or chips at the local home improvement store and sprinkle around your house liberally. This has the bonus benefit of keeping moths, roaches, and other bugs away from your house too.

  4. I’m having the same problem with a neighbors cat. I’ve herd that lavender is a natural way to deter them.I’ve also heard that they don’t like citrus
    Or maybe find a local hunting shop and see if they have any bobcat pee or predator pee and sprinkle it around your property.

    • I always love when people say cats hate citrus, because one of my mom’s cats loves oranges and grapefruits (and toast and bananas and doughnuts and…). We’re pretty sure he’s a dog in everything but meowing.

      (And no, he doesn’t get a lot of people food, but he FLIPS OUT when one of the above mentioned foods is being eaten lol)

    • I wonder if this would work with human pee… I know that’ll keep deer away from a garden, as will human hair. The one caveat here is that you HAVE to use the hair/pee of a meat eater, or they won’t care. I have not, by the way, spent time peeing around gardens, but my godfather does this on his farm.

  5. They sell cat pheremones in a spray at pet stores (feliway, for instance). We have the same problem with our neighborhood cats, and actually had one spray on our window in the bedroom (which was unfortunately open). They have kept away since.

    • I agree with the pheromones but be careful if you have a garden – I sprayed the pheromones in the garden to keep the neighbor’s cats from pooping on my plants and it just ended up killing my plants!

  6. We had this exact same problem but the neighbour cat just wanted to hang out, unfortunately our cat doesn’t know what other cats are and freaked out to the point of knocking herself out running into the window.

    We tried orange peel, orange juice, cat pepper, sonic cat deterrents and spiky plants under the windows but none of them worked. In the end the only thing that worked was water.

    So everytime neighbour kitty came round we’d try to shoo him off, if that didn’t get him moving he’d get a cup of water thrown from the kitchen window. He soon associated our back garden with getting wet and now gives it a wide berth.

    The things to consider with this method are –
    1. don’t do it if the only escape route is onto a busy road, you don’t want a squished kitty,
    2. don’t do it in cold weather,
    3. don’t use anything pressurised, a supersoaker might seem like a good idea but it can hurt the cat and might class as animal abuse in some countries.

  7. Couple ideas popping into my head…

    Humane trap and release

    Cat repellents like you can get at petsmart of lowes

    If your intruder cat is trying to mate with your cat it could be because she’s constantly in heat, is spaying an option? If she’s already spayed, never mind. You could also go about this the other way around by trapping and neutering the offending kitty. But if your cat is attracting males the issue will only happen again.

    Hmm, dog?

    That’s all I can come up with for the time. Good luck!!

    • This. Even if your cat is spayed (if it’s not, do so) I’ll bet this outdoor cat isn’t. Your local humane society/animal shelter/feral spay neuter will lend you a humane trap. And there’s probably a low cost/no cost feral spay/neuter in your area. It doesn’t have to even be a male for this to be the cause. I had a spayed female cat and rescued a neighborhood female cat. They hated each other and would try to fight, until I got the second female spayed.

  8. While it isn’t ideal, especially to those of us concerned about animals who go to shelters, etc, you can call animal control. Another option is to call an animal rescue. Cats roaming around free are in danger. The cat could be a feral cat who might very well make someone a wonderful pet if that someone would keep him or her indoors. I have been told of the fact that there are some very disturbing people who run around picking up cats found wandering loose and those animals never make it to an SPCA or a rescue. They may, however, make it to less-than-ethical testing facilities.
    Before you do call someone, you could consider printing up a quick flyer asking if anyone owns the cat and notifying them that it is becoming a nuisance.
    Other than that, a spray bottle, hose or really good water pistol aimed at the cat can discourage its presence if you can hit it through the window. Make sure you don’t have anything attracting it like food, water or a comfy place to sleep.
    Good luck! And poor Nacho!

    • Depending on what country the original poster is in would determine how successful contacting an animal rescue would be. For example, in the US its the norm to keep pet cats indoors, but in the UK its the norm to allow them out (with access to shelter) and they’re legally protected to roam free so most UK shelters won’t take in a stray cat unless its sick or injured, though some will neuter and re-release them if no owner is found. I’d recommend contacting your local or national cat welfare charities before you take any trapping action to see what laws and policies are in effect in your area.

      Some vets will check cats for microchips if you take them in, it might be worth seeing if you can reach the owners that way too.

    • Also, there are many, many, many places here in the US that don’t have animal control, that don’t have shelters, that don’t have an SPCA. I can give you solid proof on that one if you don’t believe me, so while this would be a great idea for some, it won’t work for all.

      There’s almost always a vet or two, though, and that would be my next best idea.

  9. this may be a silly question, but is Nacho spayed? if not, then her being in heat would be the obvious reason for this behavior.

    if not, then try to keep the cats from getting a visual on each other. Large potted plants outside that the bully cat can’t get around to get near the windows might help. Light gauzy curtains on the inside, or even spiffy vinyl “privacy clings” (think frosted glass without the permanency).

    then, look into what kind of plants deter cats from being around… and get some around the perimeter of your home! supposedly cats do not like citrus, but when i used an organic product that smells like oranges & is supposed to make cats not want to be around things (i.e. please stop scratching this coutch), my cat would just lick the stuff up like it was ice cream (which was better than the scratching at least, but weirder to explain to friends). my point here, is that some trial and error may be involved in finding the right cat deterrent, and that some things might work… just not in the way you intended.

    wishing you, your shins, and Nacho’s tranquility some luck.

  10. Be careful! This cat could be a neighborhood pet, not a stray — and then trapping and releasing, trapping and neutering, or giving it to an animal rescue might be awful for that neighborhood family!
    One thing to check for is a tag, of course; and did you know most shelters will put a tiny notch in the tip of a cat’s ear after they’ve taken the cat in? So most cats with notches were former strays and have been fixed.

    • I really hate when people say things like that. I honestly believe that if that family didn’t want the risk of their cat going to the shelter, they’d keep the cat inside…or microchip it at the very least.

      Leash laws exist for a reason. In my town, cats must be licensed just like dogs, and the leash laws apply to both. Any cat found on my property without a collar goes to the humane society (or at least my vet – depends on how much damage the cat has done to my property). This is to protect my cats (my male cat loses his mind if there’s another cat outside the house within sight or smell), my home, my gardens, and the stray/other cat.

      • This really depends on where you are. I grew up in a rural area with no such laws, and it was generally safe for our cats to roam free. We cared about them very much, and always made sure they had plenty of food and water, as well as a cat door.

        But, as far as I know, our cats never caused any neighborhood problems, and if they did, we would want to hear about it. We did have one neighbor (knowingly) steal our cat, but that was a whole other story.

        If you do catch the cat, post up some “Found Cat” posters or ads in the local newspaper before turning it into a shelter. Just because it’s outside doesn’t mean it’s not cared for.

        • by “neighborhood” i’m assuming the OP is in either an urban or suburban area…in which case, there probably is a leash law of some sort and/or a licensing law.

    • For sure, giving it to an animal rescue if you haven’t looked for an owner is messed up. But it disappearing for a day or two and showing up neutered? With how many cats get put to sleep every year because there aren’t enough homes, a family can deal with someone neutering there cat for them, and there’s nothing anyone could say to me about an owner’s right to have an unneutered cat that could sway me.

    • I was going to say this same thing. There’s no way to know whether the cat is a stray or not, or has been fixed or not outside of whether it’s wearing a collar. Indoor/outdoor cats are super common where I live (the southern US) and most owners I know would be pissed if someone tried to turn their cat over to a rescue without trying to figure out if it had an owner first. Keep an eye on intruding kitty and see if you can figure out whether it lives in one of the surrounding houses/apartments/condos. If so, possibly talk to the owner and see if they can curb kitty’s excursions.

      • Why is the onus on the finder of the cat and not on the owner for turning the cat loose to roam the neighborhood? You own the cat, it’s your responsibility, not your neighbors. So if that particular neighbor turns your cat over to animal control because there’s no identifying marks (like a tag or something on the collar), that’s on you, not them.

        • It certainly isn’t the cats fault that so many owners are irresponsible. It’s tragic that millions of cats get euthanized because people suck, and I think these posters are trying to come up with solutions that would avoid that scenario.

  11. My mum sprayed lysol and lemon juice around her patio when she had a problem with strays peeing on her patio furniture. It worked really well, she just had to apply it every couple of days. It took about a week for the strays to get the message.

  12. Water. We had a family of raccoons all of a sudden taking up residence under our deck and we were scared they would hurt our indoor/outdoor cats. We chased them away with our garden hose (we didn’t have super pressurized water, we just used the good old fashioned finger over the hose opening trick) and that took care of our problem. I would assume cats would have the same reaction considering ours tend to run away from us whenever we pick up a water spray bottle (when they start clawing furniture, we give them a quick spray of water).

  13. We had a similar problem with a cat hanging around taunting our dogs. We eventually took her to a shelter because it became pretty clear that she either didn’t have a home or didn’t have a home that cared- it was freezing cold out and she was hungry and meowing and sleeping under the porch (and I’m allergic, so letting her in wasn’t an option.) Before it got cold we tried spritzing her with water, but she was relentless.

    There is this motion activated scarecrow, though!

    also works on people!

  14. I would suggest to merely stay away from Nacho when the offending cat is around. I have an indoor/outdoor cat, and when she’s indoors and a neighbor cat comes to lay on our porch, she freaks out in the same manner described in the post. I find it hilarious, but I did get whacked in the chest with her claws once when I went to look out the window to identify the other cat. Ouch.

    She has gotten into some fights at night in the past when she’s outdoors – cats are just really territorial – but she can hold her own. Maybe that’s why I find it so amusing when her itty bitty kitty rage is stuck behind two plate glass windows.

    That said and laughter aside, everyone else has posted some really great comments and suggestions, except for the trapping ones. (As Amasea said, that cat may have a nice home nearby, and its family may miss it or pursue legal action if they find out you trapped it. I speak from the experience of having a family member who did this and had to go to court.) I may even try some of these myself, although I would miss a good evening show if my cat had no one to fluff up and shake her tail about.

  15. I’m not sure what to do about the outdoor feral cat, buuut to save your furniture and legs from Nacho’s claws, buy some softpaws for her! They’re little soft plastic caps that get glued directly over her own claws and provide a rounded tip that can’t be sharpened. Totally humane and VERY effective.

    • Effective if your cat isn’t really good about ripping them off. 🙁 We had a friend who’s a vet tech apply them for us. They lasted about 2 days on my one cat, who did NOT like them, and Alpha Cat doesn’t put up with anything she doesn’t like…..

    • Haha, I had those on my cats once, but one of my cats liked to climb her way up the stump of a palm tree in our backyard…
      She discovered that with softpaws on, she couldn’t grip, and she made a rather large splash when she fell into the pool :3
      She was fine, but didn’t try climbing that stump again for a long time!

    • We put those on our kitties when I was 8 months pregnant, with the plan in mind of keeping them on the cats for a few months until they were used to the baby.
      One of our cats just chewed at her feet relentlessly until she’d ripped them off, and the old man cat just turned into a bitey asshole. We realized that a cat who occasionally scratches is a LOT better than one who bites at the slightest provocation, and resolved to just needing to keep their nails extra short for the first few months of my son’s life.
      3 years later the old man cat is still a bitey asshole sometimes, but he does punch the preschooler when he’s being a cat-bullying twerp. Usually the claws don’t come out.

  16. AHHH! This is our problem but the cat comes around to piss off our DOG! We have a Shiba Inu who loves to chase anything that will run away from her (she’s a hunting dog, it’s her thing). We live right outside of downtown Phoenix and our neighborhood is swarming with feral cats (most of them have been trapped, fixed, and released back into the neighborhood). I don’t mind them really…she barks and chases, they run up into a tree. But there is a DEMON CAT with a collar (can’t get close enough to read it), that literally comes in the yard to start shit with our dog. And she won’t run, she sits there and swipes at her, growls, hisses and carries on and my dog barks like a psycho until I physically pick her up and remove her from the yard. I think I might have to try a cup of water because I’ve tried shoo it away and it hisses at me! Nasty little thing. I don’t think anything would scare it off.

  17. We’ve had similar problems, both with strays and cats that belong to other families in our neighborhood, except our cats are inside/outside, so we’ve had to deal with fighting as well. So far the best solution we’ve found is to keep full spray bottles near all the doors so that we can go out and discourage our unwelcome visitors. A couple of good sprays and a few sharp words are generally enough to discourage them. As long as you stay consistent about running them off, they seem to decide over time that it’s just not worth the trouble–and if they do come back, they generally head for the hills as soon as they see you coming. It’s not an instant solution, but it has discouraged several toms who thought they’d expand their territory in our direction.

  18. Our family has always had outdoor cats (I’m in the UK and totally agree with the previous poster about that being the norm here – cats are independent outdoor animals, after all) and recently had a probem with next door’s kitty coming over to play with our cat, who’s none too thrilled. We’ve taken to squirting him with water from a spray bottle (nothing too fierce) to shoo him away, which is a shame cos he’s adorable, but our cat gets very worked up when he’s around (and she’s been spayed, for what it’s worth). But I’d also second the advice to leave Nacho (oh, great name!) alone when she’s facing down the outdoor cat – any time I’ve tried to get near our cat when the neighbour’s cat is around, I’ve regretted it! Good luck, though.

  19. Get some Scccat and put it outside of your door!
    I used this around our Christmas tree when the cat was an evil little jerk who would ruin Christmas by breaking all of the ornaments. Also works great for scaring your roommates and making them pee themselves!

  20. All of our cats have been rescues but our latest is very fiesty when behind glass and a wimp when she’s not.

    When she’s being a wimp and another cat is giving her grief, I make like a cat. I know it sounds stupid, but its always worked for me.

    Get on all fours, arch your back and hiss. Bare your teeth, push your tongue to the roof of your mouth and hiss sharply. And creep forward if you have to. If you cant beat them, join them.

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