To say we are frustrated with the feral cat situation in our neighborhood is an understatement. For those not familiar, I’ll quickly recap:
When we moved in, we didn’t know that our neighbors to our right take care of a colony of feral cats (roughly 10-15). They have indoor cats too, but they never go outside and the outside cats never go inside. These neighbors throw out food for the feral cats, but do not interact with them (i.e. love on them, name them, etc.) that we’ve seen. The cats don’t survive solely off of what this neighbor puts out–or that’s our guess. So, they’re keeping our neighborhood rodent population in check. Though the cats do not get spayed/neutered or their shots (again, we’re assuming regarding the shots), they seem to appear in okay health from what we can see. After moving in, we quickly developed a problem with Scout and the cats. Though she does not interact with them, they love to use the areas under our cherry blossom tree and rose bushes as their toilet, and Scout loves to clean up after them. This is a habit we want to stop. ASAP.
So, once we moved in, we began warring with these cats. We absolutely hate that Scout eats their waste, but we cannot seem to get a) the cats to leave our yard alone, or b) Scout to leave their stuff alone. This has so consumed Scout that it has even changed her morning routine. She used to go out, go number one and two, and then high tail it back to the door for breakfast, her focus squarely on being fed. Not now. Now, Scout goes out, goes number one, and then trots down the tree/bushes, where she takes her sweet time surveying every inch of open soil and cleaning up after a night’s worth of kitty droppings. Only when there’s nothing left will she come back to the door. It doesn’t matter how much we yell, how much we cajole, when there is cat poo under the tree, Scout ignores us. 100% loss of hearing.
We tried store-bought products that claim to keep cats away to no avail. We tried putting cayenne pepper in the soil (which we later learned can cause the cats to scratch themselves to death?), but our cats either didn’t notice or have a taste for spiciness. We’ve planted mondo grass under the tree in hopes that it will spread and cover up the areas that the cats like to use. But growth takes time. We put bark under the rose bushes, but that hasn’t deterred the cats at all, and leaves Scout eating cat poop and bark.
Crappy photo, but you get the gist. Pre-fence!
Two weekends ago, we tried another option. We strung up a miniature fence made of wooden stakes and twine around the perimeter of the tree and rose bushes. (We had the twine and stakes already from another project, so there was zero expense on our part. We figured it was worth a shot.) It wasn’t going to keep the cats out, but we were hoping to keep Scout out until we could come up with a solution to the whole ordeal.
In the past two weeks, the fence has had some effect. Scout hopped over it a few times, and got a firm yelling both times. Now, we watch her like a hawk when she’s outside, and any time she’s near the fence and gets *that look* that we know means, “Hmm, I smell kitty poo,” we say, “Scout…” and she turns away. So it has worked as a deterrent, but it’s not foolproof. If we’re not watching her, Scout will jump the little fence and feast away.
So this is not a long-term solution, and here we are, contemplating what our next step should be. Unfortunately, our neighbor is not friendly, so we don’t have a great relationship where we could go next door and say, “Hey, can we chat about these cats?” I mean, we could, but we don’t have any way of anticipating how that conversation might go. And thus, we don’t expect them to be understanding of our plight–even after we explain that we think it’s what gave Scout diarrhea both Saturday and Sunday morning this past weekend. (She had her first accident since she was a little puppy on Sunday morning. She didn’t make it outside and went on the kitchen floor. Poor thing looked so ashamed. Of course we didn’t yell at her for it, being an accident and all. She looked miserable, so we cleaned it up and gave her lots of love.)
Another option is to call the humane society and talk with someone there about the situation. We’ve thought about bringing the cats to the shelter one at a time on our own, but that feels weird somehow without our neighbor’s consent. And we worry that the shelter will put them to sleep, since it’s a kill shelter that is already overrun. With our luck, turning the cats in will result in a big rodent boom at our house, and we’ll trade one problem for another =p
So, we don’t know what to do. We stare outside at our make-shift fence and ponder the situation, searching for what’s right in a no-win scenario.