Hark, Who Goes There?

Your beloved indoor cat can suffer various degrees of stress due to outdoor animals. Here's why.

Quite often, I am told tales of apparently mild-mannered cats that seem to tolerate all of lifes challenges save one: the Trespasser. When face to face with a Cat Errant, Mr. Mellow just cannot cope.

We are all cat lovers and certainly wish no harm to our neighbors

Bev Caldwell


cats. But naturally, we want to look out for our family. When a resident cat spies a potential intruder, several responses are possible.

If you are lucky, your cat might believe that the more, the merrier. He may chirp, he may posture in a beckoning manner, or he may continue to nap calmly, with no apparent interest in the antics of his comrade through the glass.

If you are less lucky, you may find that your cat does not trust that the glass is sufficient to keep an offending cat at bay. He may post “Private Property” signs of his own. You may come home to discover that your windows and doors have been marked with urine. If you manage to get through the winter months unscathed, beware the ides of April. For when the windows are opened for a little fresh air, the urgency to reset the barriers will return.

The most concerning cat of all is the cat that experiences profound fear upon viewing an unfamiliar cat. The frightened cat may respond by redirecting aggression toward a member of your household. Although other cats are most frequently targeted, other pets and people may find themselves victims of serious attacks. The impact on a relationship can be devastating.

Fortunately, you can intervene. You will need to work with both sides of the equation.

Inside Looking Out

Physical barriers, although not aesthetically appealing, are nearly always effective. A gate or closed door can be used to keep a cat from certain rooms. Cats can be discouraged from perching in risky areas by applying double sided tape to a window sill or placing some carpet runner, with its nubs facing up, on the floor.

Prime windows, those with a direct view of the yard, can be covered. Blinds or shutters can be closed as needed. In extreme situations, some folks have taken to putting opaque material directly on the pane.

A more indirect approach is to encourage your cat to spend his time in a different area of the house through environmental modification and enrichment. Food dishes, toys, soft mats, and perches can be placed in rooms that do not face the yard. Toys and snacks may be hidden about the house. The busy cat wont have time to sit idly waiting for trespassers.

Tommy, Go Home!

It is possible to discourage other cats from coming too close for your own cats comfort. Dont ignore the obvious. If you know where the cat lives, try simply asking his family whether they would consider leaving him inside. He will be safer at home – if he managed to get to your house, he has surely passed by other predators including automobiles and is at risk of an untimely demise.

If the family wants their cat to be outside, suggest that they invest in a cat fence. If they do choose a fence, they will need to provide a safe haven from predators that could enter the yard. A cat door can be used to assure access to shelter. If your neighbor is not cooperative with your plan, why not install a reverse fence of your own to keep cats out of your yard. (See related article on page 8 of this issue.)

Sometimes, fences are not practical. In that case, it will be necessary to make the area around the house unattractive to other cats. Commercially available cat repellents are safe. Although they are not absolutely effective, they are worth trying. Most products are a bit odiferous. Scented deodorant soaps can also be effective, though they should be placed into containers to avoid their being ingested by cats or wildlife.

Another way to deter visitors is to use a motion sensor designed specifically for animals. Granted, motion sensors are offensive, but they do not do long-term harm. Remember, we are using these products because your own cat is experiencing considerable distress.

There are surely other creative ways to discourage feline visitors. Be thoughtful, humane, and proactive. If your cat appears agitated when he spies outside cats, dont delay. As always, that ounce of prevention will be worth your time.