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Living with Neighborhood Cats


Feral cats are members of the domestic cat species, just like pet cats, but are not socialized to humans and are therefore not adoptable. Cats have been living outdoors near humans for more than 10,000 years. They typically live in groups called colonies and have strong social bonds with their colony members.

Like all animals, feral cats make their home where they find shelter and food, often in close proximity to humans. We understand that not everyone enjoys having cats in their yards, and these simple tips will help you divert outdoor cats away from certain areas. Coupled with Trap-Neuter-Return and ongoing care, these quick steps can help you coexist with your neighborhood cats.  Because feral cats are not socialized and not adoptable, they do not belong in animal pounds or shelters, where virtually 100% of them are killed. Instead, feral cats should be spayed/ neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their outdoor home.


Trap-Neuter-Return is an effective and humane way to stabilize feral cat populations. No more kittens means that the population stops growing in one generation, and over time will decline and go away. Spaying and neutering feral and stray cats stops the annoying behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling, fighting, marking territory, etc. 


Common Concerns:

Cats are getting into my trash

Explanation: Cats are scavengers and are looking for food

Quick Solutions:

  • Place a tight lid on your trash can. Exposed trash bags will attract other wildlife as well.

  • ​See if neighbors are feeding the cats. If they are, make sure they are doing so on a regular schedule.

  • Start feeding the cats yourself if you find no regular feeder–at a set time, during daylight hours, in an out-of-the-way place. Feeding cats regularly and in reasonable quantities, which can be eaten in less than 30 minutes or so, will help ensure they don't get so hungry they turn to the trash.


There are cat paw prints on my car

Explanation: Cats like to perch on high ground.

Quick Solutions:

  • Gradually move cats' shelters and feeding stations away to discourage cats from climbing on cars. 

  • Purchase a car cover.

  • Use deterrents listed in the next section.

Cats are digging in my garden

Explanation: It is a cat’s natural instinct to dig and deposit in soft or loose soil, moss, mulch, or sand.

Quick Solutions:

  • ​Scatter fresh orange and lemon peels or spray with citrus-scented fragrances. Coffee grounds, vinegar, pipe tobacco, or oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus also deter cats. Orange oil can be purchased online and is a good deterrent when sprayed around the yard.

  • Purchase an ultrasonic cat repellent - this device can be placed anywhere in your yard and makes a high pitched sound that cats do not like, these are usually motion activated so it only goes off when a cat enters the yard.

  • Plant the herb rue to repel cats, or sprinkle dried rue over the garden. Plants such as lemongrass and citronella can also deter cats.

  • Use plastic carpet runners spike-side up, covered lightly in soil. They can be found at local hardware or office supply stores. Or, set chicken wire firmly into the dirt with sharp edges rolled under.

  • Artfully arrange branches in a lattice-type pattern or wooden or plastic lattice fencing material over soil. You can disguise these by planting flowers and seeds in the openings. You can also try embedding wooden chopsticks, pinecones, or sticks with dull points deep into the soil with the tops exposed eight inches apart.

  • Obtain Cat Scat™, a non-chemical cat and wildlife repellent consisting of plastic mats that are cut into smaller pieces and pressed into the soil. Each mat has flexible plastic spikes that are harmless to cats and other animals, but discourage digging. Available at

  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large, attractive river rocks to prevent cats from digging. (They have the added benefit of deterring weeds.)

  •  Establish a litter box by tilling the soil or placing sand in an out-of-the-way spot in your yard. Keep it clean and free of deposits.

  • Spritz water at cats that enter your yard when you see them using a hose or spray bottle. Do not spray sick or injured cats, or small kittens.

Cats are lounging in my yard or on my porch

Explanation:  Cats are territorial and will remain close to their food source. Ensuring that cats are neutered will dramatically reduce their tendency to roam and keep them from unwanted areas.

Quick Solutions:

  •  Apply cat repellent fragrances liberally around the edges of the yard, the tops of fences, and on any favorite digging areas or plants.

  • Install an ultrasonic animal repellent or a motion- activated water sprinkler, such as the CatStop™ or ScareCrow™. Available at

Cats are sleeping under my porch or in my shed

Explanation: The cats are looking for dry, warm shelter away from the elements.

Quick Solutions:

  • ​Physically block or seal the location the cats are entering with chicken wire or lattice once you are certain the cats are not inside. Be sure to search for kittens before confirming that the cats have left–especially during spring and summer, prime kitten season.

  • Provide a shelter (similar to a small doghouse). Or, if they’re feral and part of a nearby managed colony, ask the caregiver to provide a shelter for the cats. Shelters should be hidden to keep the cats safe, and placing them in secluded areas can help guide the cats away from unwanted areas.

Feeding the cats attracts insects and wildlife

Explanation:  Cats need to be fed under proper guidelines. Leaving food out can attract unwanted animals.

Quick Solutions:

  • ​Keeping the feeding area neat and free of leftover food and trash.

  • ​Feed cats at the same designated time each day, during daylight hours. They should be given only enough food for them to finish in one sitting, and all remaining food should be removed after 30 minutes. If another person is feeding, ask them to follow these guidelines too. For a more thorough list of colony management guidelines, visit

Cats are yowling, fighting, spraying, roaming, and having kittens

Explanation:  These are all mating behaviors displayed by cats who have not been spayed and neutered, and they will breed prolifically.


Quick Solutions:

  • ​Spaying or neutering and vaccinating the cats will stop these behaviors. Male cats will no longer compete and fight, spray, and roam. Females will stop yowling and producing kittens. After sterilization, hormones leave their system within three weeks and the behaviors usually stop entirely.

  •  To combat the urine smell, spray the area thoroughly with white vinegar or with products that use natural enzymes to combat the small, such as Nature's Miracle®, Fizzion Pet Stain & Order Remover®, or Simple Solution®, available at pet supply stores.

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