Living with Neighborhood Cats

Humane deterrents for outdoor/feral cat behavior

Even though we are cat people, we understand that not everyone is and want to be able to help make you happy while also letting the feral neighborhood cats also have a happy life.

The most effective deterrent is motion-activated Sprinkler systems.  These emit an infra-red field that when a cat steps into that field, will fire off a strong burst of water.  The cat generally doesn’t get wet but will be frightened and after a few times, the cat should learn to stay out of that area.  There are also Ultrasonic devices that work similarly to the motion-activated sprinkler systems except it gives off a high frequency sound annoying to cats, but not perceptible by people.  Reports on the effectiveness of Scent repellants are mixed. Chemically based repellents often contain the active ingredient methylnonylketone. Manufacturers claim this ingredient is safe, but also warn the chemical is poisonous and should not be applied to food crops. Because of the possible risks, we recommend naturally-based products. To stop digging (cats like doing their business where they can dig usually in soil) there are Physical deterrents that are either uncomfortable to cat’s paws or fences that are specific for deterring cats.  Below are examples of all of these humane deterrents.




  • coleus caninaCritter Ridder Animal Repellent by Havahart
  • Coleus Caninais known as the “Scaredy- Cat” or “Pee-off” plant because it emits an odor offensive to cats (but not to humans).  There are many varieties of Coleus plants, so be sure to buy the correct type – Coleus Canina.
  • Anecdotal reports indicate some degree of success from sprinkling or dripping in gardens or flower beds one or more of the following items: orange, grapefruit or lemon rinds (cats dislike citrus smells), coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, lavender oil, lemon grass oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and mustard oil.


  • Cat Scat Mats by Gardener’s Supply
  • Purrfect Fence
  • Cat Fence In
  • Rocks – cover exposed ground with rocks that have rough surfaces to deter a cat from touching or trying to move them.
  • Lattice – lay lattice fencing on the ground prior to planting, then plant flowers or seeds in the openings.

I found a stray cat/kitten, what do I do?

Trying to find a shelter or rescue to take in a stray cat/kitten or feral kittens is becoming more and more challenging as most shelters and rescues are full beyond capacity.   But there are ways for you to still help.

Mom and Kittens:

You will want to think about what is best for the kittens and in order to decide that, you need to determine the age of the kittens. The best place for kittens younger than eight weeks old is with their mother, if at all possible.  The ideal window for socializing kittens is about between 6 weeks and 12 weeks. Older kittens can be trapped, neutered, and returned and keep in mind, kittens can get pregnant as young as 16 weeks old.  Examine different mom and kitten scenarios.


Even though your first instinct is to pick the kittens up, please refrain from this until you think about if you have the time, commitment, financial ability, patience and attention to socialize and care for them.  The only exception is for kittens are between one to four weeks old and were abandoned by the mother.   These kittens will need neonatal care and local veterinary clinics and no-kill rescues should be contacted to see if they have a nursing mother or if you have the time and commitment, you can care for neonatal kittens.  Non neonatal kittens (>4 weeks old) can begin to be weaned from their mother and with daily one-on-one attention can learn to be comfortable around people or “socialized”.   Make sure you visit your local veterinarian (or see our low cost spay/neuter section) for care of the kittens including deworming, vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.  You will then want to find the best home possible for the kittens.  Be aware, you do not want to give the kittens away to anyone; there are people who take kittens for bait for dog fights or feeding snakes.  Follow the guide Alley Cat Allies (feral cat advocates) has created for promoting your kittens and finding a good home.

Stray Cats:

Before calling your local animal control or shelter/rescue, we ask that you first try to find the cat’s home and once you have exhausted all option and the cat is truly a stray with no home, the next thing to do is to try to find him/her a new home.  You will notice most rescues/shelters are full and will require you to care for the cat while you find a home for him/her.  We encourage you to call or email all your local rescues/shelter and ask if they can post the cat on their website and/or Facebook page – the more his/her face can get out there, the better chances of a home being found.