Feral Cats Spoiling a Dog Owner’s Backyard

By Cathy M. Rosenthal | May 31st, 2023

Is there really a way to keep out cats?

The neighborhood feral cats are using a woman’s backyard as their litter box. Now her dog can’t roam the yard freely. Is there a solution? Image by Kevin Patrick.

The community feral cats are using a woman’s backyard as their litter box, encouraged by a neighbor who’s feeding them. Now the owner’s dog can’t roam the yard freely. See what “My Pet World” advisor Cathy M. Rosenthal suggests.

Dear Cathy,

My family adopted a puppy about 16 months ago. We have a nice-sized property and wanted him to be able to run and play, learn to fetch, and have freedom of movement. We paid a good amount to have our property fenced in but cannot allow our pup to run free because many feral cats run wild in our yard and the wooded area behind our home. They use our yard as a litter box.

Whenever we allow our dog to run free, he rolls in the feces left behind by these feral cats. How can we keep them out of our yard? I have contacted local rescue groups and the town, and they have no solutions (other than me paying to trap and spay/neuter them, which I cannot afford).

Additionally, I have learned that a neighbor places food and water out for these cats and has set up “shelters” for them on her adjoining property. I don’t feel comfortable approaching the neighbor as she has behaved unreasonably in the past. I get extremely frustrated by keeping my dog chained up to avoid constantly having to bathe him. Please help!

— Jamie, East Islip, New York

Dear Jamie,

Let your dog move about freely in his fenced backyard. The sight, smell, and sound of a dog can be a deterrent. When you confine him, cats understand where their boundaries are in the yard. Give him space to mark his territory, so the cats learn he is everywhere. Get some doggie bathing wipes to clean his fur to reduce the need to bathe him.

Next, try a motion-activated sprinkler that will go off every time the cats try to enter the yard. They are inexpensive and do a good job of establishing boundaries. You can turn the sprinkler off when you or your dog are in the yard.

If you like to garden, introduce highly-scented plants, which cats (and deer) don’t like. These may include rosemary, lavender, lemon thyme, geranium, and oregano.

Remove food sources, like garbage with discarded food, your dog’s food bowl, or bird feeders that may attract hungry felines. If you feed birds and want to continue feeding them, consider installing a cat fence, which is netting that runs atop your current fence line and keeps cats from climbing into your yard. (It’s more expensive, so try motion-activated sprinklers first.)

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. She addresses reader questions as diverse as outdoor cat safety to bizarre dog behavior. Send your pet questions, stories, and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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