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Saving Cats by Deterring Them

In doing TNR (trap/neuter/return) jobs, it’s rare that I come across neighbors that down right hate cats and wish them ill. After talking with them, I find that they usually don’t like the cats using their yard as a litter box and get fed up cleaning after them. They become frustrated that the cats multiply. The words I hear most are, “out of control”. TNR is our first plan of action because it puts a stop to the cycle of the growing colony outside their door. It doesn’t however put an end to the cats coming onto their property and using it as a toilet.

I recently was working on a TNR project and there where about three neighbors on a street that were feeding the neighborhood cats. The cats would then go to another neighbor’s yard and use it as a toilet. This became such a frustration to the neighbor that she decided to take matters into her own hands. She got herself a cat trap and was taking them into the local municipal shelter. Since they were feral (unsocial) cats, they did not qualify for adoption and were likely to be euthanized. She was clearly aware of their fate. By the time I met up with her, she had already trapped and brought in three cats. When I knocked on her front door she had the fourth cat already traped on her patio ready to take in. She was angry and fed up.

I took some time to calmly explain the benefits of TNR. No more cats fighting, no more males spraying and most important, no more kittens being born. She didn’t quite understand why we had to return the cats to her neighborhood after they were trapped and neutered. “Can’t you just drop them at a park or something?” I explained that it wasn’t that easy. That wasn’t a humane thing to do. Cats need to be acclimated slowly to a new environment. If I just dropped them off and left them at a location that was unfamiliar to them, they would try hard to return to their home. Without a constant food source, they wouldn’t survive. I explained that over the years, I have seen cats starved even to the point of death. It’s a common misconception that cats can rely on birds and lizards to survive.

I then explained the “vacuum effect”. This was just one colony of many colonies of cats in her immediate area. If she were to round up this entire colony and take them in to be euthanized, another colony would move in and take their place. There are scientific studies that show that “catch and kill” is not effective. On the other hand, we have statistics that show (even right here in Las Vegas) that TNR is effective. Once the entire colony is trapped and neutered, a stray cat may appear in the maintained colony every now again, but that doesn’t happen too often. Unaltered cats usually appear to mate, but if every cat in the colony has been desexed, there is no reason for a new cat to appear.

Not all deterrents are effective every time for every cat, so we decided to take a layered approach. We’d start with two deterrents and see if these were effective first.

Once she calmed down, she agreed that TNR was needed. (She also released the fourth cat she had trapped on her porch.) She agreed to stop trapping the cats and hauling them off if C5 (the organization I am a trapper with) could help her put some deterrents in her yard. C5 agreed and for the sake of the cats and to promote peace between the neighbors, we installed some deterrents today. Not all deterrents are effective every time for every cat, so we decided to take a layered approach. We’d start with two deterrents and see if these were effective first.

We started by spraying the (dirt) yard with a concentrated orange oil. This product is biodegradable and eco friendly. Cats find the citrus scent unpleasant and so we sprayed it directly on the perimeter of the yard in order to deter them.

Concentrated orange oil was added to a 1-gallon plastic tank sprayer.

If for some reason the oil doesn’t deter the cats, at least the yard is smelling fantastic now! No more smelling cat poo and the homeowner was happy with that. The reviews on Amazon stated that it was helpful to reapply after a heavy rain. We live in the desert and it rarely rains so it will probably have to be reapplied less often.

The orange oil was sprayed in the area that the cats were using as a toilet.

Next we placed ultrasonic animal repellers around the perimeter of the yard. Once a cat walks in front of the (battery powered) box, the motion detector emits an ultrasonic sound wave that is inaudible to humans. The box was easily and quickly mounted to the wall with construction adhesive.

Although we selected a battery powered model, there are a variety of other ultrasonic animal repellants on the market including solar powered models.

My plan is to check back with the neighbor in a few days and again in a few weeks to see how the current deterrents are working. If more deterrents are needed, we will try wolf urine graduals and a motion activated sprinkler that will scare off any cats that cross the sensor path. These have proven effective in other colonies we have helped with. I keep a printout of these deterrents with me when I am on TNR jobs. I feel strongly that educating all the neighbors on how to care for and live peacefully with the community cats is just as important as trapping and neutering the cats.

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