An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Invading Stranger - The Cat Outside

Dear Greyce, I'm a four-year-old striped female tabby who lives inside. All was well until the new neighbours moved in with their very saucy cat. This creature goes outside in the afternoon and sits in front of MY living room window and stares me down! I've retaliated by spraying the drapes. While laundering them, my purrson keeps saying I'm a bad cat. How do I explain the situation to her? Tabitha

Dear Tabitha, Repeat after me: I am NOT a bad cat; I am an anxious cat whose territory has been invaded and I've taken appropriate measures. Say that four times (one for each paw) and take a deep breath. As is often the case, you are purrfectly normal. It's your purrson who misunderstands the situation.

Since those drapes are washable, she should clean them using AMAZE (or similar product, sold in the laundry section of most grocery store and used to clean diapers) which will remove the fats from the urine you deposited (that keep re-attracting you to the site). Then she should get some Feliway (available from your veterinarian or pet supply store) and spritz those drapes at your spraying level as soon as she puts them back up. She should read the instructions carefully BEFORE (which is not what many humans do). Then she should take appropriate action, as outlined in the tip sheet below -- about dealing with cats such as that saucy-pants neighbour of yours. If you can print this off and leave it by the drapes, maybe your purrson will get the message.

A Precious-Greyce Handout for Humans Who Need to Know
Even if your own cat has never been outdoors, he may still be affected by what goes on outside - especially if he regards the outside yard as his territory. Many cats react to the visual or olfactory (scent) presence of others as a threat. They become anxious and their arousal level rises. Once it gets past a certain point it is difficult for them to control, so they become aggressive (on edge) or they start to urine mark around doors, windows and other points of entry.

Some Tips

1. If your cat responds to the sight of another cat in your cat’s territory:

The easiest way to prevent this on a 24-hours basis is to block visual access. Either draw the drapes or blinds, or insert a piece of cardboard from the base of the window to the top height out of which the cat can see. If the incidents tend to occur at specific times of the day (for example, only in the evening when you are asleep) then just block the windows during that period (if that works for you).

Consider constructing a barrier between your cat’s view and the main yard, using a trellis, for example. Your cat still has a view but the view of the roaming cat is likely obstructed.

2. If your cat is responding to the scent of another cat in your cat’s territory:

This scent will be particularly noticeable to your cat, if the roaming cat has sprayed. Look for spray marks along outside windows, doors, siding and furnishings (patio furniture, BBQs). Clean up the spray with equal parts of water and vinegar, followed by club soda. Dry the surface and then overspray it with a citrus-scented (e.g., lemon, orange and/or grapefruit) air freshener found in grocery stores. Use the air freshener twice daily. Or look for a cat stain and odour remover at your pet supply store that has enzymes which eat the fat in the urine (removing the smell) AND has a citrus repellent (check the label to make sure). Inspect sites daily for re-marking, clean and overspray as directed. Once the spraying stops at a site for a week, you can relax your vigilance. (NOTE: Feliway is normally used for items INSIDE the home and requires a very different cleaning regime.)

3. Discourage cats from coming into or staying in your yard with the following:

Make your yard less appealing for roaming cats. Cats don’t like to get their feet into sticky or wet surfaces. So try keeping areas near windows and doors on the wet side. Use pine cones in flower beds or window wells. Spreading citrus peels (orange, lemon and grapefruit) on the surface is repelling as well. Laying chicken wire over the soil prevents them from using your soil as a toilet.

Shoo roaming cats away when they visit (even if your cat does not appear to react). Shoo them away with a loud noise; going outside and banging on a pot with a wooden spoon often does the trick. Or weather permitting AND if the cat is particularly adamant about remaining, spray the cat with the water pistol or hose (NOT in cold weather when it could harm the cat and NEVER aim for the face because you could cause blindness). I hate this water method but know that some cats are particularly difficult to deal with and some of their purrsons are deaf to pleas for help with the situation.

Consider purchasing a motion detector for your sprinkler or hose, (from a hardware store such as Lee Valley Tools). It is triggered everytime there is movement nearby, so a roaming cat gets an unexpected shower. The cat will soon avoid the place. While this is a more expensive option, it works 24 hours a day and may be useful in some instances.

4. Prevent access completely:

Make sure cats can’t slip through your fence. Block openings using chicken wire or small lattice. Put boards or bricks along the bottom to prevent cats from sliding under the fence. Build the tallest fence possible and try a design that has no horizontal (sideways) supports facing outside your yard. (It’s those supports that cats use as landing pads.)

If your yard is small and/or you can afford it, consider a cat fence- a specially constructed fence which keeps your cats in and others out. The one shown on the link is the one Greyce has used for several years.

Dealing with An Aroused Cat

If your cat gets excited upon seeing or smelling another cat, be prepared for some aggression. For example, if your cat sees a roaming cat on your cat’s territory, the roamer is a threat. A natural reaction is to fight. If your cat can’t get to the other cat (likely because he is blocked by a window or door) he will be prepared to fight but be unable to. His level of arousal increases and sets him off at the first moving thing he sees. Sometimes this is another household pet and sometimes it could be a person. This is called redirected aggression.

Always remember to let an aroused cat cool down. If he is in a room and you can leave and close the door, do so. If you need to get him to a separate room, wrap him in a towel or use oven mitts so he can’t hurt you. Put him in a room alone, with a litter box and some food and water. It may take several hours before he has calmed down. Good signs are that he has begun to groom or to eat. Then you can open the door and he can come out at leisure.

If your cat is about to engage in a fight with another household pet, throw a towel or cardboard board over one of the cats, and then remove the other (with towel and oven mitts). Put each in separate rooms and let them cool down.

If at all possible, DON’T let a fight escalate. If there is mutual staring, stalking, hissing and yowling, etc. break it up NOW and let them cool down. (Remember to protect yourself when doing do.) The longer it goes on, the more difficult it will be for the cats to get along.