For many homeowners, stray cats can be a problem. They can destroy your plants and ruin your beautiful lawn by sleeping in your pots, scratching, or playing with fellow stray cats. They’re carnivores, so their feces have certain parasites and pathogens that can make home-grown plants harmful to eat. And when they’re fighting or in heat, they can be loud and disrupt your sleep.
They’re a nuisance many want to get rid of, but most of us don’t want to get rid of stray cats in our yard through cruel and inhumane means. And in some states, these methods can be illegal. So, instead of resorting to fatal pesticides and other means of getting rid of cats, here are ways on how to get rid of stray cats around your house the humane way.
How To Get Rid of Stray Cats
Reduce Flat and Soft Surfaces
Stray cats may be attracted to your yard because it is the perfect place for them to habituate. By redesigning your yard, you could deter cats from choosing to live in your yard.
- Use fences and garden stakes to keep cats away from your plants.
- Use lattice or chicken wire over your soil. Your plants can easily grow and adapt to this.
- Consider using stone hardscaping, reducing the amount of flat and soft soil surfaces where cats can use as a litter box.
- Cover the soil surrounding your plants with pebble landscaping. This can cover as much soil as possible and create bumpy ground to deter cats from living there.
Use Natural Cat Deterrents
Like pests and rodents, cats also have natural weaknesses. If catnip can bring all the cats to your yard, having these in your yard can deter them from staying for too long:
- Scaredy Cat Plant (Coleus canina)
- Citrus plants like orange trees, lemons, etc. (or throw citrus peels on the soil)
- Brewed coffee grounds
- Human hair (clean your brushes and push your hair into a small shallow hole in the yard – it’s a great source of nitrogen for your plants, too!)
Use Non-Toxic Cat Repellents
Avoid using mothballs, as these are extremely toxic to cats and harmful to humans. Commercial non-toxic cat repellants are said to smell like the urine of a predator to cats. Instinctively, stray cats will not approach a property if it smells like another cat has marked it as its territory. Here’s a link to non-toxic cat repellent you can buy on Amazon, but you can also find some in your local pet store or hardware store.
While it’s said to be non-toxic to cats and plants, the one issue I have with cat repellents is that it might not work. Some cats may smell the urine of a predator or another cat yet still seek to challenge it. When they do not find a predator or alpha cat, they end up trying to mark their own territory.
Undo Their Territory Mark
Once a stray cat pees on your property, you can bet that they intend on setting up their camp there and becoming a permanent (unwanted) tenant on your property. If you leave it as is, they’re sure to keep coming back.
A cat’s urine has a strong distinctive smell. Look for its general area and wash it down with water. For added measure, you can use eco-friendly soaps to scrub down the area. It’s not a long-term solution to getting rid of stray cats in your yard permanently, however, as they may come back to repeat their marking.
Install Water Sprinkler Systems
If these aren’t possible for your home or budget, an ordinary spray bottle will do. Don’t try to douse them in water, as this can be cruel for cats. A few spritzes to make them go away can condition them into understanding that your property is off-limits.
Call Your Local Animal Shelter
If you see a stray cat and it looks well-fed, there’s a big chance that this cat has an owner and is missing. If you don’t feel comfortable taking it in and looking for its owner, call your local animal shelter. They should be willing to take the cat and care for it until they find its owner.
On the other hand, if you spot a feral cat, do not try to approach it or capture it yourself. They can scratch or injure you, which could lead to bleeding and infection.
Simply call your local animal shelter and ask them to have it removed. They have the equipment necessary to remove it from your property without any damage to yourself or your yard.
Secure Your Trash
Cats may be attracted to your property because your trash cans are not properly sealed. As a result, they may be able to smell your food waste and are on your property trying to get at it. This could also lead to stray cats (and other pests like rats and raccoons) trying to enter your trash cans.
Practice proper waste disposal and be careful with your trash. If possible, do not leave your trash outside until your garbage collectors come to take it. Invest in thick trash bags that are difficult for cats and other vermin to rip open. Buy trash cans or receptacles that have tight lids or ones that are difficult for small animals to get into. Ideally, your trash bins can seal in their scent to avoid unwanted attention.
Talk to Your Neighbors
One reason cats are attracted to your area may be because of your next-door neighbors. They may not have a problem making cats feel like they’re welcome in their home, but as a result, cats may think they are also welcome in your property.
Talk to your neighbors about your cat problem. If they want to keep feeding these cats and taking care of it, they have a responsibility to make sure the cats do not affect your home.
Ask Your Local Shelter/HOA for a TNR Program
If your main issue with stray cats is their mating behavior keeping you up at night, there’s a way to address this without necessarily getting rid of strays. Local cat shelters or your homeowners’ association may be willing to perform TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs on all the cats in your neighborhood.
TNRs work by trapping a cat the humane way, neutering it, and then returning it to its original location (assuming that the location is safe). By doing this, you aren’t killing the cats, but controlling their mating instincts that can be very loud. Neutering strays are also a good way to keep the number of strays down and reduce the number of unwanted animals in the area.
TNRs are essential especially for community cats (feral cats) and maybe the only humane solution. Feral cats do not socialize well with people and therefore have very small to no chance of being adopted. If taken to a cat shelter, there may be a chance that they are euthanized if not adopted by a certain period of time.
If many neighbors have this problem, your HOA may be willing to shoulder this program as a humane way of controlling the stray population. Your local pet shelter may also offer this service.
Spay Your Own Cats
The same way a milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, it only takes one female cat in heat to bring the male cats to your yard. If you have a female cat as a pet, you should know that when she’s in heat, she will try to catch the attention of nearby male cats and try to escape.
If you don’t want to spay your cat, keep her indoors until she is no longer in heat. But if you’re a cat owner, you know that when she’s in heat, she’ll do anything to get out. This may mean keeping your windows closed and making sure she is nowhere near your home’s entrances whenever someone opens the door.
The safer option is to spay your cat. After the procedure, your cat will not try to escape or try to catch the attention of male cats.
Clean Your Yard
Stray cats may love your yard because it smells like food, has soft areas for digging, and have places for them to hide from the sun or rain. The most humane solution would be to provide them with at least a place to hide out during storms or extreme heat. But if you really want to get rid of cats in your yard for legitimate reasons (e.g. severe allergies), you may have to clean your yard.
There may be areas in your yard that they can use as shelter. This can include stacked boxes, the holes in your property, and other areas they can fit through. Before sealing any holes and areas, make sure that there are no smaller cats or kittens still hiding inside the area.
Do Not Leave Food Out
If you or your neighbor had been feeling merciful and leaving food out for the cats, do not let food stay out for too long. This can leave a scent or tell stray cats that there will always be food available in that area. By providing them with easy access to food, you’re making your yard an enticing place for them to stay.
Keep Your Yard Meat-Free
If your home has house cats, feed them indoors. Do not add meat and other animal products to your compost pile (it has harmful and foul-smelling effects on your compost anyway), as this can attract stray cats. If you have an outdoor grill or barbecue pit, clean it after every use as some traces of meat can be enticing to them.
How to NOT Get Rid of Stray Cats
No matter how problematic stray cats may be in your yard, there are certain techniques that you should avoid when it comes to getting rid of these cats. These techniques include:
- Aggressive dogs
- Glue traps and other inhumane traps
- Shooting, even with pellet guns or other non-lethal ammunition
- Toxic contamination
It’s difficult to control these techniques plus they can get you in trouble with the law. Also, since these methods are unpredictable, using them can have negative consequences against your neighbors, other people’s pets and other unintentional targets.
Why You Should Get Rid of Stray Cats?
For birders, cat-killing birds are the biggest conservation threat. Neighborhood cats, alley cats, feral cats, outdoor pets, cat colonies and stray cats kill more than two billion birds per year. But with careful planning and thoughtfulness, you can protect the birds without being cruel to cats.
Stray cats do more than kill birds; they cause other problems when they become accustomed to visiting your yard repeatedly. Your flower beds will double as litter boxes. Litters of unwanted kittens will play around your garden sheds. Spraying males can use fences, trees or other structures as territorial markers. Also, aggressive stray cats can attack your pets or fight them for territory, which can lead to disturbances.
Wandering stray cays can also transmit fleas, diseases or other pests to your pets. They can also bite or scratch small kids.
Keeping stray cats out of your yard does not have to be cruel or inhumane.
It simply means taking the right steps to ensure strays do not destroy your yard by making them feel like your yard isn’t the best place to stay in.