Pushing the Feline Envelope

There will be some people who have serious disagreements with this post.  But I’ve kind of reached a bit of saturation on the subject and feel the need say something. If you can come up with a better solution, I’m sure many would be interested.

In this small city, in this residential neighborhood, we live on a street filled with diversity. There are people from all walks of life, different races, different nationalities, different ages, some with disabilities, employed and unemployed. One thing the majority of us appear to have in common is that we are pet owners. For the most part (aside from the occasional inconsiderate), people leash, confine and pick up after their dogs, save for an infrequent escapee. This is not the case regarding some of the cat owners, and honestly, there needs to be some brainstorming and a solution to this problem. Because it is a problem.

Of the cats that are not feral, most of them are indoor pets (again, with the sporadic escapee). However, there are a few owners who don’t seem to understand that are pushing the feline envelope, with multiple cats which they indiscriminately allow to run freely throughout the area. Aside from leaving them at risk to be run over by cars, getting into fights with other cats, attacked by dogs, raccoons, fox, coyotes or fisher cats, a few months back one of these neighbors experienced the horrifying situation of having six of their ten (or maybe it was eleven) outdoor cats suddenly dying within a very short period of time, and without explanation.  They were convinced that the cats were being poisoned and contacted the police and whoever else was necessary to make that determination.

When it happened, we pet owners, both of dogs and cats, went into panic mode. Who would do such a terrible thing? We started to look at everyone with suspicion, imagining some evil person sitting in their basement mixing up toxic chemicals and rubbing their hands together with demented delight. We scoured the sidewalks and our yards looking for dangerous material. Was somebody spreading poison all over the neighborhood? Was it a deliberate act or was it actually an accidental something inside their very own home that caused this?

There is some background that possibly lends to this situation. The people who were losing their pet cats let them roam freely outside. They all seemed to be healthy, well-cared for and loved, and supposedly had regular vet checkups and neutering, which seems contradictory to compromising their well-being by letting them out. I don’t know how far the prowling territory for these cats reached, but I did a little research and was surprised to discover that the home range of a domestic house cat who goes outside is actually almost five acres! That covers a significant amount of area, especially in a tightly packed neighborhood. Domestic cats also tend to lurk within about 980 feet of a building when they are out there cruising their range.

I was familiar with most of them, as they were a regular fixture (and nuisances, yes) around our house and yard. No doubt they were also visiting other people’s property, considering a five acre range could take them blocks away, making it likely they were doing the same thing they were doing on ours. Spraying all over and beneath our porches. Sharpening their claws on the outdoor furniture. Using our gardens as one giant litter box, including around the entire perimeter of the house. Killing the birds that came to the feeder with regularity. Leaving bunny ears and dead baby chipmunks on the stairs. Getting into fights and stand-offs in the back yard. One of them even rushing out from the bushes to attack our very small dog – while I was walking him on a leash!

Even though the cat situation was aggravating, I did actually have a few favorites out of the pack that would come around.  Some of them were friendly, some were beautiful – I used to photograph the one I liked best, who was engaging and often tried to sneak into our house when I opened the door. Looking at this face, I have to wonder why anyone would not realize it was endangering him, or any of them, to roam the streets, and it saddens me that he was one of the first ones that died.


This sweet guy was my very favorite

Although I didn’t encourage them and I wasn’t happy about the lack of response from their owners after mentioning it (“Um, hi, you know your cats have been using our yard as a litter box…”. “Um hello, did you know your cats are living on our porch?” ) in order to avert them we gave up planting flowers and put down slabs of stone around the house over the now former flower beds in the areas they liked to defecate. We periodically sprayed down the porch and furniture with lemon scent in hopes they wouldn’t like the smell, and would aim the garden hose or plant mister with dish soap at them if we happened to be standing outside when they came by. I will say that these methods did not discourage them at all, as they would look at us with impunity and often return in less than an hour. I used to think to myself that they were lucky we liked animals.

So it is highly possible that they infringed on the property of someone who doesn’t like animals, or someone who was eventually just pushed over the edge by their intrusions and finally had enough. I can easily see that happening. There are children who play in their own backyards. There are people who enjoy digging in their gardens. There are neighbors who like to sit outside on their decks and porches. There are people who have businesses around here, including a bed and breakfast. I imagine multiple cats using their property as a toilet would be construed as a major negative. It’s a health risk, among other issues. Who wants that in their child’s sandbox? What pregnant woman working in her garden wants to risk toxoplasmosis? Who wants to sit on their own patio and smell cat urine?

So the cats mysteriously started dying. Not disappearing, but actually found sick or dead in their own yard or house. It was baffling. The tests run by the local ASPCA were inconclusive. At first it was thought that they had gotten into some kind of garden pest poison, but last I heard that was not the case. I have no idea what they keep in their home or if anything like that might have played a part in it or not. There was a large container of antifreeze on their porch at the time but they said it was not the cause. After the loss of so many cats so suddenly, they decided that it might be safer to keep their remaining cats inside. A good idea.

Although I was sad knowing my “favorites” had met such a sad end, I have to admit that the absence of so many cats has actually been rather nice. Of course we are still plagued by the woman across the street who feeds the feral ones, of which she has attracted many (and, come to think of it, they seem to have not fallen victim to the supposed poisoning). Her house and property reek of urine and excrement, and when the west wind blows, the immediate area is bombarded by the stench. Almost everyone in a three street vicinity hates it and complains to each other about it. She has been spoken to and someone from the city even came out to investigate, and yet nothing has been resolved with that, which is a whole other story. Anyway, there was no more peeing on our porch. No more cat crap in the garden. No more bird massacre.

Things have quieted down.  Aside from the ferals, we haven’t seen any of their cats. They started replacing them with a number of new ones. I think maybe they are even back up to ten again. It seems that over the last couple of weeks maybe one or two cats are appearing outside again. The other day one of them left this in the driveway, which is actually what has prompted my lengthy post:


Thanks neighbor

I don’t know if it is disrespect or cluelessness that causes people to be so disregarding of their neighbors regarding loose pets. This goes for unleashed dogs as well as outdoor cats. Given they are animal lovers and are fairly friendly, I am going to go with the hopeful assumption they just didn’t understand the scope of the problem.

My thoughts on all of this: If you live in a rural area, having barn cats is a whole other topic. But anyone who owns a cat in a city or a busy suburb municipality should be required to license their cat the same way dogs are required to be, with micro-chipping and proof of vaccination provided at the time of licensing. They should not be allowed to roam free. If you want your cat to experience the outdoors, install an enclosed cat-patio (a “catio”) or take your cat out in a harness and leash.

Animal control should be called for cats running loose the same way as for dogs. The cat can be identified by microchip and the owner contacted. No chip – to the pound. If the owner repeatedly lets their cats out, they should be fined, each incident fined more heavily. Repeat offenders – massive fine. If you can’t keep your cat from roaming the neighborhood you shouldn’t have a cat. Feral cats need to be trapped, vaccinated and neutered, but in cities and more heavily populated areas not re-released. In this case, the younger or more docile ones would be made available for adoption at pet stores or humane societies. Feral cats that are sick or dangerous would be euthanized.

End of story.

I imagine this might not be a popular sentiment with some cat lovers, but it is a responsible one.







This entry was posted in Animal Stories, Are you kidding me?, Birds, Rant, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Pushing the Feline Envelope

  1. I ADORE cats….but totally agree with you. It’s irresponsible to let your pet cat run free. I had a co-worker who was always having her cats killed on the road…but she’d replace them with more cats that would suffer the exact same fate. And neighbors should not have to suffer the effects of someone’s cats.


  2. Andrea Shlasko says:

    Cat lover here – I can’t disagree with anything you wrote. A cat owner who lets their cats out free is not a good owner, if only because they are endangering their pets. The owners are irresponsible, bad humans, and bad neighbors.


  3. KILLmenow86 says:

    Cat lover here. That owner is a bad person, a bad neighbor and a bad pet-parent. Domestic cats should not be roaming the neighborhood – they are a danger to small critters and they are in danger as well.

    I lived in an apartment building on the top (6th) floor in NYC – the woman across the hall would let her cats loose and she would leave the roof door ajar so they could go up to play. I would climb up and close that door all the time – and it really pissed her off. I didn’t feel safe having that door open but that didn’t seem to bother her.


  4. Judy Shlasko says:

    As a cat lover of indoor cats (let out in yard supervised), I completely agree. Cats are decimating bird populations, use people’s yards as litter boxes, spread disease, etc. I have very responsible neighbors in every respect that do not get it. Let’s not even get into the cats themselves: short life span, illnesses, death by auto, etc. Sounds to me that someone was fed up with those cats and poisoned them. As usual, the animals suffer becasue of human ignorance, negligence, and ego.


  5. Growing up, my grandmother always owned cats and she would let them go outside during the day via the porch, letting them in and out as they wished. I was so young, I never questioned this, and I certainly didn’t know that a housecat’s domain ranges over 5 acres; that’s insane! We had a backyard with a garden and a sandbox and had no problems with cats, so never considered. However, as I got older, the world truly seemed to be plunging around me. Even though we lived in a Mayberry-style rural neighbourhood, as I hit my twenties, cases of animal abuse became more frequent and we decided to keep our cats exclusively indoors. We love our furbabies and want them to be safe, from people as well as from animals like garter snakes.

    Personally, I loved the strays that would come around our yard. My grandmother and I would befriend and feed them. Many of them were quite affectionate, though some may not have been feral because we never bothered with collars back then, so it would be difficult to tell. I understand now the stresses that can come with having feline visitors, but completely frown upon the idea of poisoning an animal just to be rid of the problem or annoyance. It’s bad enough to do that to wild animals, but to an animal that has a high chance of having been loved and/or cherished is absolutely selfish.

    But that is a sign of the times, in my opinion. Selfishness. This is the age of the selfie, the age with the undercurrent of narcissism and self-motivation. So it truly is better to keep our furbabies indoors. I wouldn’t even trust to leave my dog in a fenced-in backyard by himself. I hear too many horror stories of dogs being thrown poisoned meat over the fence because a neighbour doesn’t like the barking, or of dogs being taken from their yards and sold or tortured in a neighbour’s basement. It can happen so quickly.

    Oh, but I have to laugh good-naturedly at the idea of leashing and harnessing a cat. I actually tried that with one of my cats, and it was a MASSIVE fail. My cat kept trying to scurry under every bush he could and would hang on to the underbrush for dear life when I tried to retrieve him. Far better and less aggravating to create a cat-run, I think.


    • daeja's view says:

      Perhaps we are colored by nostalgia, but it does seem that “back in the old days” things were a lot simpler, especially in a Mayberry style rural neighborhood. As a child, I remember finding a feral cat population in an abandoned shed and leaving food for them. My favorite was a little black kitten I called “Spitfire”, who would not let me touch him but would come and take a piece of bologna off the end of an outreached stick! When I lived in rural areas it was not as bad, although many ferals suffer living in the country too. We used to let our dogs run free in the country, although I would never do that now. But living in close proximity to others and letting cats (or dogs) roam free is bad news. The bird massacre alone is disheartening, let alone the smell. And people can be terribly cruel. The whole thing is disheartening.


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