Tips for Living with Community Cats

Irving, along with virtually every other city, town and rural community in the country, is home to colonies of feral cats. These cats are fearful of people and live their lives outdoors, surviving in the same way wild animals do.

Although some residents may enjoy having the cats around, others may not. The following information may be helpful for those residents wanting to deter these cats from their properties.
Black feral cat with striking yellow eyes and tipped ear.

Cats (or other animals) are getting into my trash.


Explanation: The animals are looking for food. Exposed trash bags will attract scavengers, such as dogs, cats and wildlife.

Solutions:


  • Keep trash in a can or other container with a tight lid, and set out trash the morning of pickup. 
  • Check with neighbors to find out if they are feeding the cats. If they are, ensure they are feeding at a set time, during daylight hours, in an out-of-the-way place. Feeding cats regularly and in reasonable quantities, which can be eaten in less than 30 minutes, will help ensure the cats do not get so hungry they turn to the trash.

Cats are digging in my garden/flowerbeds.


Explanation: It is a cat’s natural instinct to dig and urinate/defecate in soft soil, moss, mulch or sand.

Solutions:


  • Scatter fresh orange and lemon peels or spray with citrus-scented fragrances. Coffee grounds, vinegar, pipe tobacco and essential oils of lavender, lemongrass, citronella and eucalyptus also deter cats.
  • Plant the herb rue to repel cats, or sprinkle dried rue over the garden.
  • Use plastic carpet runners, and place them spike-side up, then cover lightly in soil. They can be found at local hardware or office supply stores. Or, lay chicken wire firmly into the dirt with sharp edges rolled under.
  • Arrange branches in a lattice-type pattern or place lattice fencing material over soil. You can disguise these by planting flowers and seeds in the openings. You can also try embedding wooden chopsticks, pine cones, or sticks with dull points deep into the soil with the tops exposed 8 inches apart.
  • Place Cat Scat mats into the soil. Each mat has flexible plastic spikes that are harmless to cats and other animals, but discourage digging.
  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large, attractive river rocks to prevent cats from digging. They have the added benefit of deterring weeds.
Feral cat sits in high grass.

Cats are yowling, fighting, spraying, roaming and having kittens.


Explanation: These are all mating behaviors displayed by cats who have not been spayed or neutered.

Solutions:


  • Spaying or neutering and vaccinating the cats will stop these behaviors. After sterilization, hormones leave their system within three weeks and the behaviors usually stop entirely. Contact Irving Animal Services at (972) 721-2256 for more information on trapping and sterilization. 
  • To combat the urine smell, spray the area thoroughly with white vinegar or with products that use natural enzymes to combat the smell, which are available at pet supply stores.

Cats are lounging in my yard or on my porch.


Explanation: Cats are territorial and will remain close to their food source.

Solutions:


  • Apply cat repellent fragrances liberally around the edges of the yard, the tops of fences and on any favorite digging areas or plants.
  • Install an ultrasonic animal repellent or a motion-activated water sprinkler, such as CatStop or ScareCrow.

Cats are sleeping under my porch or in my shed.


Explanation: The cats are looking for dry, warm shelter away from the elements.

Solutions:


  • Physically block or seal the location the cats are entering with chicken wire or lattice once it is determined the cats are not inside. Search for kittens before confirming that the cats have left – especially during spring and summer months.
  • If the cats are part of a nearby managed colony, ask the caregiver to provide shelter for the cats. Placing them in secluded areas can help guide the cats away from unwanted areas.

Feeding the cats attracts insects and wildlife.


Explanation: Cats need to be fed under proper guidelines. Leaving food out can attract unwanted animals.

Solutions:


  • If the cats are part of a nearby managed colony, ask the caregiver to keep the feeding area neat and free of leftover food and trash.
  • Feed cats at the same designated time each day, during daylight hours. They should be given only enough food for them to finish in one sitting, and all remaining food should be removed after 30 minutes. If another person is feeding, ask them to follow these guidelines too. For a more thorough list of colony management guidelines, visit AlleyCat.org/ColonyCare.

There are cat paw prints on my car.


Explanation: Cats like to perch on high ground.


Solutions:


  • Purchase a car cover.
  • Use deterrents listed in the previous sections.