Neighborhood cats can be found in many areas of Washoe County. You’ve probably seen some roaming near your home, business, or grocery store. They are not to be confused with stray cats, who are owned cats that have become lost. Rather, neighborhood cats are typically part of a colony, and not as socialized as domesticated cats. 

Neighborhood cats are a natural part of their environment, thrive off of their surroundings, and even help by controlling pests like mice or rats. If you do find them eliminating or digging in undesirable areas, there are ways to manage these behaviours.

We’ve answered some of your frequently asked questions about neighborhood cats below to help you manage them humanely.

How can I keep neighborhood cats away? 

Put items that deter cats around the area, like fresh orange or lemon peels, Angry Orange, and cinnamon. Apply these around the edges of your yard, the tops of fences, and on any favorite digging areas or plants. Wet, used coffee grounds—which you may be able to get for free from coffee houses or fast food chains—and metal pans filled with vinegar also deter cats.

Should I feed the cats?  

You can continue feeding them up until you plan on trapping and taking them to be fixed. Stopping feeding will just encourage them to come closer and get more creative for food so don’t stop until you’re ready to trap. Even if you were to fully stop feeding them, they most likely wouldn’t move from an area they are familiar with.

How should I feed the cats?

To avoid attracting pests or food spoiling, only give them enough food that they can eat within a half hour, and be sure to pick up any leftovers. Have a routine feeding time so you can remember to pick up the food, preferably after sundown when flies are not out as much.

Can I keep the cats further away from my house? 

Yes. Shift the cats’ feeding area to a less central location where you don’t mind if they hang out. If you move the feeding location further away and provide designated places for them to spend time, like a feeding station or a shelter, they’re less likely to wander far. Feeding stations are pictured in this resource from Alley Cat Allies. You can also find tips for building shelters on this ASPCA Pro page.

Should I give them litter boxes?

You can put covered litter boxes out and they will likely use them instead of your garden or other undesirable areas. Another option is placing sand or peat moss on the ground to draw them to go in those spots.

How can I keep the cats from eliminating and digging in certain areas? 

Get a Cat Scat Mat, a nonchemical cat deterrent consisting of plastic mats that are cut into smaller pieces and pressed into the soil. Each mat has flexible plastic spikes that are harmless to cats and other animals and discourages them from digging and/or using your landscaping as a litter box. This is shown in this resource from Alley Cat Allies.

What options are there besides the cat scat mat? 

You can use plastic carpet runners, spike-side up, covered lightly in soil. These can be found at hardware or office supply stores. You can also set chicken wire firmly into the dirt (roll sharp edges under), arrange branches or sticks in a lattice pattern, or put wooden or plastic fencing over soil. 

Another option is to install an ultrasonic deterrent or a motion-activated sprinkler. You can find humane deterrent products at garden supply stores or on Amazon.

Will fixing the male cats eliminate the tom cat urine smell?

It will not completely eliminate the odor, but it  will lessen the strength. If you neuter the males, their marking will not smell as strong. In the meantime, they can be discouraged from marking your area with the aforementioned deterrents.

How can I control the stray cat population around my home?

Get everyone fixed though a Trap, Neuter, Return program so they can no longer reproduce. Once the males are neutered, their marking won’t smell as strong and deterrents will discourage them from coming around. Spaying the females stops the colony’s population from growing, so they will be self-limiting.

I’ve taken care of the colony, how do I clean up? 

Once you have moved the colony away from the house and every cat is fixed, a deep cleaning with baking soda, a hose, or even a good rain will do wonders for the scents outside.

Written by Ana Hurt

About Trap, Neuter, Return Programs

Learn more about Trap, Neuter, Return and the effectiveness of this method here.

If yes, click on the button below!

Learn more!

Alley Cat Allies

Read more about neighborhood cats and Trap, Neuter, Return from Alley Cat Allies.

Go to page.