Even if you're an animal lover, having all the neighborhood strays party in your front porch gets old very quickly. Suddenly, your garden becomes a giant litter box and your screen doors don't stand a chance. Thankfully, there are ways to send the party somewhere else.
Figure out why your house is attracting the cats in the first place. If you're leaving food outside, they might be coming for that. Feeding the birds? That's another food source for the strays. They also could be gathering because you have good hiding places, comfortable outdoor furniture to sleep on or a great garden to use as a litter box.
Eliminate those inviting features. You don't have to resign yourself to living without outdoor furniture, but put it away for a while or cover it with plastic until the strays have moved on. Cover the garden or walkways with prickly mulch or beechnuts, which are uncomfortable for cats to step on.
Buy a cat deterrent spray -- sold at pet stores and supermarkets-- or an enzyme-based urine odor remover to clean up the area the cats have been spraying. If you have males spraying to mark the territory, other males will come around to urinate on top of that to leave their mark. It's a never-ending cycle. By eliminating urine scent, you eliminate the urge to spray. To know where to spray, walk around the house and look for areas with a strong urine smell. Clean that area and then spray right there. Males are likely to spray against walls and other vertical surfaces, so check those first. Depending on the brand and the type of product, you might need to spray every other day.
Turn the sprinklers on at random times. Sure, it's a little cruel and the cats won't be happy, but the water won't harm the cats, and they might decide to move on rather than getting wet. You also can use a squirt gun and spray the cats with water when you see them. Don't aim for the face, which can hurt. Just get them a bit wet and they'll get the message.
Add plants such as Coleus canina or citronella to your garden, preferably in containers around the areas you want cats to avoid. Cats dislike the scent of these plants and will move away from them. On the other hand, avoid planting catnip, valerian or lemongrass, as these are cat magnets.
- Many cities have a catch-and-release program to help neuter and spay stray cats. If your city doesn't have one, consider doing it yourself. Although it won't get rid of the strays already around, it will prevent the population from expanding.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.