Moving House with Your Cat-The Settling in Period

Q: I just moved to a house that was vacant for over a year and a few neighborhood cats think it's their territory. One of them is much bigger than my cat and has attacked my cat three times now even though my cat ran under the house to get away. Is there anything I can do to signal to these cats that this is not okay territory for them to be in anymore? When I am here I yell and spray the hose but most of the time I'm not here. I've had to keep my cat indoors whenever I leave and this is not a good permanent solution. My cat is female and she is neutered. I believe that the other cats are non neutered males

A: It's a difficult question I am afraid and one that is asked a lot. Whenever a new cat enters an area there is disruption and usually plenty of fights until everyone found their place. Your situation seems more difficult if these other cats consider your house to belong to them.

The first thing to say is that given time things should improve, and one option is no action at all, wait until everything settles down naturally. It will help if you are making it clear to these cats that you don't want them there. Water spraying and noise is a good plan to deter them. There are also a whole selection of other deterrents available, none of which I have had any experience of I am afraid, but maybe worth a try, a lot of them seem to be electrical, upsetting intruders in various ways -if you can find one with a short range that you can use around your house (without affecting your cat, or the ones next door) then that could help move them on, or at least put them off trying to occupy your land.

Do you have a cat flap? They can work well to provide your cat with access to the safe haven of home and magnetic collars can give them their own key so noone else can come in. It doesn't solve your problem but it will make sure that whilst things are settling down your cat will have an escape route.

Do you think the cats are feral? If this is the case then you may be able to get a local animal charity or animal warden to remove them (depending on where you are). There are a lot of programs of stray animal capture, health checking and neutering which you may be able to point in the direction of your neighbourhood.

I should point out the health risks to your cat, bites can result in abscesses, and so any wounds should be treated by your vet. It is also essential to make sure she is fully vaccinated so that she is not put at greater risk from viral infections (especially if they are stray). Feliway, is a pheromone mimicker which will help to relax your cat during this stressful time, do not under-estimate stress, we know that in cats it can be responsible for many health issues.

I suppose another option is to resign yourself to having a house cat, they can be just as happy, don't feel guilty in the short term, she is probably really glad that you have closed the door safely behind her.

Dr David Brooks

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