Felis catus

House cats are a major problem throughout the U.S. Even before they became the country's most popular pets, domesticated cats have been pillaging and ravaging our wildlife resources for many years. Estimates are that house cats kill and injure millions upon millions of wildlife every year. They are also implicated in being partially responsible for the decline in song bird populations. If you think that your cat is an effective mouser click here (mouse control) to see why he isn't.

Feral Cats

Feral Cats, which is just another way of calling regular house cats that are let outside, kill a surprising number of animals.  Okay, so that statement is isn't entirely accurate. I received an e-mail that criticized me for the aforementioned definition. Here is hers, "They are cats that are not socialized to humans. They are either abandoned cats that have grown to fear humans (semi-feral), or the offspring of abandoned domestic cats, who have a natural fear of people (feral)." True enough and I want to thank her for the constructive if not gracious criticism. But I do want to emphasize that with cats every cat is owned until something bad happens and then the cat is called a stray. While this is an over simplication, I have seen it happen. "Owners" deny ownership of the feline when they think there is trouble and then claim ownership when they want to stop someone from controlling the cats.



Four legged mammal that weighs 8-15pds.



Throughout the U.S. wherever humans can be found.






Harm to People

Don't think that your neighborhood cat doesn't pose a potential risk to you. Besides typical diseases like Cat Scratch fever, the cat may carry rabies. Since the rabies epidemic hit Massachusetts in the early 90's, to the present, 2002, a total of 93 cats. Permit me to quote the MDFW press release of April 4, 2002

Keeping vaccinations current on pet dogs and cats is also crucial to prevention. Pets can act as a bridge between a rabid wild animal and a person, acquiring the virus through a bite and then bringing the virus into the household. Cats should be vaccinated and kept indoors as 93 have tested positive for rabies. By comparison only 4 dogs have been documented with rabies during the same time period. If an animal inflicts a bite or scratch, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and call a physician. Capture the suspected animal without further contact and call your local Board of Health and Animal Control Officer for details on testing protocol. Use caution with a pet you suspect may have been in a fight with a wild animal. Handle with gloves and contact a veterinarian. Bat proof your home by repairing screens, vents and other areas where bats may gain access. If you find a bat in the house and suspect you or a family member may have been bitten or scratched, capture the animal in a large coffee can and call your doctor and local public health officials.
For more information, contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 617.983.6800.


House Damage

Landscape Damage

Cats can be a substantial problem for gardeners and those who love wildlife. Cats and dogs are tough. For some reason the public doesn't believe in leash laws on cats and refuses to enforce the law on dogs. I would suggest a fence for your lawn/garden that is too high for them to jump. I would go up at least five feet. Make it wobbly so they won't want to climb it. You can also try a scare crow water sprinkler. It works by shooting out water when the motion detector is triggered. Since it is a stray, it may be used to water though. Also this technique won't work during the winter if your part of the country experiences freezing temperatures. Otherwise, you will need to remove it or tie your own dog nearby. There is a new product called "Scat Mat". It shocks the animal that stands on the pad. Problem is that you would need a lot of pads. To buy it see below

Don't bother with plants that allegedly repel animals. There aren't any that would be fool proof because all a free roaming mammal has to do is walk past it up wind.. But if you insist on using some here are a few to try. (WARNING some of these repellents may be dangerous to the user and may require a pesticide permit to use) Repellents to repel cats include allyl isothiocyanate (oil of mustard), amyl acetate, anethole, capsaicin, cinnemaldehyde, citral, citronella, citrus oil, eucalyptus oil, geranium oil, lavender oil, lemongrass oil, menthol, methyl nonyl ketone, methyl salicylate, naphthalene, nicotine, paradichlorobenzene and thymol. Oil of mustard, cinnemaldehyde and methyl nonyl ketone have worked in some instances.
Don't bother with ultrasonic devices either. There is no evidence that I am aware of that they work. Also ultrasound is a weak frequency. It dissipates very quickly even if it was annoying to animals assuming they could hear it. She makes part of the garden for them. It may be an option for you. Otherwise, unless you are willing to trap them and possibly suffer legal consequences, there isn't a lot you can do other than fortify your property. There is no magic in this business.

Of couse, in the final analysis, trapping may be an option depending on the laws in your state.


Cats can carry rabies, cat scratch fever, fleas and ticks. Feral cats are a significant danger in spreading rabies to humans because, while children may avoid wild animals, cats are seen as safe to pet. Rabid cats have been found in Springfield, MA and Niagara county,NY 6/14/00.

Cats can also suffer from embolisms in the brain which causes them to go crazy. Kirk LaPierre says he has several of these cases each year confirmed by necropsy. Dave Purwin of Desert Willdife Services Inc. in Tucson, AZ says, "Yes. I get three or so Mad Cat "Rodeo" calls/year. It never fails to be a 15-20lb cat with intact claws and teeth. It's amazing what such mad cats can do - run straight up walls, hang off ceiling lights, bite through Kevlar-lined gloves, etc....Always an adventure!"



I get various requests for methods to keep cats out of gardens, property etc. I am always looking for new ones but here are some that you may want to consider.The best solution is to push for laws that require leashes on all cats.

Barrier Methods

Fence your garden and or property. You can reduce the climbing of the cats by angling the fence outward away from the garden like this / away from the gardenI would estimate that the fence would need to be wobbly and at least 5 feet high at the peak.

Repellent Methods

Non-Chemical Repellent Systems

Trapping Methods

Trapping: remember cats are considered private property in most states. So if you trap and remove someone's cat you can be held liable for property damages not to mention being called a cat murderer. If you want to learn how to catch cats, get my book, the Wildlife Removal Handbook. It has a chapter on trapping cats. Feral Cat Kit

Special Situations


Techniques that probably won't work


house cat on roofCan you guess how this house cat got up on this roof?

Here is some more information. The cat is on the roof of a two floor house. It is also cold outside and it sleeted recently. (photo by Stephen Vantassel)

If you guessed, "Someone put him there". You are wrong.

If you guessed, "He climbed out of a window". You are wrong.

If you guessed, "He climbed the telephone pole and crossed on the power line". You are wrong.


house cat feral catThe answer is

The cat climbed this monkey tail tree (on the opposite corner of the house) and climbed onto the roof from the branch. The cat was on the roof for at least one night. (photo by Stephen Vantassel)

The moral of this story is that house cats can find themselves in some very unusual situations.



According to USA Today article in Today's Debate "Invasive Species" August 30, 1999 p.14 A. Feral cats cost the US. approximately 14 billion dollars worth of damage a year. 


Other House Cat Control Equipment

Cat Grasper

Cat Grasper 38" Length

Don't grab small animals like Opossums and House Cats with your hands. Use the Cat Grasper instead.

Order On-Line

Bibliography on Cats



baits  for cats                                   house cat books                            feral cat trap kit







Disclaimer: WDC seeks to provide accurate, effective and responsible information on resolving human/wildlife conflicts. We welcome suggestions, criticisms to help us achieve this goal. The information provided is for informational purposes only and users of the information use it at their own risk. The reader must consult state/federal officials to determine the legality of any technique in the reader's locale. Some techniques are dangerous to the user and to others. WDC encourages readers to obtain appropriate training (see our informational literature at our Store ), and understand that proper animal damage control involves patience, understanding that not every technique/method works for every situation or even 100% of the time. Your use of this information is governed by this understanding. We welcome potential users of the information and photos to simply ask for permission via e-mail. Finally, WDC welcomes e-mail but understand that all e-mails become property of Wildlife Damage Control.