Or more precisely put…I’ve found a “tonic” or solution for keeping stray male cats at bay.  I hesitate to post this, lest I should jinx the fix, but I’ve given it a two-week trial and I think we’ve got a winner.

Some of you may have read about our sweet boy Toby’s demise on St. Patrick’s Day.  A stray, male cat had been visiting our patio doors on a nightly basis, leaving a smelly deposit of urine behind each time.  It became part of my morning routine to clean the window, screen, and tracks of the door every day before I’d even had my first cup of coffee.

Toby, and my daughter’s male cat, who were both neutered at appropriate ages, had sniffed around the door before, but I’d always been able to neutralize the odour before it became troublesome.  But one evening after dark, Toby (a sweet but easily-spooked cat to begin with) spied the stray tom while he was spraying the door and he completely freaked.  Even a night to himself in a quiet room didn’t settle him and he suffered a complete nervous collapse.  He became so aggressive that we finally had to make the painful decision to have him put to sleep.

The stray cat looked too well fed and in too good a condition to truly be a “stray”.  We believe he belongs to someone who lives close to our apartment building as we’ve seen him sauntering through parking lots, other people’s lawns, the pasture across the street, etc.  To be fair to the cat, he was just doing what male cats do…marking out what he believed was his territory.

In my opinion, if you can’t arrange to have your cat altered due to cost or whatever, then you shouldn’t have it.  Period.  It is extremely irresponsible for any cat owner to allow their pet — male or female — to wander free.  It isn’t fair to the cat, and it certainly isn’t acceptable to those who have to put up with them roaming and spraying their property.  There are no by-laws dealing with cats in our town, but there should be.  I’m a cat lover since childhood, but I’ll be the first one to admit that they can be just as destructive and just as much of a nuisance as a dog, perhaps more so in the garden.

After poor Toby had left us, the cat continued to pay a nightly visit, almost as if it were mocking us.  At least that’s what it felt like at the time.  I got suggestions from friends and did some research online.  We purchased a bottle of deterrent such as you see at pet stores — it had no effect whatsoever.  I tried cayenne pepper, black pepper, citrus oil, moth balls, etc.  Nothing had the slightest effect.

There are mats that will give off a slight, static shock and motion sensitive contraptions that spray water, but they were all over $100 and we didn’t feel like spending that much money keeping *someone else’s cat* off our deck.  If I were willing to spend that sort of money on it, I’d have taken it to have it neutered or euthanized.  I even toyed with the idea of caging it and driving it miles away to a big farm or something, but I didn’t have the heart for any of those solutions.  I nearly came to accept the idea that window cleaning was going to be part of my morning routine for the life of the stupid cat.

By chance, I read on some site that tin foil can be used to discourage a cat from spraying or scratching *inside* the house.  Hmm…might it work outside as well?  With nothing to lose, I joined two pieces of tin foil together to make a wide “mat” and slightly crinkled it to reflect more light (a photography trick!) and set it out on the deck in front of the door where he always sprayed.  I weighted it down with whatever was at my disposal at the time.  And……..we haven’t seen the cat since!  Apparently, they don’t like to walk on it, don’t like the reflections, and don’t like the noise it makes when a breeze makes it crinkle.  It’s been two weeks now, and I haven’t had to deal with cat pee once since I put it down.  If it works for me, and you have encountered a similar problem, it may work for you, too.

Most of all, be a responsible cat owner — have your kitties spayed or neutered!


Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

14 thoughts on “Cat-A-Tonic”

  1. So sorry to read about the loss of your pet. He does look sweet in the photo.
    I’m so glad you found a solution to your problem. The Net is amazing, isn’t it? And your solution seems to be really effective … and economical. Thanks for sharing.

    Thank you, Sunita. He was a sweetheart and we miss him very much. So far, so good with the foil. :)

  2. I’m sorry for the loss of your sweet Toby.

    Thanks, Nell Jean — we miss him terribly.

    Our Ike is one of those cats that somebody “toyed with the idea of … driving it miles away to a big farm or something,” only they actually brought cats out here. We took him in and had him spayed. Joann down the road took in what appeared to be his brother. To put it bluntly, farms are not animal shelters. Farmers get and pay for treatment for their animals just like everybody else and do not welcome strays and castoffs. Neutering, worming, shots and cat food are not inexpensive. We made an exception for Ike who did his best to show us what a cute fellow he was so we would take him in.

    I do realize farms are not animal shelters, having lived in a rural area all my life. No matter how annoyed I was with the cat, I could never have just dropped it off somewhere anyway…that just isn’t in me. The people that he ‘belongs to’? That’s entirely different. ;)

    I’m wondering if the cat stopped visiting because putting down aluminum foil occurred at the same time that he either got run over, got in a fight with a tougher tom or was otherwise dispatched by somebody else who was as tired of cat pee as you?

    No, the cat is still around and appears as hale and hearty as ever. And that was my other point — it’s unfair to the cat that his owners allow him to roam freely day and night, leaving him vulnerable to disease and accidents, as well as being unfair to those of us who have to put up with his nightly deposits.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. :)

  3. I’m so glad you found a way to deter the cat that wasn’t harmful. Every time I hear about cayenne pepper I cringe because I’ve heard that animals can get it in their eyes. But I must agree that the smell of male cat urine is just awful. As for the cost of having pets, I’m almost sure that our Sophie will be our last pet, much as I love pets. We’ve very rarely been without a pet and one of our cats lived to be 20. But the costs of vets is just far too much these days. It’s nothing now to spend over $1000 as we have recently.

    Yes, I sympathize with the cost of vet care — we spent just over $350 to have Toby euthanized and cremated, and that didn’t include a burial plot or anything like that. I hope your pet’s illness wasn’t serious.

  4. Nancy .. I had no idea about Toby .. I must have missed that post . I am so sorry you had to go through that . People who don’t have cats don’t know how extreme there personalities can get and what terribly sad problems we can have with them beyond a physical illness.
    I am a cat lover since childhood. My cats are indoor cats .. as all cats should be , point blank ! .. people can argue the point of letting them out until they are blue in the face and it does NOT wash with me EVER !
    I didn’t know you had this problem or I might have suggested this method too .. I have been using tin foil for some time to keep the girls off the living room sofa (which no body uses since we have a family room) ..
    Initially it worked .. and Sofie does stay off .. but Emma has learned to tap dance on it now . LOL .. but your situation is much different and I think it will keep working for you : )
    Again .. I’m so sorry about Toby and that sadness .. it breaks our hearts when we go through that.

    I can actually visualize Emma tap dancing on the foil…she’s such a character. :) A vet would agree with you that cats are better off inside, but I do know that there are cats who insist on being able to explore the great outdoors. Yes, it was a very difficult week, our decision made all the worse because Toby was such a healthy, robust boy. :(

  5. Oh, dear. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, Nancy. I, too, missed the news – didn’t realize you were going through such pain. Toby was one of my adopted web kitties you know so I’ll have a little ceremony for him today. The foil trick sounds kinda dandy. I hope I never have to try it, and when I do I hope I remember it! Take care, dear.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Debi — what a happy thing to have an online friend “adopt” one’s kitty. :)

  6. Sorry to hear about your cat, Nancy. I am going to try the foil trick on my cellar windows. Not only is it unsettling to go downstairs to find a cat staring in, but the males usually spray the windows, and the odor seeps into the cellar.

    I hope it works as well for you, Sandy!

  7. Unfortunately, male cats that are neutered will sometimes continue to spray. We know from experience. We have all our cats spayed or neutered and of the six males we have, three of them still spray. If only neutering would eliminate this, but statistics say that approximately 13% of male cats continue to spray after neutering. We can personally attest to that. :-( Some females will spray as well.

    I feel your pain, Nancy.

    Thanks, Kylee…I know you’re a cat lover too. Yes, I knew of those statistics, only because I’d read so much online at the time Toby left us. I guess, looking at the “glass half full”, for every 13% that continue to spray, 87% don’t. :) My strong feelings about spaying and neutering are not so much that it deters spraying, but it usually makes a cat less likely to roam, mark its territory, especially when females are in heat, and of course, less likely to create another litter of unwanted kitties. I just think it’s the responsible thing to do, especially with “outdoor” cats.

  8. Hi Nancy, We were also told about the tinfoil method and put it in our baby’s bassinet before his arrival to condition our two cats not to jump in there and make it theirs. It worked! Cool stuff, that tinfoil…! :-)

    I’m glad it worked so well for you, too. :)

  9. The foil tip I will test also. Once in a while the cats start coming for visits around here. It is usually only in the spring and fall when it is pleasant and you do not want the smell of urine destroying the ambiance.

    I hope it works as well for you as it has for us, Donna. :)

  10. I’m in complete agreement with you. I read somewhere that you can put plastic mats down that have little “pointed rug grabbers on the bottom” Put them upside down and the cats won’t walk on them if the tin foil doesn’t work. I hope things are getting better for you since losing your precious pet. It’s one of life’s hardest things. They are family.
    Have a nice Mother’s Day.

    Thanks for the tip about the mat, Balisha — hopefully, Mr. Tom has found another place to leave his calling card. So far, so good. :) Happy Mother’s Day to you, too. ♥

  11. I found a solution to a similar problem–We tied a note around the animal’s neck–turns out the owners were not even aware of the problem. We didn’t exactly make new friends, but we all felt better and the animal was spared.
    Maybe you could send him along with a note–leaving room for other neighbors to add comments…. if the note makes it back to the owners, you may never see the cat again.
    Then again, you might get a note back next night with nasty comments…who knows.

    Hi Luellyn — that’s a great thought, but I’m not sure we could ever get close enough to him to tie it on. On the rare occasion that we actually see him, he’s usually sauntering through another part of the property. He pays his visits well after dark. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

  12. Amen on spaying or neutering. I completely agree with you. Very frustrating. I’m glad you found something that works. My neighbors let their cats hunt in my garden even tho we have a leash law here. Argggg.
    I remember the loss of your beautiful Toby ~ so sad.

    Thanks for the commiseration, Kathleen. It’s getting a bit tiresome to have to step over the foil every time we go out, but it’s better than cleaning up pee! ;)

  13. Hi Nancy, just let me move some of this tinfoil out of the way [crinkle, crinkle, crunch] so I can clear a space on the sofa to sit down, and leave you a comment. We are living in the midst of kitty chaos, and have tin foil on practically everything.

    Bootsie scratches the carpet, the sofa, the chairs, everything except the scratching post that we got him. It’s probably the only thing that is still whole.

    So sorry to hear about your beloved cat. That is too sad.

    The other cat is only doing what it does naturally. Sad to say.

    A water hose, with the water always on, not running, works very well also. Spray him, he won’t forget after the first few times that you are not receptive to his leaving calling cards.

    Now if anyone has any ideas on how to get Bootsie to stop scratching everything in my place…


    Great suggestions, Jen — and trust me, if I had access to a hose, I’d dose him if I ever saw him! But, living in an apt as we do, there are no outside taps on our side of the building and the thing is, he used to make his rounds in the middle of the night, under the veil of darkness. Muah-ah-ah! :-) I have no suggestions regarding the scratching of furniture and such…when Toby was a tiny kitten, we used a rolled up flyer to swat his behind when he’d start to scratch, and he never did form the habit. He DID dig at the carpet terribly though, but fortunately, in this new apt, the floors are laminate. We’ve had several scratching posts and Toby never used one of them. They sure are persnickety creatures!

  14. I’m so sorry about Toby. Made me mad!! But I too had a cat called Kara–when we first got married. I loved that cat and discovered I was extremely allergic to them—but put up with it cause I loved her so much. She went a bit haywire when I got pregnant so I had to put her to sleep. I will never ever forget the feeling–so I am so sorry for you. Big hugs.

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