Paws Off: Keeping Stray Cats Away Naturally

Feline love is in the air in the big city, and I woke up one morning recently horrified to find a to a particularly, er, romantic fragrance adorning my home. An enterprising young tomcat with a good eye for up-and-coming L.A. neighborhoods claimed my apartment for himself and some lucky lady, and announced it by marking my balcony.

While I can appreciate friends’ pet cats and find them to be beautiful creatures, the primary thing I can’t stand about cats that keeps me from having one of my own for a pet is the smell of their urine. As an already sensitive sniffer, that pungent and sickly sweet aroma of cat pee drives me insane I think more than most. But spring and the season of life is upon us, and the stray cats sharing their aromas all around town (not to mention their sexy midnight serenades, but that is a post for another sleepless night) had found their way to my front door.

I wanted to rid myself of this cat and his signature stink, but it was important to me not to harm him or any other local critters (though, admittedly, creepy possums really push my capacity for compassion). Armed with a few non-toxic solutions, I set to work.

Right away, I’d lose round one. I scrubbed the wall and patio with OxyClean and water, and sprinkled essential oils around to repel him: orange, eucalyptus, and peppermint. I felt silly, like an amatuer witch sprinkling potions around to keep monsters away. He must have felt my lack of confidence in these methods, because it didn’t discourage our furry Lothario at all.

He returned undeterred and left love another noxious love note almost immediately. Rather than wading through the glut of useless  info on Google again, I asked around if any friends had a similar experience and could share what actually worked.

Here’s what actually worked.

 Harsh Oxy Clean isn’t very green and didn’t have any additional oomph to aid this specific task. This time, I used a few pumps of Mrs. Meyers orange clove hand soap to scrub up my balcony. It’s cruelty-free, biodegradable, and 98% naturally derrived, according to its packaging. The natural citrus scent wards cats off, and, mixed with a tea kettle of boiling hot water, did a great job removing the smell as well.

Next, I used a few dabs of   lemon and orange essential oils again, this time on an old rag, which I swiped around on my patio furniture legs: it gave them a soft shine and smelled nice, but apparently not to kitties.

Finally, I took a plastic dog food container, poked holes allover the lid with a meat fork, and filled it with about a week’s worth of used coffee grounds and poured a bit of ground black pepper on top, both proven cat repellents, and secured the lid. I wanted to smell to get out but  keep curious creatures from getting in and taking a potentially fatal taste. Tucked away at the top of the stairs leading to my balcony, I’d like to think that the dog food container reminds my vexing vistor “Hey, a dog lives here, beware!”, but since my fluffy pup isn’t too scary, I think it’s the strong, spicy potpurri that really sells the message of unwelcome. It’s been about two months and so far so good.

Have labidinous felines ever staked out your hood for hook-ups? What natural remedies have you found to keep stray cats away?   — Casandra Armour

The ASPCA endorses Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies. Click here for background on TNR, online and print resources, and what you can do to get involved in your community.

Image credit: lukich / 123RF Stock Photo

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