Barking at cats

Posted by Boots
Jul 25, 2010
I need some help! I have 4 dogs - Mabel (maltese/Shitzu), Bailey (Cairn), Rufus (Boston/Cain), and Steve (Shepard/Husky). My neighbor has a number of cats (she admits to having 13 inside her house, but also feeds and "collects" feral cats (about 20 of them) which hang around her home as well as ours). These cats will come in our yard while the dogs are inside and use our yard as their bathroom, this causes my dogs to dig where the cats have been. In addition (and more importantly) these cats will sit outside the fence, on the fence, in the tree, anywhere they can and tease my dogs. This causes my dogs to bark constantly at the cats. When they are barking I can not get them to quiet down. When I go outside to quiet them down, they run off from me making it impossible for me to grab their snouts and say "shhhh". I am unable to scare the cats off as even if I spray them with the hose the just sit there. In addition, I am disabled and do not move quickly enough to chase the cats off. We have tried bark collars but this does not seem to deter the dogs. The only other times the dogs bark are when people walk their dogs down the alley behind the house (one man in particular likes to stop with his dog and give it a treat right behind my house causing my dogs to go nuts!, and yes we have asked this man to please walk down the street a few feet over and he refuses), and when the train goes by and blows the horn my dogs will howl along with it.
Please help! I need my dogs to stop barking at these cats!!
Oh, and I live in a very small town, so there is no animal control, and the police can not do anything about the feral cats because they do not have an owner (I think they just don't want to deal with it).
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!
Posted by kjd
Jul 28, 2010
Sounds as if you are dealing with an animal hoarder in your neighbor. I'm willing to bet there are more than 13 cats in her house!

These feral cats are more than a nuisance. They are a health hazard. Can you talk with your own doctor about the danger to your health? And to your dogs' vet about the danger to theirs? There should be some kind of health authority -- who examines eating places to make sure they aren't health hazards?

I realize you just want the barking to stop, Casey. However, if your dogs were perfect angels, who never opened their mouths at the cats, those animals are still a danger to you and yours. If the town has no authorities, what about the county or the state?

Also, I think the feral cats do have an owner. At least, in some jurisdictions, if you feed them (take care of them), they are yours. Your neighbor may say they aren't hers, but she treats them as if they are.

Please see if you can solve this as a health issue -- not a nuisance.

Use the Internet to find someone who can do something!

Posted by Boots
Jul 28, 2010
Thank you for your thoughts. And you are correct in thinking there is probably a health concern, on hot days the smell of cat urine wafts down the block to my house! Unfortunately we have spoken with everyone we can to try to solve this, our neighbors have as well. In addition, I purchased my home from one of the police officers in town and he did what he could as well. The authorities around here do not want to get involved in anything (For instance, there is a woman in my town who has threatened to harm many people and the police just tell everyone "she is crazy, avoid her") So I know that there is nothing I can do about getting the cats out of my neighborhood. We do plan to move out of state next summer, but would like some way to deal with the barking until then. Thanks again for your thoughts!
Posted by kjd
Jul 28, 2010

I wish I could help, and it stinks you have to move out of state to get relief, but expecting your dogs to be silent under such extreme pressure is asking a lot. You might try getting coyote urine or some such to keep the cats out of your yard. It won't stop the barking, but it would make the yard safer for the dogs.

Sounds as if you have two women in town crying for help and nobody that can do anything is listening! At least, based on the police response, it doesn't sound as if anyone is going to complain about your dogs' barking!

Can you convince the dogs to come inside when it gets too insane? Now, sounding real unsupportive, but totally clueless about what to do, can you use ear plugs to lessen the sound? (I want the cats gone, since they are the real problemo , but if you can't. . .)

The fellow that is training his dog, using your dogs as a distraction, is another story. If he comes the same time every day, you might try some distractions of your own: [getting wicked here] toss food treats to your dogs that accidentally go too far and end up hitting his dog. Or throwing a ball to them that hits the fence close enough to his dog to startle it. You just want to make your stretch a good place for him to walk quickly, without pausing. The treats won't hurt the dog and the ball isn't going to leave your yard -- just make a loud noise.

Good luck and may your move come quickly and painlessly,
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jul 29, 2010
Hey Casey,

This is a hard one. Normal "de-barking" training probably won't work since your dogs are being provoked. I would try to get them inside when the barking starts to escalate, if you can. You can try distracting them when they get going as well, with loud noises or amazing toys that they love, but I can't guarantee this will work either. Do you have a section of yard thats more secluded where you could tie them up to calm down?

It sounds like you're making good effort to get rid of the cats, and its rough because they live right next door. If they're not deterred by your dogs barking at them or a hose being turned on, I doubt theres a really effective way to keep them off your property. Can you try to contact the nearest large city's SPCA for help? Most states have laws limiting the number of animals allowed on a property and you might be able to call in big city help.

I wish I could offer more help, but try the distraction and putting the dogs elsewhere method and see if that gets you any relief.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jul 29, 2010
Hi Casey,

I would agree with KOPCaroline about contacting some animal welfare organizations about your neighbor's hoarding of cats. It is such an irresponsible behavior, not only for her neighbors but also for those cats!

I am sure those feral cats are not spayed/neutered and they will just keep having kittens and the number of cats will soon multiply to an astronomical figure!

I don't think it is fair for your dogs to behave when the cats are provoking and invading the dogs' property (I mean your yard).

How about putting a barbed wire on top of your fence to prevent the cats from coming inside the yard?

Another thought is to keep your dogs inside most of the time. All dogs except for Steve are small dogs and they can be staying inside, except for toilet right? You can leave Steve outside more and having only one dog barking is not so bad, unless the other 3 join the chorus inside the house

I am sorry but I can not have any other suggestions. The best thing seems to ask for help from some kind of authority in your area.
Posted by Boots
Jul 29, 2010
Hello All!
Thank you!
As for contacting the authorities, we have tried and have been told that since the are "feral" (even tho she leaves food for them) there is nothing they can do. And yes MaxHollyNoah, you are correct they are not spayed or neutered, in fact one summer I counted 3 litters of kittens.
Unfortunately there is no part of the yard I can put them when this happens, and I have been trying to keep them up on the deck when outside without me because when they see the cats they start digging out to "get them". Which is not surprising considering that 2 of them are terriers. My concern with training is if they are barking and I bring them inside to get them away from the cats I will be teaching them that in order to come inside all they have to do is bark a lot. I do not want to reward the barking behavior.
Thank you all for your thoughts. Hopefully when we finally move to Washington this will solve itself. I will keep you updated if any of your suggestions work.
Thanks again
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jul 30, 2010
Hi again Casey,

> My concern with training is if they are barking and I bring them inside to get them away from the cats I will be teaching them that in order to come inside all they have to do is bark a lot. I do not want to reward the barking behavior.

This is a good point but it is all depending on whether the dogs enjoy barking at the cats or not. If they are barking out of excitment, bringing them inside does not mean a reward for them. It is an end of the fun game so it is more like a time-out for them and it can work as a negative reinforcement.

On the other hand, if they are barking to get your attention and/or to be close to you inside, it is rewarding and reinforcing the barking behavior.

Your dogs, being terriers, I think they are enjoying chasing and barking at the cats, so removing them from the backyard might work as a training method.

Good luck