How to tell if your catís a neighborhood nuisance
Keeping your pets at home can help make them better citizens
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By Mickey Zeldes  February 1, 2013 12:00 am

I recently had an interesting phone call.  A gentleman, whom I’ll call Mr. D, called and said “my neighbor across the street trapped my cat.  Is it legal for him to do that?”  I asked him several questions about the situation – his responses are in the parenthesis. Was the trap on the neighbor’s property? (Yes.)  Were you with your cat at the time?  (No). How was it that your cat came to be on his property? (It’s a cat).  Would you be upset if your neighbor allowed his dog to run loose to poop on your lawn and didn’t bother to clean it up? (Yes!).  But you feel it’s OK to allow your cat to freely roam the neighborhood to do his “thing” wherever he wants? (Yes, it’s a CAT!).

What I tried to explain is basically, the neighbor is saying your cat is a nuisance.  He is interfering with the neighbor’s ability to enjoy his property.  Mr. D didn’t get it – how can a cat be a nuisance?  I tried again. What if your neighbor is a gardener?  How pleasant is it to reach into the soil and come up with a handful of cat poop?  What if your neighbor is a birder and has put up feeders in his yard?  How nice is it to watch a pet cat decimate the birds you’ve lured into your yard?  His response to each scenario is “but he’s a cat.  He’s only doing what cats normally do.  It would be cruel and unnatural to lock him into a house and not allow him access to the outdoors.”

The truth is the domestic cat is not a native species.  They were brought over with European settlers.  As such, they are not a natural part of our food chain.  The Audubon Society is constantly trying to get legislation passed to require pet cats to be kept indoors, noting domestic cats account for the deaths of millions of birds annually, including some endangered species.  Rohnert Park does, indeed, have an ordinance stating cats are not allowed to roam off their owners’ property.  Not allowing cats to free-roam doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be locked in a house for the rest of their lives. There are options that allow your cats to enjoy the outdoors – and still be good neighbors.

One option is a cat enclosure – like an add-on room made of wood and wire your cat can have access to either through a window or a cat door.  The one made by C & D Pet Products ( comes as a kit – easy to assemble – and has a wire roof and a door so you can have entry into the enclosure.  You can make the interior as inviting as you like by adding plants, tree branches, shelves and more.  If you have a solid fence with no trees overhanging your property line, you might consider the Fence-in System.  It is a fence topper that prohibits cats from going off your property.  The caveat with that is you have to look at your yard from a cat’s point of view.  Trees with overhanging limbs make an easy escape route.  Some people simply teach their cats to walk on a harness and leash and provide outdoor time that way.

Roaming cats can damage property – think cat pee on the barbeque, cat claws shredding patio furniture – by using gardens as litter boxes, decimate bird and butterfly populations, torment indoor cats (and cause spraying issues), fight with neighbor cats on their own property and more.  I’m not sure I convinced the caller his cat was clearly not welcome as a guest across the street, but at least I got through the neighbor was within his rights to trap the cat to protect his property.  The hope is this won’t escalate into a neighbor war – with the animals as innocent victims.  Keeping your pets safely at home isn’t just safer for the animals – it’s being a good neighbor.

Upcoming events:  Free microchips extended until we do 500 animals.  Come in during any of our open hours (Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 1-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.) with your dogs and cats – no appointment necessary.  Offer for residents of Rohnert Park and the City of Cotati only (proof of residency required).

• Meet the Bunny event is the second Saturday of each month (next is Feb. 9) from 1-5:30 p.m.  Meet our adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable rabbit volunteers, bring your rabbit for a free nail trim and support our small animals by shopping our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, treats and toys.

• Volunteer Orientation: Looking for a way to help out in your community?  Do you love animals?  We are holding a one-hour orientation on Saturday, Feb. 2, from 10-11 a.m., at the shelter.  This will give you an overview of what volunteering here is all about – what we are looking for, what the requirements are, and give you a chance to have your questions answered.  It is open to all adults over 18 years old – no reservation required.

Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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