How to Humanely Keep Feral Cats Away in 4 Simple Steps

Keeping cats off of your property doesn't have to be cruel. There are plenty of humane ways to keep feral cats away from critical areas.

Updated January 28, 2024
Stray black and white cat with yellow eyes

Feral cats, now called free-roaming or community cats, are forced to find shelter and food wherever they can, which can be heartbreaking to witness. If you find yourself in the difficult position of needing to keep them away from certain areas of your property for legal or safety reasons, the inner conflict is all too real.

Of course, you’ll want to approach the situation with kindness, compassion, and understanding. Fortunately, there are ways you can keep your community kitties safe while still keeping them away from your home. 

1. Manage the Current Cat Population Growth on the Property

Whether you're looking to keep cats away from specific areas or move them entirely, managing the population is the first step to humanely keeping cats out of areas where they can't be.

Work With Local TNR Programs for Population Control

According to Alley Cat Allies, "Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only humane and effective approach to community cats, or unowned cats who live outdoors." With this process, cats are humanely trapped, neutered (or spayed), vaccinated, ear-tipped, and then released.

While this doesn't necessarily mean that the cats won't return to your property, it does help control the overall community cat population and minimizes the potential of future cats claiming your property as their own. Contact your local humane society or animal control to ask about TNR programs in your area. 

Fast Fact

"TNR" means "Trap-Neteur-Return, and is the most effective long-term way to control the feral cat population. 

Look for "Barn Cat" Programs to Relocate

Once the community cats have been caught and spayed or neutered, some shelters, rescues, and humane societies can help you by moving the cats to managed barns, or other places where the cats are more welcome and safe. While this won't stop new cats from moving in, it humanely places the community cats in areas where they can do some good — hunting vermin — and in a location with people who have volunteered to watch out for them.

Related: 5 Essentials for Caring for Orphaned Kittens

2. Remove Anything Attracting the Cats

Food, shelter and warmth are three top things that bring community cats to specific areas. Take a look around your area where you need to keep them away and:

Secure Food

Keeping open food and community cat meals in check is really important. You'll want to make sure your outdoor trash can is secured to prevent any cats or qild animals from being attracted to areas you don't want. Avoid leaving food for other animals or for your pets out. 

Helpful Hack

Don't worry — this doesn't mean you need to stop feeding your special ferals. Alley Cat Allies suggests, "If you or your neighbors are feeding the cats, be sure it's on a regular schedule each day. This will ensure that the cats are well-fed and don't search the neighborhood for the next meal." 

Keep Feral Cats Away From Cars

Cats are often attracted to cars because they're warm, and this can be a huge problem in the wintertime. It's not uncommon for cats to climb into the engine of a car or on top of the wheels. 

If you're able to park in a garage, this can keep the cats away from your car. If not, consider a car cover or place some mothballs under the hood. At the very least, give the hood a few good knocks to wake up any snoozing kitties before starting your engine and check on top of wheels. 

3. Employ Cat Repellents in Important Areas

Once the population growth is managed via TNR, you can use some common repellents in the areas where you especially need the cats to stay away. Some options include:

Make the Ground Unwelcoming

Creating an unwelcoming ground covering can help keep community cats from walking up to your windows. Coarsely cut mulch, for example, won't damage the cats' paws, but they don't like the sensation, which might make them turn around and walk away.

Try Natural Scent Repellents

Products like Scram for Cats can be sprinkled on the ground to help repel cats without harming them. Vinegar, citrus, and citronella are also said to repel cats because they don't like the smell. Thankfully, we humans do enjoy these scents. You can easily make your own cat repellent spray using these natural ingredients.

Install Motion-Activated Sprinklers 

Most cats dislike water, so a little spritz from a sprinkler can be pretty effective in keeping them out of your yard. You can find motion-activated sprinklers designed to deter all kinds of animals, including domestic pets and wildlife. Cats are smart, and if they realize that every time they walk into a certain area, they'll get a shower, they'll quickly learn to avoid your property altogether. That said, remember that other wildlife will trigger the sprinklers as well, so you might use a lot of water for a small problem.

Use Sound Tactics

Cats have great ears and can hear some sound frequencies that aren't detectable to humans. Broadcasting sounds that make cats uncomfortable will keep them away without causing them harm. Many available units will even sense the presence of small animals and broadcast the noise to repel cats, dogs, and other small animals.

4. Divert New Cats to "Welcome Zones" 

Group of stray cats eating feed on the street

For any cats that remain or appear, consider giving your community cats a spot to live away from sensitive areas. This is a great option if you have a vast property or if your neighborhood can agree on a community spot that doesn't conflict with local ordinances.

All you have to do is create a place that will attract these cats to keep them away from your residential area:

  • Plant catnip
  • Provide ample shrubs
  • Set up outdoor cat shelters
  • Provide insulated shelters and warmed water bowls for cold climates/months
  • Make it a spot cats will love so much they'll forget about the other areas

You can then decide if you're ready for the commitment of caring for and feeding the colony.

Related: What to Do If You Find a Stray Cat 

Humane and Fair Treatment for Ferals

There are as many as 32 million feral cats in the U.S. alone, but with the help of TNR programs and caring individuals like you, that number is slowly decreasing. Spaying and neutering community cats can keep some of their roaming to a minimum and works to control the overall population. Reach out to your local humane society or cat rescue if you need personalized tips for how to serve your local feral cats. They are familiar with your area and should be able to help! 

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How to Humanely Keep Feral Cats Away in 4 Simple Steps