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Short version: A neighborhood kitten has decided it likes our place. How do we teach it that it doesn’t live here?

Longer version: We have two cats. Neutered females from the same litter, about 3 years old. They are indoor/outdoor cats, but we do not have a cat door – we let them in and out on their request and often a door is just left open. They are fed wet food – again, when they request it – and have dry food available for nights and when we are not home.

Another family on our street used to have three cats, but over the last few years, two of them died. They have now gotten two kittens to replace them. That is, they have two new kittens and one older cat. Their cats are also indoor/outdoor cats, but they have a cat door. Their cats have food available at all times.

One day, one of the kittens (female – don’t know if she is neutered) showed up at our place. Not knowing where it belonged, my husband gave it a bit of food (probably a mistake) to make it keep still while he took a picture for our local facebook page to find out if anybody missed it. The owners responded that it was theirs, but several other people replied that it had also visited them. Turns out this kitten likes to wander – and quite far, too!

She has since made visits to us very regularly, often several times a day. If doors are open, she will enter and go straight to our cats’ food (she will eat remaining wet food first and then the dry food after, if we don’t stop her). Even if there is no food, she will seek us out as she is very social. She will jump up and lie next to us on the couch or on the desk, if we are working.

If all humans involved where adults, this would not be a problem – she could go back and forth, as she pleased. However, the kids in the owner family obviously want their kitten to be at their house, not at ours, so we agreed that we would try to prevent her from getting in to our house and keep her out of our cat food. Surely, she would then go home!? Not so much… she would meow outside the windows for a while and when that didn’t work just lie there. Outside the windows. In the rain. For hours… So next we agreed that I would text the family whenever the kitten showed up and they would come get her. That is what we are doing now, but the kitten still shows up. She is super happy when her people come for her, but still goes to our house instead of going home on her own. The owners try to keep her in for a while to teach her where she belongs, but they cannot completely close of the cat door because of the older cat.

As stated, she has food available at home, and she knows how the cat door works.

Our own cats are not too fond of the kitten: they hiss and meow at her angrily, but they do not swat at her or bite her. If she gets within a couple of feet of them, they will simply walk away.

The owners have suggested a next step would be for us to spray water at her. We have done this with our own cats to keep them from scratching the furniture, but I feel a bit bad about doing it to the kitten – I’m not sure it would understand why it is being sprayed water at.

Including the first time my husband fed her, she has probably eaten here 3-4 times (the other times by simply walking into the house when the door was open). The jumping onto the couch/desk was one day – the day we realized she felt so much at home that we had to talk with the owner family to find out what they wanted us to do. Trying to keep her out of the house and texting the owners has gone on for about a week.

Does anyone have suggestions to what else we can do to make her understand that she does not belong at our house?

Note: please do not make this about allowing cats outside. That will not be changed for any of the cats.

Update: Here, a few months later, this is how things have developed. For a while it seemed like ignoring the kitten helped (from facebook we gathered that she found other neighbours to visit), but then she started returning again. Her constant visits bagan stressing our own cats a great deal, so in the end we resorted to spraying her with water. This was actually pretty efficient, and soon she stopped coming by. We know from the owners that she has a bit less wanderlust now, but still doesn't hold back from entering the houses of other neighbours - but we haven't seen her at our house for well over a month now.

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    I wonder: are the neighbouring kids running after the kitten a lot? Perhaps it enjoys the calmer environment, and the kids need to adjust to that... – Layna Oct 11 '17 at 7:28
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    @Layna, I cannot say for sure, but I don't think so, actually. She will often show up at our place when the other family isn't home or early in the morning when we are up before they are, which makes me think she is seeking out company (even though we don't let her in). When one of the kids come to get her, she will run towards them, so I think she quite likes them. – JustBrowsing Oct 11 '17 at 7:44
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    The kitten doesn't need to understand why it's sprayed with water, just that your place is kind of uncormfortable – Christian Oct 12 '17 at 7:41
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Keep on doing it the way you do it now

In my opinion you do everything right. Just give her more time to understand.

we agreed that we would try to prevent her from getting in to our house and keep her out of our cat food.

That is the first and most important thing. Don't give her any food, don't let her in. If she does not get what she wants (food and company), she may stop coming to you.

Surely, she would then go home!? Not so much… she would meow outside the windows for a while and when that didn’t work just lie there. Outside the windows. In the rain. For hours…

That can happen. She accepted your home as her home and does not want to give it up. Be consequent. Even if it rains very much, don't let her in. She can find a dry place if she needs to. Her real home has a cat door. And it is in the neighbourhood. Try to ignore her or call the owners (as you already do). Never open the door and let her in.

Including the first time my husband fed her, she has probably eaten here 3-4 times (the other times by simply walking into the house when the door was open). The jumping onto the couch/desk was one day – the day we realized she felt so much at home that we had to talk with the owner family to find out what they wanted us to do. Trying to keep her out of the house and texting the owners has gone on for about a week.

Is it right that the cat was inside your house about 5 times? That is not much. She came to your house everyday in a week since you started to text the owners, right? That is not much time, too. Give the cat some time. She will learn that you don't let her in anymore. And if she did not go home when it was raining, spraying her with water will not impress her very much.

Some general things at last:

A cat is a very independent pet. Their territory often stretchs for miles. They even may have more than one homes. And that is not only because of the lack of food or because they don't have a nice home, it is in their nature. Even wildcats have multiple shelters and sleeping places near to their hunting ground. So it may well be that if the cat recognizes that she can't come anymore into your house for food, company or sleeping, she still will wander through your garden and may find a new home at other neighbour houses. The owners have to accept that. It is not possible to control the territory of a cat which is allowed to be outside.

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  • Thank you for the encouragement! On your recommendation, we have kept on doing what we were doing - plus the owners have increased how often their cats are given wet food as a supplement to dry food, which seems to motivate the kitten to seek feeding at home. Time will tell if it is enough, but we think there is improvement. Also thank you for the last comments on cat nature. This could be a comfort to the owner kids if the kitten keeps wanting two homes. – JustBrowsing Oct 13 '17 at 5:12

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