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.