We have had two male rescue cats for about 4 years. They were together at the shelter which wanted to keep them together, so we adopted both of them. They have tons of aggravating behavior issues:

  1. They scratch the furniture and have ruined many items.
  2. They eat everything and can open cupboards, climb on high shelves, etc. We have awakened many mornings to chips, cookies, or bread torn open and scattered all over the floor.
  3. They figured out how to open the trash can and would open it, pull it over, and scatter trash all over the house.
  4. They can open doors, including exterior doors if they try hard enough, so they’re difficult to contain.
  5. While playing they sometimes jump right on people’s laps, shoulders, or even their faces, terrifying my elderly parents and guests and leaving lots of bad scratches.
  6. They refuse to drink from a water bowl, preferring to tip it over onto the floor to drink.
  7. The older one exhibits various nervous behaviors. He “humps” the younger one all the time. He hates stuffed animals and will “drown” them in the toilet if he ever reaches them.
  8. And of course as cats they push things off counters and shelves all the time. We gave up on Christmas trees.

We tried everything the vet suggested to try to train them (redirection, treats, scratching posts, play time, squirt bottles) but nothing really helped.

But then we started letting them go outside at night. (They were often most problematic at night when we couldn’t intervene.) This made a world of difference. They stopped scratching and terrorizing the house and seemed much happier. I began to think they just had too much energy to be indoors all the time.

They did take up hunting, mostly birds, and would eat what they caught. We try to keep them from eating but it usually happens at night. We just find the carnage on the patio.

Recently my neighbors on both sides have sheepishly confessed that our cats have started entering their homes through the pet doors. They occasionally take food from their pets, or even from their kitchens. Both neighbors insist this doesn’t bother them much but it is obviously not ideal.

More recently one of the cats has become somewhat aggressive. He fights with the other cat occasionally, chasing him around the house and hissing and batting him. The other cat often has scratches on his face in the morning.

And finally just last week my neighbor said the cat started attacking their own cat in their house.

This has been causing some family strife now. My wife thinks the cats simply need to go. She’s afraid if we start keeping them inside again they’ll return to their more difficult ways (and they are frankly still pretty difficult). She has no more patience for thousands of dollars in damage to our furniture and household items, and she’s tired of living in fear of the cats, keeping everything in the kitchen on the highest shelves, never leaving a water cup out, etc...

My daughter, of course, thinks if the cats go she will die.

I’m not sure at this point if there’s anything that can be done to keep them from terrorizing my house, my neighbors, or both. We’ve had cats before but never cats that acted like these two.

Do we have any hope of keeping my wife from divorcing me?

  • 4
    I have to ask: are these cats nuetered?
    – elbrant
    Dec 29, 2018 at 23:19
  • Yes! Sorry, I should have said that. Neutered, up to date on vaccination, etc…
    – Geoff
    Dec 30, 2018 at 4:08

3 Answers 3


I think the main underlying issue is that your cats were getting bored inside. Letting them outside has almost certainly helped in large part because it's keeping them entertained. Here are other things you can try to keep your cats entertained:

  1. Try a variety of toys. Rotating which toys are currently available also may help, to keep the toys new and fresh.
  2. Puzzle feeder toys. Make them work for their food.
  3. Automatic toys, such as an automatic laser pointer. Most cats don't find these as interesting as a human controlled laser pointer, but they'll often still watch it when they're bored.
  4. Cat trees, especially when placed by a window.
  5. Plenty of human playtime, to make sure they're getting tired out. It sometimes helps to have playtime right before they eat, which encourages them to sleep afterwards.
  6. Try taking the cats on walks outside. Most cats need to be trained to accept a leash, but outside is much more stimulating than inside, and will keep cats more engaged.
  7. Some very dedicated owners have built a cat patio, that is, a fully enclosed area located outside that the cats can access through some sort of cat door, but there is no way for them to escape from it.

Many of your other problems can probably be addressed by cat proofing your house. Many items used for child proofing can also be used for this purpose:

  1. Child proof locks for cabinets, which make them only openable using a magnet.
  2. Child proof doorknob covers. These will slip instead of allowing the knobs to turn, unless you grip the knobs just right through the small holes. Also change latches and knobs if the door is too easily opened or the latch is too weak.
  3. Keep the trash cans in cabinets or some other inaccessible spot, or buy different cans that cats cannot get into. Heavy metal cans with a wide base and butterfly lids that open out seem pretty difficult for cats to get into.
  4. I recommend the Neater Feeder as well, which is a tray and bowl system designed to prevent spills. Any spills are supposed to be caught by the tray system.

And as for scratching, you'll have to be persistent.

  1. Observe what they scratch, and try to figure out based on that, what kind of scratchers they might prefer.
  2. Place these scratchers so they are physically blocking the area they like to scratch.
  3. Make any areas they like scratching less suitable. Double sided tape works for discouraging many cats. Also, simply covering the furniture in a fluffy blanket works. Cats generally don't like scratching soft things. Of course, blankets can be removed if you want the place to look nice when guests come over.

Things like the spray bottle don't generally work unless it's some behavior the cat ONLY does while the human is there. Otherwise, cats are smart enough to realize the human is the source of the water, so just don't do it while the human is there. Simply cat proofing your house is much more effective.

To be perfectly honest though, having any sort of pet means accepting that you must keep vigilant of its behavior, and modifying your own behavior to accommodate or correct it. If your wife is not willing to do these things at all, then you will be at an impasse.

  • And for the water bowl, try one with a wider base/angled edges. My otherwise well behaved cats tip any bowl that isn't designed to prevent tipping.
    – Allison C
    Dec 31, 2018 at 17:38

My cats did a ton of the same things and nothing worked but they hadn't been spayed or neutered we had to give them away in the end but sometimes that is the only thing you can do if you do give them up DONT GIVE THEM TO A SHELTER they will be separated which could make them go through separation anxiety so place an add specifically stating they must be taken together.


You (almost certainly) adopted two feral cats. Let them be outdoor cats. They are adept at it and appear more comfortable with free roaming. Offer them kibble but don't obsess. They are satisfying their prey drive with birds, insects (and possibly mice). One cat is clearly displaying dominance behaviors (humping and fighting the other) which could be an indication that there is a female in heat (somewhere nearby). You will not be able to curtail his instinct to mate, and that doesn't go away with nuetering. It is, after all, survival of the fittest. If you are in a cold climate, it would be considerate to create something like a doghouse where they can get out of the weather if they want to, but cats are pretty good at finding nooks for that purpose.

The neighbors: purchase pet doors that lock with a magnetic strip for your neighbors (and install it for them - if they are agreeable) as a way to appologize for your cats breaking into their homes, and to hinder it in the future.

The wife & daughter: Discuss this with them. Everyone should be on the same page. Propose keeping the cats, but keeping them outside.

The house: Start taking inventory of what needs repaired and replaced from the damage they've done (inside). And work it into your weekends and budget. Oh! Then close the cat door so they don't have indoor access anymore.

  • This sounds a lot more like "bored cats" than "feral cats." There's no indication of the cats being actively aggressive or fearful toward humans, only of accidental scratches during their play times.
    – Allison C
    Dec 31, 2018 at 17:37
  • @AllisonC I disagree. Bored cats don't roam into a neighbors home to pick a fight with the resident cat. These cats may have been living in a home for the last 4 years, but it doesn't sound like they were happy about it.
    – elbrant
    Jan 1, 2019 at 3:08
  • A feral cat won't roam into a neighbor's house period. A bored but otherwise tame cat with no fear of humans who's been allowed to roam, and who finds an open cat flap, will explore what's on the other side, and if there's another cat there, then a fight will likely break out, because unlike dogs, cats don't generally like each other the first time they meet. These are absolutely not feral cats.
    – Allison C
    Jan 2, 2019 at 14:45

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