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We've had a visit from a neighbour saying that he recognized our cat and he attacked his cat, causing an injury that needs vet's attention. This has apparently happened before, too. He says his cat is too scared to go outside now and he wants us to help out with the vet's bill.

First, is it reasonable for us to do this? We didn't after all take his cat to the vet. Second, if it is our cat doing this, he is probably trying to 'play' and he is rather rambunctious while play fighting - we have seen him being that way with another of our cats, although certainly not causing any kind of serious injury. What can we do, exactly? We'd rather not lock him inside (it's a bit difficult anyway because we have 3 other cats that we don't want to lock inside and the catflap only has a "open on chip" mechanism for entry, not exit). It's quite a difficult situation, one that I've not been in before, and I'm not sure how to act.

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    I've been surprised by how differently cats can behave amongst their "family" versus when they are with strangers. I would not necessarily assume that because your cat is fine with your other cats that it is like that with strange cats. As for your dispute over who should pay, I can see both sides honestly. It was your cat that caused the injury (according to your neighbor), but at the same time, it could just have easily been a stray cat. Expect cats allowed to wander outside to get into fights.
    – Kai
    Jul 13, 2022 at 20:21
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    are your cats spayed/neutered? doing this can help lowering the agression level in cats. Jul 14, 2022 at 4:52
  • Yes they are...
    – Jez
    Jul 14, 2022 at 7:40
  • It's important to understand, cats are not like dogs. They don't "play" with strange cats--they interpret them as a threat and are very likely to attack. That's why we have dog parks, but extensive instructions requiring weeks of effort to introduce cats.
    – Allison C
    Jul 14, 2022 at 15:44

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If your neighbour went to the vet, ask them what exactly the injury was and how it was treated. If it's anything like a bite wound that needed antibiotics, pain killers or even stitches, then it's very probable that his claim is true. Whether or not you chose to pay part of the bill is your decision, but please keep in mind how your relationship may change based on your actions.

How your cat behaves at home with other cats he knows is completely irrelevant. I've never personally seen or heard of rough play ending at the vet. A cat fight and some rough play are two completely different things. In a fight the attacker most often tries to chase or drive the victim away, which of course is problematic if the victim lives next door to the attacker.

Of course the best solution would be to permanently separate both cats, but of course that is very hard - if not impossible - to achieve without locking one cat inside. It would be best if you could work together with your neighbour to find the best solution for both of you.

If your neighbour knows where your cat enters their property, they could install an automatic water spray repellent in that area in the hopes of deterring your cat. If you have the means, you can also offer to pay part of the cost. There are also Youtube videos with instruction on how to craft such a repellent yourself. This worked for some of my relatives that didn't want a cat entering their garden and using it as a toilet. The cat didn't try entering the garden from a different access point.

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I fullheartedly agree on Elmy's great answer, so consider this as an addendum to the his/her answer.

Unless the vet bill is too steep, I would help out. Generally owners are not responsible for the actions of their cat, because, unlike dogs, cats cannot be trained to act in the manner they do. Still, it is important to note that if your neighbour feels forced to take drastic measures, they might install some safety measures that might end up hurting your cat.

I believe your cat wants to carve itself a territory and believes the neighbour's cat is in his way. Therefore, the fighting will probably continue.

As Elmy suggested, isolating the cats is the best response. I can think of three ways to achieve this:

  • Curved fencing is one way of isolation. Fixing holes on the fence and installing a negative sloped structure on the top can prevent your cat from getting in your neighbour's yard.
  • Cats are instinctively afraid of foxes, wolves and coyotes. Dapping urine of any of these animals on the fence might deter your cat to approach your neighbour's yard.
  • If you want to try something different, installing a speaker which gives out fighting cat sounds whenever your cat approaches the fence might help. You need a bluetooth collar and some DIY skills for this. The existence of invisible but very aggressive cats around the fence usually deters cats from approaching that particular area. I admit that this might be considered a psychological torture, but it might be necessary to keep your cat in.
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    For the last part (a good idea I think) you need to think about to avoid the worsed case: that your cat is "trapped" in the neighbours garden and can not overcome the sound-barrier. Jul 15, 2022 at 4:42
  • @Allerleirauh This is also true with the smell barrier. They could be used with other measures, to strengthen them.
    – ck1987pd
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:50

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