When I lived in north Ann Arbor, I had a real problem with ‘cat owners’. My real problem was not necessarily specific to the cats themselves, but the problem resulted from the all-too-typical irresponsible behavior of cat owners who assume that kicking their animal out the door at night so it becomes all their neighbors’ problems to deal with is perfectly sensible and reasonable.
I tried a great many things to solve the problems but quickly learned that all it really requires is to get creative. In my case, I developed a methodology that I still use to this day in various circumstances that I refer to as the ‘nice prick’ solution.
When I first moved to town, I specifically chose a town-house style apartment complex near the Huron River on the outside edge of town. I specifically chose an apartment on the outside edge of the complex right next to a small, undeveloped plot of park land across the road. It was very naturesc and was ideal with only a few short comings. It was close to the expressway but not so close I heard traffic all night. It was close to fishing with the river down the road. It was surrounded by natural setting. The only real draw backs was a train that would run at night (but quiet enough as not to be a big deal. it was actually quite soothing to hear it ker-chunking by at night) And a canoe livery down the road that would sometimes wake you up at 8 am as they took their first load of canoes *kerbanging* up the hill to go up river.
One of my big beefs was that according to the management, I would not be allowed to get a dog. They had a condition in the lease that allowed for small dogs or cats, but upon my doing the ‘right thing’ and checking with management first, they told me that the type of dog I wanted to get (an american water spaniel) was not ‘small’ enough to adhere to my lease. There were dogs in the complex, including some as large as an American water spaniel. The claim of management was that they were grandfathered it when the new management company took over the property, but I later learned that at least one was obtained by the owner after the purchase of the complex but that there was no way to ‘prove’ that it was not ‘grandfathered in’ – or at least not in a ‘cost effective’ manner.
Ann Arbor has a license law for dogs, but no such license law for cats. Ann Arbor has reasonable laws relating to controlling your pets, both cats and dogs. But Ann Arbor, like most municipalities, has ‘cost effectiveness’ issues related to animal control. Namely, they will not trap an animal. If an animal violates your property rights, it is contigient upon the property owner to ‘trap’ it prior to calling an animal control officer to come get it.
I had bird feeders. I had a motorcycle. I had a truck. I had a flower bed. The cats booted out by other apartment dwellers as well as adjacent houses in the neighborhood would regularly stalk my bird feeders scaring away the wild birds. They would crap in my flower gardens leaving wonderful little ‘surprises’ for me when it came time to plant or pull weeds. They would crawl all over my truck at night leaving dirty little footprints and they especially loved to crawl up under the cover of my motorcycle (which I parked right under the window on my front porch) to sit on the nice cooshy padded seat while the engine was still warm since their owners didn’t seem to give a crap that their cat was outside freezing all night long. To crawl up under said cover, they would have to dig their claws into the seat, chrome and/or paint finish. It was actually ‘damaging’ my motorcycle for them to do this.
Of course there was more than one cat being thus booted out at night and sometimes they would end up finding one another, generally in the proximity of my bird feeders or my motorcycle and get in fights or worse, fucking for hours on end. (if you’ve never heard two cats ‘getting it on’, it’s hardly something you can sleep through) This was occuring regularly at 2-4 am in the morning.
First, I solved the problem with my motorcycle with a rather simple fix. I’d tried contacting the management. They did nothing. I’d tried posting fliers all over the complex outlining the problem roaming cats cause, the local laws as well as the restrictions spelled out in the lease that the management refused to enforce. I tried manually ‘scaring’ or ‘shooing’ the cats away when I would hear them at night. Generally they would come right back or would simply go to the empty lot across the street to fornicate where it was still well within earshot. Nothing worked.
Ultimately, I bought a couple of spring mouse traps. I would put one ‘set’ under the cover on the seat of the bike. It only took 3-4 times of cats getting ‘snapped’ by the traps to stop them crawling under the seat at night. But they still harassed my birds, still were using my flowerbed as a litter box and still screwed or fought making a terrible ruckus all night long.
I had to resort to a new strategy. I set out, ‘behind’ my motorcycle in a space only about 3-4″ wide, a small bowl of milk – sometimes an emptied can of tuna or sardines. I set up some bells on strings around the perimeter and started sleeping on the couch directly below the open window. When I would hear the cats climbing over the strings or hear their nightly ruckus, I would go outside, move the milk and fish cans more into the open and talk nicely to the cats until they came up close enough to pick them up gently. Even if they ‘spooked’ upon my opening the door, they would generally come back for the milk.
Once I had them scooped up, I would keep them calm by petting them and talking to them etc. If the cat had no tag, I would call animal control. Most of the people at least adhered to the policy of management that you have your animals tagged identifying the owner. That was where the ‘nice prick’ part came in.
Mind you, these cats were doing this at 3-4 am in the morning. I was being woken up regularly by them. I didn’t want to be woken up by them. Their owners meanwhile were somewhere sound asleep while their cats became ‘my’ problem and ‘my’ wake-up call. All I wanted was the problem to stop. What better way than to subject the owner to the same treatment that I was receiving?
Shortly after scooping up the kitties coming for the milk and finding a tag identifying a particular owner, I would find said apartment and knock on the door until someone woke up and came down. I would then very sweetly and sincerely express my concerns that I ‘saw their animal down by the road’ and was ‘worried that it might get run over by a car or the canoe guys or a train’.
It seldom took more than once, and never took more than twice of doing this and the cats no longer were seen (and more importantly, ‘heard’) outside at night. Of course, part of the scenario involved my suggestion that ‘since the lease says you have to keep your cats on a leash’ that it must have ‘just got out’ so I ‘assumed you were up – so sorry to wake you!’ I would say with a big smile.