The Vine: October 23, 2013
A little background: I live in a small city in rural Ohio where the houses are fairly close to each other, and our homes are separated from the next street over by an alley that runs the length of our block.
Our neighbors on either side of us are part of what we call the "crazy cat community." There are a number of feral cats that have adopted us as home base. At my house, where many come and go under our deck, I've been feeding the cats and kittens for about two years. My neighbor does the same and they keep their garage open in the winter for the cats to have shelter from the cold. Between my neighbor and me, we've spayed and neutered about a dozen of these cats; a couple have been uncatchable but the newborn kitten population has decreased significantly over the years.
Just as an FYI, I do have four strays that I've adopted living in the house. I just can't take any more inside. And I have to point out these outdoor cats are friendly; they'll rub up against us, run out to "say hi" when we get home, etc. At this point, they're just part of the family.
Over the past couple of weeks, some of the cats have stopped coming around. We weren't too concerned — they are feral, after all, and come and go at will — until one of the strays that lives primarily next door limped home after getting shot with a pellet gun. Long story short, our neighbor across the alley has been using these cats for target practice and killing them.
We are incensed and horrified. We've reported it to the police but unfortunately have no evidence that will stand up in court, as the officers — who believe he is guilty as well — reluctantly pointed out to us. We all want to take some sort of action, but tempers are high and I don't want to a) stoop to that level; b) do anything illegal ourselves; or c) invite further violence.
Any advice, Nation? These neighbors have never been friendly, and polite conversation was greeted with grunts prior to this; now none of us want anything to do with them. But we want this illegal and reprehensible behavior to stop. I'm not sure you can help, but I appreciate you letting me vent.
Crazy Cat Lady of the Neighborhood
Video. You need proof that this is happening; aiming a mini-cam or your computer's built-in camera at the alley for a few nights is the best way to get it. You turn that over to the cops and let them handle it. And you hope they move, because people who consider feral cats a nuisance population with no up side, to the point of shooting them? It's not going to be a "Goofus & Gallant" situation when law enforcement shows up to book them for animal cruelty, with the neighbors aw-shucksing that they'll knock it off now.
If the cops already spoke with the neighbors, and they know that you know that it's them, they may switch tactics — to poison — or try to get stealthy some other way, so for a few weeks, to the extent you can manage, put cameras on the alley and the other main places the cats congregate, and see what you find. It does seem to me like the cops could have hung them up on something else — discharge of a weapon within municipal limits/near where children live, something like that — but ask the cops what they would consider proof, and try to get it without endangering the cats (or yourselves).
I would suggest some sort of outreach to the neighbors, admitting that stray cats can cause problems — digging, fighting, all that foolishness is annoying, and I love felines, as you know, but that one horse-faced tuxedo keeps ripping up my basil and it's pissing me off — but explaining that what you and the other folks nearby do in terms of providing a home base for them actually makes them more homeable, and means fewer cats net as the years go by. But I don't think the neighbors want to hear it, and if their solution is to kill the animals, I don't think it's safe for you to go that route. So, get documentation (while praying that you don't need it), and keep an eye on the food and water supply for anything that looks hinky, or move it around/hide it so the neighbors can't tamper with it.
And good luck to you; thanks for looking out for these little varmints. Readers: any of you dealt with a similar situation?
Tags: cats etiquette orange cats roommates