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Home » The Vine

The Vine: January 27, 2010

Submitted by on January 27, 2010 – 1:17 PM134 Comments

Dear Sars,

I have fruit trees in my yard.Most of them are in the back behind a tall locked gate, but I have a tangerine tree in my front yard behind an unlocked (but gated) 3-foot-tall picket fence. When the fruit is ripe I pick it 2-3 times a week, but I don’t have time to pick fruit every day.

Fruit tends to disappear from this tree in between pickings, and when I see the neighborhood kids taking fruit (by either reaching over the fence, or opening the gate and coming uninvited into my yard), I try to stay casual and say things like “Hey, you can have what you already picked, but please stop taking my fruit in the future,” and leave it at that.

One boy (who is about 10 years old) will not stop taking fruit, though.The last time I saw him in taking it I told him in my firm teacher-voice that it was stealing and that I didn’t want to see him in my yard again, to which he replied, “My mom said that I can take your tangerines because you don’t eat them all and they will go to waste.”Now, I do eat them all (or juice them and freeze the juice), but that isn’t the point.I stayed calm, though, and told him to never come into my yard again.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I came home from work to see the mom with a plastic grocery bag, in my yard (she opened the gate to come in), picking my fruit.She didn’t even stop picking when I drove into the driveway.I told her to stop, leave the bag, and go home.She informed me that she had an agreement with the previous owner when they planted the tree that she could have what she wanted, and since I obviously don’t use all of the fruit she is taking it (I’ve been in my home for three years by the way, this isn’t a recent move).I told her that the fruit is mine, I do use it, and since my lease had no clause that I had to share fruit it is entirely mine and she needed to leave.She snarked back that I wasn’t going to call the cops on her over fruit, and huffed away (taking my fruit with her).

Now, she is right — I would feel stupid calling the cops over fruit, but I can’t think of anything else to do to make it stop.It’s not like I can relocate the tree or anything. Am I a pushover and should call the police over a bag of tangerines, or do I just need to suck it up and accept the fact that she is going to steal from me whether I like it or not?How would you handle this?

My Fruit Is Not Community Property

Dear Fruit,

If you owned the property, I’d tell you to get a strong lock for the gate, post a polite but firm “No Trespassing, Private Property” sign for the fence just in front of the tree, and live with the fact that people will take what they can reach because some fights ain’t worth finishing.

You don’t own it, from what I can tell, so contact the landlord and let him/her know what’s going on.I’d suggest making it about not the fruit, but the trespassing — whatever agreement the woman (and her snotty kid) may have had with the previous owners, you don’t feel comfortable with strangers on the property, it’s a liability issue for the landlord if the brat climbs the tree, et cetera and so on.Then ask the landlord either to put a good plate-bolted inside lock on the gate, or to allow you to do it.

The landlord may not care and tell you to live with it, in which case I would absolutely never recommend climbing a ladder in the middle of the night and injecting all the fruit a ten-year-old could conceivably reach with stool softener.Because that would be wrong.It would probably also be wrong to find a friend with a dog who is friendly, but happens to bark a lot and jump up on people, and borrow that dog on days when you suspect the Snagsfruit McStealigans might stop by for a fill-up, so I would never suggest that you do that, either.

Seriously, though: decide now how much you care about the issue.I think the primary irritant is Mama McStealigan’s entitled attitude, and I’m totally with you, but in case the landlord doesn’t back you here, decide how far you will go in defense of the tangerines, and if that means calling the cops, well, she is in fact stealing and trespassing…but you’ll have to live in that neighborhood, and so will she, and: hostilities.If you can’t get a lock, you might have to let the shit go, without totally overwatering that section of the lawn so that people walking under the tree sink into mud up to their shins.Because that would be wrong.Ish.

Dear Sars —

One of my two cats got diagnosed with feline leukemia this week.I’ve lost a cat to this before, and I spent the week before I took this one to the vet trying to convince myself that wasn’t what it was because her symptoms were different and she didn’t seem as sick.

The vet gave me some medicine and told me there’s a chance she’ll pull through, but it’s hard to watch my formerly bouncy cat so weak and listless.So far the other cat is still healthy — she’s getting tested on Monday.

I know you have cats, and I was wondering/hoping if maybe you or any of the readers had ideas about anything I can be doing to help her beyond just making sure she gets her medicine.She won’t eat or drink so I’ve been giving her condensed milk in an eyedropper, just so she’ll have some nourishment, but I’m just not sure if I’m doing more harm than good.


I’m not ready to say goodbye

Dear Ready,

You can ask your vet if there’s anything you shouldn’t do in the effort to make her more comfortable — anything that might conflict with her medication, say, although I can’t think of anything — but you know the cat best, and you should take your cues from her.

It’s difficult, because most animals, when they’re sick and/or dying, want to crawl into a corner and be left alone, so it’s hard to nurture them and let them know you care, or will get them what they need, because they’re not having it with the human contact.(Some people are like this too, actually.I myself am of the “just leave some consommé and a true-crime book at the door; I’ll call you when I’m better DON’T LOOK AT ME” school.)

But make her as comfortable as you can.If she’s picked a hidey-hole in which to sulk (Hobey usually goes with the middle shelf of a closet), put a sweater or a t-shirt of yours in there for her to nest in, and maybe a little toy.Visit her with special treats.Nobody wants to be That Guy with the tearing up the cold cuts by hand, but…you know.They’re family.I’ve been That Guy, but my man the Hobe had two teeth left, which is how I wound up stretched out full-length under the bed with a strip of Boar’s Head ham draped over one finger, and a fingerful of lemon yogurt on the next.

Stay nearby, and check on her frequently, but if she’s growly and sulky, try not to take it personally; it’s just how they get when they don’t feel right.And good luck; let us know how she’s doing.

Dear Sars,

I have a cat question that I haven’t seen addressed in The Vine yet; I’m hoping you could provide some advice.

The situation is as follows: I have two two-year-old cats (they’re from the same litter, adopted as kittens). They’re adorable, fairly easy to take care of (they’ve never been sick, they use the litterbox, can pretty much entertain themselves), and they have a lot of energy and like it when my roommate and I play with them.

I’ve always liked and got along with other people’s cats, and always wanted my own, so you’d think everything would be fine. Not so much.

It turns out I really like cats, but I really dislike having them in my apartment. (Thankfully, I’ve never liked children, so I haven’t been tempted to get any of my own.) I don’t like having to be home at set times to feed them and play with them and change their litter (I’m frequently at my boyfriend’s house, and traveling back and forth is a pain — I’d like the option to NOT come home for a day if it’s not convenient). I don’t like cleaning the apartment top to bottom every week and having cat hair everywhere by the next day.

I also have a slight allergy, it turns out, so I have to keep the cats out of my bedroom, which is fine, but also means that whenever I’m outside of my bedroom for longer than half an hour, I end up having coughing fits for the rest of the day. I have a really nice apartment that I’d like to be able to, you know, live in.

Currently, my roommate is my best friend, and she helps me out with the cats, so it’s not a disaster, and we share the cleaning duties. However, she’s moving to another city in a few months, and so I have to make some choices. I can find another roommate who probably won’t be willing to look after my cats, or clean up after them (and I wouldn’t expect them to), which means I have to be there even more often than I am now.

Or, I could try to re-home them. I don’t like the thought of doing it: I’m giving up on my responsibilities, they’re really nice cats and don’t deserve this, maybe I should just grow up and get used to being an adult, etc. But the thought of taking care of them alone for the next 15 or whatever years makes me nauseous. What do I do?

Thanks in advance,

I think I might be evil

P.S. Do you know anyone in the Boston area that wants cats??

Dear Evil,

That cutesy moniker isn’t going to let you dodge both barrels, I’m afraid.It’s too late, really, because somebody should have asked you this before you took the cats — you should have asked yourself, at least — but you’re going to have to sit through another Sarah Has No Sense Of Humor On This Issue rant after the fact, because it might prevent someone else from making the same mistake, so here we go.

What did you think owning cats would be like?Did you not think they would need regular feeding and attention?Did you not factor in your time at your boyfriend’s when you chose to adopt two creatures who would rely on you for food and love?Did you not believe your cats would shed?At all?Two of them?

The allergic reaction is one thing; that isn’t something you could have foreseen with other people’s cats, necessarily, and I myself have mild allergic reactions to certain cats and not to others.But you put the other inconveniences first, and I get the feeling it’s those that really bug you — and if you’ve read The Vine before, you should know 1) that cats cause a shitload of problems, and you got lucky, comparatively; and 2) how I feel about people believing that pets equal décor, to wit: no, they do not. We’d all love to live in that magical Iams ad where nobody ever barfs on a deep-pile carpet, claw-pulls new cashmere, or licks his butt in front of company, but that ain’t reality.Reality is the goddamned eye shadow paw-print I found on the side of the bathtub this morning.Feline companionship is often delightful and hilarious, but just as often smelly, expensive, and baffling (“WTF, they’re drag queens now?”), and this is hardly a secret.

“Evil,” no.At least you’re trying to deal with the problem instead of streeting them.But you didn’t think this through, and you should have.

Okay, tirade over; on to the problem-solving.I think you should try to re-home them.You don’t want them, and they deserve a home where the humans are better equipped for them mentally.I don’t know about Boston, but the shelter system in New York is jammed and all the no-kill organizations already have their hands full, so you’re better off with a Craigslist ad — or better yet, go through your vet.Stick to the allergy story and do not deviate from it; don’t mention the other shit.Stress how well they behave and well-trained they are.Don’t split them up, don’t give them to a pet store, and if you get any strangers who are interested, ask them the questions you should have asked yourself: Do you understand that this is a decades-long commitment?Do you care that nice furniture is now a pipe dream?Do you have the money to handle it if one of them gets sick or hurt?Can you cope with minor inconveniences, paying for a cat-sitter, running the Roomba three times a week, sometimes stepping in cold yack first thing in the morning?Do you get that these are not pillows?Care enough about them to place them with someone you trust to provide the home that you can’t.

Any Boston-area readers who can help, please post here, or email me.I will sponsor an economy-sized bag of your food of choice to any TN-related adopter who might come through; we’ve done this before.Anyone else who’s about to get a pet, please remember: it is not cuddle fun times every minute, and if you can’t handle that, that is perfectly okay, get a stuffed animal instead and enjoy your pristine couch arms, nobody judges you.But like that shrink told Carmela Soprano, one thing you can never say is that you haven’t been told.There will be poo and drama.Be ready.




  • attica says:

    Is it possible that the fruit tree falls under “Attractive Nuisance” that homeowner’s insurance is so keen about? If so, there are significant liability issues with non-residents helping themselves.

    Me, I’d also consider a call to the cops when the trespassing is in process. But it seems like they’re mindful enough of their bad form that they’re doing it when you’re not around.

    I, too, love cats, but have allergies, commitment issues, and a non-kitty lease. Happily, my downstairs neighbors have two, who enjoy regular reconnaissance up to my place, will stay for a few minutes of cuddle, and then will return home. Best of all possible worlds.

  • Margravine says:

    To May Be Evil,

    Obviously you’re just not that into the cats, but in the meantime (or in case you can’t re-home the cats) why not just make them more convenient? When a second cat came into my home he sparked allergies that had never been a problem before, but it was easily dealt with in three steps.

    1) Furminator. Use one once a week (or even every other week) for as long as the cat will put up with it (probably under 10 minutes) and I promise that you will be shedding more than your cat does. I usually follow Furminating with a brush down to get anything loose and a quick wipe down with a damp paper towel to gather the dander this stirs up on him. No more allergies and the cat seems to view this as a luxury spa day.
    2) HEPA filter. Buy a good air filter of the appropriate size for your living space and you will have all the breathable air you could want.
    3) No cat on the bed. You’ve already taken care of that.

    Beyond that, I’d think that cats would be ideal for taking a day off here and there. As long as they eat dry food you could leave them for a whole weekend if they had enough food and water. They might like the litter box changed every hour on the hour, but odds are they’d deal with a day off gracefully enough. You might want a lid with a charcoal filter on top for that though.

  • michelel72 says:

    Re cats in the Boston area: Good luck, because you’ll need it. We’re drowning in abandoned cats. (If we weren’t, I wouldn’t have eight right now with a veritable Berlin Wall separating them into two populations … and, if Jenny’s increasing girth means that the neutering of one of them didn’t actually take, possibly more in a few weeks. ::sob::)

  • ConchExPat says:

    Go Sars! God, I love a good tirade, especially when I agree with it. Five years ago I fostered three litter mates for a no-kill organization. They were two weeks old, I hand fed them, blah, blah. When it came time for the agency to take them back and adopt them out, my dad had a fit. “If they were children, the court would do whatever they could to keep them together. How can you give them up after all this, etc.” He was in love, and insisted on adopting them. I was not enthusiastic as I knew eventually I would get them back. Sadly, it happened much more quickly than I could have imagined. A year later my dad was dead. I promised him on his deathbed I would take care of the cats myself. So, here I am. With kitty yack stains on my white carpet, and a persistent coat of white fur on everything I wear. But you know what, Evil? Between the joy my cats brought my father in the last year of my life, and for the comfort and companionship they gave me after my dad died, these cats have a free ride for the rest of their lives. Your cats kept their end of the bargain: they behave well and are friendly, playful pets. As much as it pains me, Sars is right: you should rehome them. They deserve better. But my three little siblings are very close to one another. Please try to keep them together.

    Sorry this was so long. buttons were pushed.

  • Jen says:

    Regarding the two cats:

    I’m in the Boston area. I would love to take them except my boyfriend and I share custody with his ex-girlfriend of a big chocolate lab. He seems fine with cats (he tried many a time to befriend my former cat) but do you know how the cats would be with him? Have they ever been around dogs? The main issue is that since he is only over at our place once a month or so, it proved impossible for my old cat to ever get used to him. We were planning to get a new cat later this month from the MSPCA, but specifically were hoping to find one that has some dog-experience so he or she isn’t terrified when the giant softie lab lumbers in.

    Sars, feel free to pass my email address on to the author.

  • Cassie says:

    I have no better suggestions than Sars’ idea to talk to the landlord and see what options are available. I don’t see why you couldn’t post a “no trespassing” sign, even if you are renting. I would love an update once there is a resolution of some sort.

  • Sarah says:

    @Jen – I think young cats adapt pretty quickly to dogs, and even older cats can figure it out. Just give them some time. Also, if its only once a month or so, no cat is going to love the random dog visitor, so it won’t be perfect. They’ll probably hide, just like they would do if a lumbering toddler showed up once a month. But hey, at least you’ll be giving them a good home.

    I’m willing to sponsor a gift card (easy to mail) to a major pet store of choice (I’m assuming PetSmart and Petco exist in Boston) to defray some of the new kitty costs for the adoptive kitty parents. Go Nation – let’s find these kitties a new home!

  • Becca says:

    I am totally on board with the response to Evil. Some housemates and I got a cat together four years ago, and because we needed one owner on the piece of paper, I put my name down. Since then the house has broken up and I have moved across the country (coast to coast) twice (NOT fun or cheap with a cat, and not really fun *for* the cat, either), and I’m going to have to do it again soon. Finding apartments and new roommates that take cats isn’t always a picnic either. I love the little psycho, though, and she is *my* responsibility. I know that she’s along for the duration.

    But here is a hypothetical question (and it is hypothetical — I’ve always wondered about this) — what if one were to find oneself in a relationship where the opposite partner is deathly allergic? Not just a little allergic, but really, REALLY allergic? If the next step with said partner involves moving in together, is it then ethical to re-home? And if re-homing proves not to be an option, what do you do? No way is La Obesity going to a shelter, she is way too weird and grotesquely fat for me to trust that someone would want her without my loving recommendation (really! she grows on you! promise!).

  • dk says:

    Evil: I know it’s not addressing the main issue, which seems to be that you just don’t want cats anymore, but there’s nothing wrong with leaving your cats alone periodically. I have 2 cats that sound just like yours – sweet, playful, *super* easy to take care of (no destruction of home, no fighting, no puking, etc) – and they take care of themselves 2-3 nights a week when I sleep over at the boyfriend’s house. I leave them some extra food in the morning when I go to work, then come home to very excited cats the following evening. It does sound like finding them a new home is best, but until then you can definitely let them entertain themselves once in awhile.

  • Amalthea says:

    For Fruit, what about sprinklers on a timer? I also agree that your landlord shouldn’t have a problem with a sign and a lock.

    Also, thanks Sars for the cat rant. I rescued an abandoned kitten this past summer and after $400 in vet bills and supplies I found her a great home (she’s BFF with the family’s puppy and they cuddle together on the couch).

    People were aghast at the fact that I didn’t keep her for myself. I explained I wasn’t that into kittens, am broke, and am out of town a lot, but I kept getting “But she’s so cuuute and she’ll grow on you!” Uh, no, that’s not a good reason to get a kitten. Made me so angry.

  • Ewen says:

    I can’t help but feel for the Evil Cat lady, but hindsight is 20/20. I’m going through much the same myself, but in this case it was my roommate who decided to get a cat to self-medicate her depression, which has worked out about as well as you can imagine. Roommate stays in bed all day, refusing to look for a job that would get her insurance so she can get some much, much needed help, or refusing to talk to the free (FREE!) counselor hotline to get help looking for a job.
    Aaaaaaand in the meantime her cat care consists of irregular feedings (she stopped giving him kitten food at six months because he was getting a belly and it was “disgusting”), scooping poop out of the cat box and instead of throwing it away, leaving a basketball-sized bag of scooped poop in the bathroom, which the cat inevitably claws at and rips, and largely leaving him to his own devices because she is in bed watching telnovelas on her laptop about 22 hours a day. It’s the cat who loses in all this.

  • lizgwiz says:

    I can’t speak to “re-homing” without fuming, so I’ll pass on that one.

    As far as the sick kitty is concerned, do you think some subcutaneous fluids would help her? It’s pretty easy to do at home, and I’ve kept several of my kitties comfortable in their waning days that way.

  • shawn says:

    On the off-chance that you could come to peace with the cats if you didn’t have to come home every day, there are automated options for dispensing food (Petmate, I’ve had no problems with) water (Drinkwell, ditto) and cleaning litter (littermaid, can’t comment on). I can’t speak to the fur issue, but as long as you’re not leaving them alone for more than a day, they should be fine.

  • Fruit Trees OP says:

    Crap. I thought that I proofread my letter but I missed a critical typo – I don’t have a lease, I have a DEED…i.e. I own the property (and the tree) where my neighbor and her kid are stealing fruit.

  • heatherkay says:

    We bought one of those autofeeders ( We continue to feed our big cat his gushy food once a day so he still loves us, but we could go weeks at a time without feeding him, if we wanted to set it up that way. When we go out of town for a few days, we also set up one of those auto-watering dishes ( My in-laws also have one of those auto catboxes ( — I’m not sure how well it works. But even without it, our cat can go a few days before his litter HAS to be changed. With these three things, you could have some pretty self-sufficient cats.

    Now, as far as the allergy thing, and the cat hair all over everything, and the general sense that you don’t really want to be responsible for other organisms, I can’t really do much about that, other than recommend Claritin, hardwood floors, and lots and lots of tape rollers.

  • Melina says:

    @Jen – my parents’ cats occasionally tangled with my cousin’s big (70lb) black lab at holidays, but they were the ones harassing the lab, who would circle through the family room with this pained expression while a seven-pound cat stomped after her relentlessly, so you might get lucky. My cats would run and hide and make me pay later. They also don’t play well with other cats, so I’m not in a position to re-home these guys for you, sadly, even though I’m in the area. I’ll keep an ear out for anyone looking, but I think all my cattish friends are all catted up at the moment.

  • Carol Elaine says:

    Yeah, cats are inconvenient, can be messy and expensive. I’ve got three and the oldest Matisse) is diabetic with newly diagnosed kidney and bladder issues. I’ve got a roommate who helps when he can, but he’s disabled and can’t physically do much more than give Matisse an insulin shot – I’m not about to ask him to try to give liquid antibiotics. I’ve had to turn down a couple of social invitations from my boyfriend because I need to be home right after work to give Matisse his antibiotics for his bladder infection.

    You know what? I don’t really care. When I adopted Matisse from the Pasadena Humane Society in ’97, I knew I was taking on a huge, long-term commitment. I had no idea my kitty would eventually turn into a diabetic cat, but it doesn’t matter. I love the boy (and my other two boys, BJ and Edison and I’m still missing Noel, who died 3 1/2 years ago) and he’s worth the heartache and frustration and anger that he sometimes causes. When he curls up on my lap and purrs against my hand, it makes up for the worry and inconvenience.

    My boyfriend knows and understands that, right now, my sick kitty comes first. Then again, my boyfriend adores Matisse, as does my roommate and pretty much everyone else who’s ever met him. He’s just that kind of cat.

  • Melanie says:

    I know you’re “not recommending it,” but I just want to point out that the stool-softener idea, while funny in theory, is very likely illegal, given that you know the kid takes your tangerines. You’d be responsible for any harm that befalls the kid or his mom as a result of ingesting the tainted tangerines.

    But I’m all for the overwatering or dog-borrowing.

  • JB says:

    Isn’t there a rule that in the state of Florida, you get hit with some hefty fines if you’re caught taking oranges off of private property? I remember hearing about how an orange tree that grows over a fence is okay, but you get hit with some kind of astronomical fine for stealing oranges off of someone’s land?

  • Melanie says:

    And by “you’d be responsible,” I meant the tangerine tree owner, not Sars.

  • stanley says:

    @Fruit: maybe it depends on what kind of area you you live in (urban, sub, small-town) and your relationship with your neighbors, but I’d just call the cops. Of course, I have pronounced Old Man tendencies (of the “you darn kids get off my lawn!” variety) and am also kind of vindictive, so take that as you will. I guess to me, if the neighborhood is at all urban, I would not be that worried about ruffling feathers by calling the cops.

    I can’t speak to the cat issue because any pet abandonment – especially approached with any glibness, as here – enrages me. I am liable to say something intemperate. And perhaps I have even less patience than usual since as I type this I have rug cleaners in the next room attempting to clean dog urine out of my area rugs. It’s part of the deal, yo.

    But I will say I’m always wary of giving pets to strangers and at least in Chicago where dog-fighting is a problem I understand it is officially discouraged; if there’s any way to reach out to a social network instead, that would be better. Just last week a friend of mine took in a dog that belonged to another friend of mine’s co-worker’s sister, because email gets forwarded around (particularly when it includes a picture of a St. Bernard in a birthday hat). If that network is TN, awesome. But at least circulate an email among your social circle, too, rather than go straight to Craig’s List or posted flyers or something.

  • Merope says:

    To May Be Evil,

    Is there any possibility your current roommate might wantto take the cats with her when she moves? It sounds like she’s been doing a lot of the work you don’t like in any case, which means she’s likely become attached to them.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Fruit: If that’s the case, buy a strong lock, post a polite but firm sign, and call the cops the next time it happens. Better yet, happen down to your local precinct and give them a heads-up about the problem, then call their non-911 number the next time it happens. The use of 911 for this sort of dispute is not law enforcement’s favorite.

  • Peach says:

    @Fruit: Can you also look into trimming the branches that are accessible from outside the fence? I know that would also limit your fruit gathering, but would at least illustrate a clear detterant to outside fruit nabbers. And maybe you could compromise with the landlord that you’ll pay for the tree trimming if he pays for the sturdy gate lock.

    As for having to live in the neighborhood, I’d counter that you clearly aren’t enjoying it much as it is with your neighbors helping themselves to your property, so calling the cops and making a fuss to end it entirely seems like just a fine idea to me.

    If you’re *really* a nice person (I am decidedly not) you could make some fresh juice and cookies and take it to your neighbor and offer a compromise, you’ll share the fruit with her but on your terms, ie, you will decide when and how much fruit she gets, if she agrees to keep herself and her son off the property. More hassle and you still have to pony up some fruit on a regular basis, but you get to control how much and when and get relative peace from trespassers and remain in “good standing” in the neighborhood.

  • Whitney says:

    Evil — A lot of your basic issues with care and feeding have some solutions. There are automated feeders available that can be programmed to release a certain amount of food at set times throughout the day. My boyfriend has one for his cat and it’s great. There are also water dispensers and I think even some self-cleaning litter boxes (though I have no direct experience with those).

    If it’s a mild allergy, I’ve had excellent luck with both Alavert and Claritin over the counter meds. I’ve never so much as sniffled at the boyfriend’s, even though the cat likes to sleep on my pillow .

    But yeah, the cat hair? Never going to get rid of all of that. I make frequent use of a lint brush.

    You don’t mention having tried any of these things, so I’m assuming you haven’t. I’ve only seen these at work in one-cat households — I don’t know if your cats are good at sharing food or if you have to be there to make sure one doesn’t steal from the other. And perhaps the fact that you’ve already gotten to “I need to rehome them” instead of trying these things indicates you really don’t have room in your life for pets right now. I just wanted to point out that there were, if not total fixes, at least ways to make some of your problems a little easier to deal with.

  • MeepMoop says:


    There’s also public shaming. Take a picture. Make copies. Put them up around the neighborhood with ‘Trespassing Thief’ written on them.

    Or, “Have you noticed this person trespassing, too?”

  • Schlinkaboo says:

    Re: hypothetical relationship-killing cat allergy… I had a relationship fizzle because he was seriously allergic and couldn’t stand to be in my apartment. Would the relationship have progressed to moving in together? Probably not, but the cat was there first and frankly gave me more joy than the boy, so forced to choose, I probably would have chosen the cat anyway. When I met my now Hub, one of the first things we settled was cat vs dog, thankfully he answered correctly. Again, I’m not sure I would have pursued the relationship further if he was anti-cat. (Somehow we work through our Red Sox-Yankees issue 18 games a season.)

  • FloridaErin says:

    Sars, you said everything re: pet ownership that I wanted to say. I know someone who rehomed 2 cats for reasons I did not agree with and it pisses me off to this day. One of my two has cost me a ridiculous amount in bladder related vet drama and is a general pain in the ass but is also a constant source of love and hilarity. You put up with the loud meowing from across the house for no reason and the parking in front of the monitor while you work. Because there’s also the times that he head-butts your leg or runs up to you excitedly when you say his name. That’s love. You don’t have to be a crazy cat lady. Just be realistic about the fact that these are living creatures.

  • Cath says:

    Fruit: You might also be well served to post a sign with the price per tangerine (50 cents, maybe), which clearly indicates that it is not free and any removal is theft. Then if you do eventually notify the cops, they won’t have to take your word for it that you’ve told the neighbors that they can’t help themselves.

    And as someone who has literally vomited while cleaning poop from my dog’s fur, I can’t abide Evil’s desire to have the perks of pet ownership without the responsibility. I have earned the cuddle time and endless adoration of my dogs by making sure their needs are met. Although to be fair, I wouldn’t even have my loving (and wildly expensive designer) dogs if my great aunt hadn’t bought them and then realized she didn’t want them.

  • Kriesa says:

    Can we add
    “There will be poo and drama. Be ready.”
    to the list of potential T-shirt slogans?

  • AZ says:

    @Fruit – Since you own the property, you should definitely get a lock. If you don’t want to lock the gate or if you do and if thievery keeps happening (reaching over or even climbing the fence), I’d consider trying to find a motion-activated sprinkler (for instance, – google “motion activated sprinkler” for lots of options). Hours of entertainment right there.

  • Carol Elaine says:

    @Fruit, since you own the house, grounds and fruit trees, that woman and her hell-child are definitely trespassing and you are well within your rights to call the non-911 number for the police. Let the woman know that trespassing is illegal and that she may end up with a visit from the police if she or her offspring are found on your property again. No one has the right to take someone else’s stuff, even if it is fruit from a tree. Also, second Sars’ lock suggestion.

    (I’m also of the cranky, “Get Off My Lawn!” temperament. There is no reason to be nice to someone who hasn’t earned it. This woman has earned nothing but scorn and derision.)

  • Evil Roommate says:

    @Merope – I’m Evil’s roommate! I’m the first person she asked, actually, but I’m moving to a teeeeeeeny studio in NYC. They’d be miserable cooped up in anyplace I could afford.

    At the risk of incurring board wrath, though, I’ll admit that I feel basically the same way she does–ambivalent. I basically like the cats, but I’m too busy to give them as much attention as they want, and while I don’t mind taking care of them, I also don’t feel the kind of connected bond that a lot of the posters seem to feel with their pets. The cats are healthy and well-fed, with us, but I feel like we’re not meeting their emotional needs, which may sound odd for cats, but there you are.

    Does it sound like these cats just ruined us? They’re cute and funny and playful and bitchy and quirky and have personalities all their own, and I hate the idea of giving them to anyone who’d appreciate them less than we do, but, I think it would be the best thing for them if we could find someone who’d appreciate them more.

    Thanks for the suggestions – and for those who are worried, I can promise you all that Evil and I will be diligent about seeking out a comfortable situation for the little guys. They won’t end up on the street.

  • Tisha_ says:

    @ fruit: If you’re the owner, you’ll likely get sued when one of them falls and breaks their damn-fool ankle in your yard, so I say call the non-emergency number next time it happens. Then step outside and let them know that you have in fact called the cops, because what they are doing IS illegal.

  • emilygrace says:

    Fruit: Amalthea’s sprinkler idea is a good one, if you don’t like the idea of having to lock and unlock your own gate. But make it a motion sensor sprinkler. It’s usually recommended for people who need to keep the neighbors’ cats out of the garden, but I imagine it would be pretty unappealing for the neighbors too.

  • Grace says:

    @Fruit: I agree with what’s been said so far: no trespassing sign, lock on gate (if feasible), and be prepared to call the cops.

    I’d also suggest that if you know who the neighbor is, that you send that neighbor a letter, which politely but firmly says: Knock it off. You and your family are not welcome in my yard, and I expect that you will immediately cease and desist from trespassing. If you really wanted to make it scary, have a lawyer send the letter for you. Send the letter by certified mail (or by FedEx/UPS) where the neighbor has to sign, and you have proof of delivery. Most courts (and most cops) take encroachment on private property very seriously, and someone coming into your land when you are not there, to steal your fruit is a crime. (A petty crime, but still a crime.) You also have liability issues if someone is injured on your property, which is a perfectly valid reason to keep people out of your yard. If you have given this person both a written and verbal warning, you may still feel like a dope calling the cops, but you will have made it clear that this encroachment was not permitted. I find that a letter gets taken more seriously than a conversation, and it gives you an intermediate step before calling the cops.

    And I have been there. My family had huge citrus trees at our first house in Arizona. The trees were in the back, and when the house went up for sale (we had already moved into our new home), we regularly encountered real estate agents filling bags of grapefruit from our trees. Jerks.

  • Kathryn says:

    @Fruit Tree: You mean it’s YOUR property? Jeez, now I’m even angrier. I can’t believe the ninny thinks that having an arrangement with the previous owner means didly-squat. It’s bad enough when people help themselves to fruit or flowers when the owners aren’t there (usually with the justification that “they won’t mind”) but to have her tell you to your FACE that she refuses to stop taking the fruit? How annoying. I second the suggestions to install a lock, trim back the branches that are near the fence, and have a talk with the local PD. You could also find some No Trespassing signs at the local hardware store, preferably one that says “Trespassers will be Prosecuted”, so the McStealigans (hee!) can’t say they didn’t know.

    Also? Throw a fruit-picking party some time. Lots of music and wine (mmm, tangerine sangria), everybody having fun, invititation-only.

  • Shanchan says:

    Any chance there is a window in your house visible from the street? You could plant a camera there with a sign saying something about the area being monitored, even if you never turn the camera on. If she thinks it is ok to trespass and steal, she shouldn’t mind being photographed doing it. The woman’s sense of entitlement boggles.

  • K. says:

    Oh, please, if you own the property, lock up the tree and feel good about it. The fruit thief and her bratty-ass kid can suck it. If you catch them stealing fruit again, call the cops and again, feel good about it. It’s your property; if they’re on it, they’re trespassing.

    Growing up, I had a neighbor who had an amazing fruit garden (she owned a little plot of land in the neighborhood so it wasn’t in her actual yard), and there were a lot of kids around. We used to pick berries all the time – with the express permission of the owner. You have not given your permission, the fruit is yours, take necessary means to keep people from stealing it. I wouldn’t be concerned about the mom and kid liking you, because you don’t seem to like them much either (with good reason).

  • heatherkay says:

    Forget sprinklers on a timer — how about sprinklers with a motion detector?

  • La BellaDonna says:

    Will go back to read the Tomato Nationalist comments, because I love my fellow tomats, but I am also (and alas) versed in Kitties Who Have Been Exposed:

    First, I am SO SORRY, and the eyedropper thing is great, BUT: Check with your vet! Milk is not a substitute for water, and your kitty will get dehydrated REALLY FAST – so you need to do eyedroppers of water. Also? Cow’s milk is not necessarily the best nutrition; your vet may have a better suggestion, and in the meantime, I’d be more apt to go to a Big Pet Store and buy cans of KMR, which is Kitten Milk Replacement – it’s nutrition MEANT for kittens, and is good for older/ill cats, who tend to LOVE IT. I buy the powdered kind and mix it up with warm water (rather than cold). And I have been known to cook trout in catsup for a poor soul on its way out, so: feed your kitty whatever kitty will eat. I’ve done baby food, meat I’ve ground in a meat grinder – whatever works.

    And good luck.

    Also? I hope the Tangerine Queen would never, ever do any of those things Sars said she shouldn’t do. I hope there are lots of other things she would never, ever do, and I hope she lets us know what they are. So we don’t accidentally do them, either.

  • Annie F. says:

    Evil…As I understand it (and remember from having one growing up), one of the joys of cat ownership is that they are on the more independent side, which means you can leave them for a day or so with food and water.

    However, it is clear you would just rather not keep the cats, period, which pains me to no end but hey, we all make choices. I wish you luck finding a home for your kittehs.

    And, please, please, please do not consider getting a dog.

  • Carena says:

    @Fruit – When I was little we got a dog, and this dog was a fence jumper. Not a bad dog, just wanted to lay down on a grassy patch just outside of the fence. (the grass INside the fence he was too good for, maybe?) At any rate, so my father strung a few wires and presto-chango not only did we have an electric fence, we had the nicest, most polite neighbors you’ve ever seen.
    Just sayin’

  • Melina says:

    Oh, Fruit Lady. They are stealing AND trespassing, and will totally sue your ass if they hurt themselves while stealing your fruit. Your property is YOUR PRIVATE PROPERTY. An arrangement with a previous owner does not create any sort of right, legal or otherwise, and they CLEARLY know what they’re doing is wrong, because they’re clearly making an effort to keep their activities to times when you’re not home. I agree with everyone who’s recommended locking the gate and and posting signs and writing letters and calling the non-emergency number for the local police. Video is good too. And if someone told me I wasn’t going to call the cops over my tangerines, you better bet I’d be on the phone with the cops in UNDER A MINUTE, talking about a belligerent trespasser stealing things from my yard and making me feel unsafe on my own property, just to show that person. Honestly, where do people get the NERVE? Like several of the other posters, I am also kind of a vengeful bitch, but… I’m vengeful because there are people like this, man. If nothing else, lock the gate.

  • LaSalleUGirl says:

    @Ready– I’m so sorry about your cat. My furbaby Puck was just diagnosed with multiple tumors, so I’m right there with you.

    A couple of suggestions based on my past experiences and my mom’s expertise as a former vet tech:

    I second lizgwhiz’s recommendation for subcutaneous fluids, if you think you can manage that yourself (or if you can afford to have it done at the vet every couple of days). Puck went downhill fast at one point, and rehydrating him with fluid helped A LOT. (He’s back to almost normal behavior now, though we don’t know how long that will last.)

    Our vet often suggests feeding baby food to sick cats. It’s easier to digest than cat food, apparently. Their flavor of choice was lamb, but that’s almost impossible to find. Turkey or chicken work well. If your cat isn’t drinking much, you can mix in a tablespoon or two of water, to get in some hydration as well.

    Another option is KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement). It’s usually used for kittens who need to be hand-raised, but it can also be used for sick cats. It’s high in fat and calories — think of it as kitty Ensure. I usually buy it in little cans from PetCo / PetSmart / etc. — they’ll keep unopened for a while, but once you open one, you’ve got to use it pretty quickly. You can also buy it in powder form. Even my sickest cats have been willing to drink at least a little of this a few times a day.

    Good luck!

  • Jenn says:

    Combine the sprinkler idea with the public-shaming idea: A motion sensor that sets off strobe lights and loud techno music.

  • Debby says:

    May I just say that the “Scarecrow” product? Is brilliant! I just googled it out of curiosity.

    I don’t have tresspasser problems, 2 or 4 legged, but I still want one :)

  • Laura says:

    I’ll play a little devil’s advocate here for Fruit Tree. I grew up in Florida and we had a lime tree, a tangerine tree, and two orange trees and let me tell you, it was a real challenge to get rid of all that fruit before it went bad. Share with your neighbors. If you have enough to eat, juice and freeze, then you have more than enough. I have no idea what your or your neighbor’s economic situation is, but this might be fruit that helps them through a tight budget. I would let it go and share the citrus already.

  • Mary says:

    @Fruit – A nice border of thorny shrubs outside the fence would also help prevent your nasty neighbors from reaching over. I had a problem with people cutting across the corner of my yard, and the thorny shrub border (I used barberry shrubs, but a low-growing holly would work, too) stopped that behavior immediately. And definitely get a lock for your gate.

  • Diane in WA says:

    Don’t feel bad about calling the cops. They are there to enforce the laws and private property ranks very high among the laws in this country. Explain the situation to the local police, ask them for some advice on your rights, post a sign on the fence, and report anyone who takes fruit without permission, whether they are 8 years old or 80. You have already tried the nice person approach and it didn’t work. I’d also look into getting a restraining order against that particular woman.

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