Cats that are permitted to roam outdoors will have an incorrigible wanderlust. That’s fine if they stay safe on the roads. Wandering into the houses of neighbors, however, could cause problems.
Felines don’t see houses as belonging to humans. They just sense warmth on a cold day, or smell something delicious cooking on the stove. They could be chasing prey or are being provided with food and treats by the person living in that property.
Cats do not understand – or care about – human law, and will act accordingly. This leaves the onus on cat owners to keep their cats from trespassing. Cordial neighborhood relations may depend upon your doing so. This guide will explain why cats visit other homes, and how you can stop them.
Why Does My Cat Keep Entering Other People’s Homes?
There are a plethora of reasons why cats like to go into somebody else’s house. Just some of these could include:
- The cat is cold, wet or tired, and sees an opportunity to get somewhere cozy.
- The cat is chasing a prey animal, and followed them into a home.
- The house has an interesting smell that the cat cannot resist investigating.
- The cat associates the home with food, attention or comfort.
- The cat has forged a bond with another animal or human that lives in the home.
- The cat doesn’t have enough places to hide or climb in their own home. This alternative house is far more interesting.
- The cat finds something else that it doesn’t get at home in this house. That could even be a little peace and quiet, if your home is busy.
- The cat is in season, and looking for a mate.
- The cat is looking to increase its territory. They’re looking to see if another feline has claimed the home as their own.
Of course, it’s also possible that the cat is inquisitive. This means that your cat is likely to make their way into neighborhood homes occasionally. In return, other local cats may attempt to make their way into yours. This is something that all cat owners need to balance and control.
Will I Get into Legal Trouble if My Cat Enters Somebody Else’s House?
No legal writ prevents cats from entering a home. Cats are free to roam by law, though they remain the property of their owner. A cat must never be kept in another house against the wishes of its owner. This is considered theft.
If you have a cat that tends to visit other people’s homes, be aware of the potential repercussions. Situations that could land you in trouble include:
- Your cat damaging property or possessions. You are responsible for your cat’s actions. If your cat scratches a neighbor’s furniture, for example, they could send you a repair bill.
- Willful negligence in caring for your cat. The most likely scenario here is that your neighbor has a cat allergy. If they take reasonable steps to prevent interaction with your cat, keep your pet away. Allowing your cat to enter their home could leave you responsible for medical bills.
- Violation of rental arrangements. Some tenants rent properties with ‘no pet’ policies. If your cat visits this home, the owner may take action against the tenant. They may be able to prove that they took reasonable steps to deter your pet. You may be liable for any expenses.
The finer points of law surrounding cats vary from state to state. This report from the Michigan State University College of Law goes into more detail.
Have open and honest conversations with your neighbors. Cats will wander, and staying on good terms with the local residents may be important.
It will also help if your neighbor knows which family a cat belongs to. They’re more likely to return the feline directly to you this way, rather than a vet. It will also make life easier for you.
While cats can legally wander free, a human that enters another person’s home uninvited is trespassing. Following your cat into a stranger’s house could be an issue.
How to Stop Cats Going to Neighbors’ Houses
If your cat upsets your neighbors by entering their homes, you’ll have to put a stop to it. Keep them indoors. Yes, you’ll have to lock all your doors and windows while you’re out.
This may seem cruel at first, especially if your cat is curious by nature. We know what curiosity does to cats, though, and the outside world is full of danger. An indoor cat will not have to contend with road traffic, or other animals. Your pet will also not be stolen, and they’ll minimize exposure to fleas and other parasites.
If you keep your cat indoors, make it somewhere they want to be. This is the only way to prevent a cat from seeking comfort in other homes. If your cat doesn’t get something they want or need at home, they’ll seek it elsewhere.
Another key thing to remember is that unfixed cats will be much more likely to wander. A male that has not been neutered, in particular, will be keen to mark his territory all over your neighborhood. If you live in close quarters with others, it’s advisable to spay or neuter your feline.
My Cat Has Another Family
Can cats have two homes? Sadly for owners, yes they can – in the cat’s mind, at least. Cats will go where they feel welcome, and where their wants and needs are met. This may lead to a cat spending their days in another home while you’re at work. They will likely then return to you later.
This could work in favor of all parties in some instances. This ‘second home’ may provide your pet with the desired companionship while you’re unavailable. Of course, it only makes sense if everybody is happy, though. If either of you ends up unhappy, a line must be drawn under the arrangement.
There is also the sticky element of who owns the cat. This leads to the question of who is responsible for them. Who takes care of feeding, and gets to schedule mealtimes? Who takes the cat to the vet, and pays the bills? Is the cat allowed on the furniture in the house, but not the other? Do they spend the night in one home, but never another?
Things can get very confusing. It’s better to ensure that your cat has everything they need in their own own home. This will make somebody else’s house considerably less appealing.
How Can I Ensure That My Cat Gets Everything They Need at Home?
The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms what cats need to feel comfortable and content. These requests are not unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for humans.
According to the journal, five pillars are essential to cat contentment, with #1 being the most pivotal. These pillars are as follows:
- Provide a Safe Place. Safety is paramount to cats. These animals are hunters, which means they also understand prey. Your pet will not feel comfortable in wide, open spaces. Provide your cat with plenty of boxes, drawers, tables, and closets to hide in and upon. Elevate your bed so your cat can get underneath it, too.
- Provide Multiple Options for Essential Functions. This means that your cat should have more than one of everything. Multiple beds, water bowls, food sources, toys, scratching posts, and litter boxes. The more choice your cat has, the more likely they are to relax.
- Play and Encourage Your Cat’s Hunting Instincts. Cats are natural predators, and they never lose those instincts. This means that they could become frustrated if they are indoors all day with no outlet. Play with your cat with string or ‘fishing rod’ toys. This will keep them engaged. Just remember to strike a balance between letting your cat ‘win’ the game and not. If they capture their toy prey every time, they’ll grow bored with the lack of challenge. If they never do, however, they’ll grow frustrated and give up.
- Interact with your Cat and Establish a Routine. Cats live for routine. Upsetting an established schedule is often a reason for spending more time out of the home. If your cat expects to be fed, petted and played with at particular times, do just that. You’ll fall into an easy bond, and your cat will relish the predictability.
- Acknowledge the Importance of Smell. Cats have a very strong sense of smell. They rely on this far more than their eyesight. Cats use scent for information and stimulation. Keep this in mind, and fill your home with interesting aromas.
If you follow these steps, your cat will have their core needs met. However, remember that every feline is different. Learn what your pet considers a priority, and build your home accordingly.
My Cat is Being Fed Elsewhere
A cat that is being fed in another home is a cause of constant frustration. Not only does it ensure the cat will keep visiting, but it’s dangerous to their health. Your cat could end up overweight, or eating a poor or inappropriate diet.
Sadly, feeding somebody else’s pet is not illegal. All you can do in such a scenario is politely ask the neighbor to stop. If you explain your situation, most people will understand.
If all else fails, provide your neighbor with your preferred choice of food. If your cat is going to eat elsewhere, they should at least eat properly.
My Cat Was Hurt at a Neighbor’s House
If your cat was accidentally injured at a neighbor’s house, they were likely not supposed to be there. If your feline was chasing prey, they might have ended up encountering a mousetrap. If they invited themselves in without invitation, they might have been hurt jumping or exploring.
If your neighbor didn’t willfully and deliberately injure your cat, there is little you can do. If medical attention is required, pay the bill and chalk it up to experience.
One thing to keep an eye on, however, is a neighborhood cat bullying another. It’s unlikely that a cat would willingly enter the home of another animal that intimidates them.
The aggressor, however, may visit another cat’s home and eat their food, possibly even attacking them. Make sure that all cats are getting along, or at the very least tolerate each other.
I Think My Neighbor is Mistreating My Cat
Cats are protected by the law, and it’s illegal to wound one. If you suspect that your neighbor is attempting to hurt your pet, they should be reported. Both local law enforcement and the ASPCA will take a dim view of this.
The ASPCA has substantial criteria for animal cruelty. Most of these mandates are the responsibility of the pet’s owner, but outright hostility and violence toward animals are never acceptable.
Sadly, the damage may need to be substantial before legal action can be taken. Proof of intent to harm will also be required. Check your local state laws to learn the threshold for animal cruelty. Shooting a cat with a BB gun, for example, is unfortunately legal in some territories.
Most right-thinking people would never look to hurt animals, but sometimes you cannot legislate for humankind. Don’t delay if you have grounds for suspicion. File a report immediately, and keep your pet safe in the meantime.
My Cat Soiled a Neighbor’s House
This is a nightmare for most cat owners. Their pet making their way into a neighbor’s home is one thing. Proceeding to vomit or eliminate while they are there is something else.
Again, this is not technically illegal. While dog waste must be picked up, no such law exists for cats. You risk a nuisance charge if you allow cats to desecrate somebody else’s home, though.
If this incident occurs, the best possible solution is a conversation and a heartfelt apology. If your cat soiled somebody’s home, you should offer to clean it up too.
Understand why somebody is upset about the incident, and take steps to prevent it from happening again. If that involves locking your cat indoors, so be it.
My Neighbor’s Cat Won’t Go Home
It may not just be your cat that likes to visit other homes. You could find that a neighborhood feline takes a shine to your own home. If they keep letting themselves in, and are reluctant to leave, this could be a problem.
The first thing that you should do is explain the situation to the cat’s owner. Make it clear that you are not mistreating the cat, but neither are you encouraging them. It’s important that your neighbor understands that you are not trying to steal their pets. The owner may then take the necessary action to keep their cat home.
If the cat continues to visit, you may need to take action yourself. Keep your doors and windows closed to minimize their access. If they do get in, don’t give the cat any attention – and certainly no treats. Calmly and softly scoop them up, take them outside, and prevent them from getting back in. You could also leave some lemon peels outside your home, particularly at this cat’s access points. Cats loathe the smell of citrus, and this will deter them.
In some cases, you won’t be able to handle the cat. This could be because of an allergy, or the cat hiding and refusing to emerge. Also, the cat may be aggressive towards your pets, or eat their food. In such cases, have a polite but firm conversation with the cat’s owner, reminding them of their responsibilities. You are unlikely to have any legal recourse, so don’t try to make threats. Just explain that you cannot have the cat in your home. If you suspect that the owner is mistreating the animal, speak to the ASPCA.
People living in close quarters will expect cats to pop in and out of their homes. Felines have a stubborn refusal to understand and accept trespassing laws. This doesn’t mean that they need to accept it, however. If your cat visits neighbors that don’t welcome the company, it’s your responsibility to stop them.