What to Do if Neighbors Complain

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When neighbors complain about community cats, it is important to swiftly address their concerns in a manner that is calm, productive, and oriented toward a peaceful solution.

Every solution, however, should involve allowing the cats to remain in their outdoor homes. Removal into indoor homes is not acceptable, as community cats are generally not socialized to people or adoptable and are highly stressed in confined, unfamiliar environments. For that same reason, bringing community cats to an animal shelter is also not acceptable, and could lead to the cats being killed.

As an advocate, your voice and action on behalf of your neighborhood’s community cats is critical. Even the most low-key complaints can escalate into something bigger and far more dangerous for the cats, including calls for animal control to trap and remove them.

Here are the basics on how to proceed if neighbors complain about community cats:

Have a conversation

Often, having a calm conversation about a neighbor’s complaints and showing that you are willing to work together to address concerns will go a long way in resolving many issues. Our negotiating tips may help. If you feel you are unable to have a polite conversation with the person for any reason, consider finding a mediator to help.

A mediator might be another neighbor, or you might reach out to a member of our Feral Friends Network* who lives near you.

Tell them about community cats and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

Hopefully you’ve taken pro-active steps to educate your neighbors about community cats and TNR. If you have not, take a look at our information on Educating Others.

Address the complaints

Once you hear what your neighbor’s complaints are, think of ways you can address them. Some things that may help:

1. Offer humane deterrents.

If your neighbor complains about cats coming on to their property, humane deterrents can help keep cats away from areas they aren’t wanted. See our humane deterrent options. Remember: You may need to try several deterrents or a combination of deterrents until you find something that works best.

2. Do TNR

TNR is the only humane and effective approach to community cats, and you can let your neighbor know. Also let them know that you are willing to either do TNR or pursue support for TNR in the neighborhood.

If your neighbor is complaining that the cats are too vocal, are spraying or marking, or are having kittens, let them know that spay or neuter through TNR is the direct solution. See our step-by-step guide to TNR.

3. Follow best practices for community cat care

If your neighbor complains about mess, cat food attracting wildlife or insects, or cats seeking shelter in areas they aren’t welcome, be sure you are following our best practices for community cat colony care. You’ll find even more community cat care tips in the “Colony Care“ section of our “Community Cat Care“ information.

4. Get your resolution in writing

If local authorities become involved, a written agreement over your complaint resolution in regards to the cats can be extremely helpful. A written resolution also sends a message to your neighbor and community that the protection of local community cats is taken seriously.

Know what to do if the situation does not resolve peacefully

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, complaints can escalate. Learn what to do if low-key complaints lead to violent threats, citations or fines, or trouble with animal control.

*Feral Friends are not representatives, employees, volunteers, or agents of Alley Cat Allies. Learn more in our FAQ.

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