My Pet World: How to keep neighbor’s cats from pooping in your yard
I have neighbors on either side of me. One has two small dogs. The other feeds and takes care of about six former feral cats. The cats are well cared for, and all are spayed and neutered. While they have access to inside her home during storms and snow, they are generally outside. The neighbor with the dogs can see the cats relieve themselves in her fenced-in yard. She says her male dog eats the feces and has had medical issues because of it. She seems at her wits end as to how to stop the cats from using her yard — and how to rid her dog of this awful habit. Can a dog be trained to not to eat feces? I don’t have pets, but I feed the birds. — Tessa, Long Island, New York
While it would be difficult to keep former feral cats inside, there are absolutely things your neighbor with the dog can do to break her dog’s habit and discourage the cats from visiting. Her dog has a condition call coprophagia, which is a Greek word that means “to eat feces.” This is not uncommon in dogs. No one knows for sure why they dogs do it, but there are things she can do to discourage him.
First, she can pick up the cat poop in her yard every morning before her dog can get to it. It’s definitely a hassle, but it works.
Second, she absolutely can train her dog to “leave it,” which involves dropping a treat to the ground, asking the dog to sit, saying “leave it,” and then rewarding the dog with a treat from the hand. She will need to pick up the treat from the ground and repeat this process again. Never let a dog eat the treat off the ground. Once the dog learns what “leave it” means, she can get the dog’s attention by saying his name, shaking a can of coins, or using something like a Pet Corrector which is condensed air that makes a “SHHH” sound. Once she has his attention, she can tell him to “leave it.”
As for the cats, she can prevent them from entering her fenced yard by mounting a cat-proof fence panel or netting around the top of the fence. I have seen them for as low as $40 for a three-foot by 50-foot panel. There are also motion-activated sprinklers that will quickly discourage the cats from entering the yard. I know these things cost money, but they do work.
Finally, there are over-the-counter digestive supplements that can be given to the dog to lessen his interest in the poop and for cats to make their poop less tasty to the dog. It might be something she only has to give to her dogs in this instance, but definitely worth a try.
I regularly read and appreciate your column. It is a worthwhile and helpful feature. However, you made a terrible recommendation in your column about dogs’ tear stains when you wrote “clean around the eyes carefully with a cotton ball.” This is terrible advice because “cotton” balls (whether they are truly cotton or a cotton-poly blend) always shed tiny fibers. Even cotton swabs shed fibers. These fibers, which may or may not be readily visible, easily end up in the eye or partially in the eye (caught up in eyelashes and other “hooks”).
A much better suggestion than a cotton ball would be a piece of gauze. Gauzes’ compositions vary widely, but virtually all that I have familiarity with would be a far superior tool than a cotton ball for the circumstance described. Perhaps a cotton pad (they come in square and circle shapes) would be marginally OK to use (as in, better than a cotton ball), but I’d still much prefer a piece of gauze. Even a quality paper towel (as opposed to a more fiber-shedding Kleenex-type tissue) would be better than any cotton ball or cotton pad. — Jenn, Las Vegas, Nevada
I received a few letters about this, so you are not alone in chastising me. You are correct in saying that if one wasn’t careful, some of the fibers could get into and irritate the dog’s eye, and that a gauze pad would work better than a cotton ball. I used to use flannel baby washcloths on my dog’s faces and eye areas when bathing them. That might be a better solution, and they’re washable and reusable. I appreciate your feedback.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)
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