Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to keep feral cats out of your backyard in Phoenix

How to keep feral cats out of your backyard in Phoenix:
Dr. Desert Flower and I have two old, grouchy indoor cats. They freak out (read as hiss, spit, fight, vomit, try-to-look-huge-at-the-window) when interloping feral cats come wandering into our backyard. The neighborhood cats are drawn to our wimpy/grouchy/indoor cats at the window, the running water in the swimming pool as the pump hums, and Dr. Desert Flower's uncanny cat magnetism. So today I devised a solution to this problem that I believe will have a high degree of effectiveness.
Tools required:
- old sticks of Crisco (mine expired in 2006... we use EVOO most all of the time now)
- one large container of red pepper (cayenne pepper can be substituted)
- one trowel or paint scraper
- one 6 ft ladder
- one face mask
- one pair of vinyl gloves

Time required: about an hour of available time, on a weekend morning

Step one: stand up ladder at the corner of the ubiquitous border cinder block fence, then don vinyl gloves.
Step two: rub Crisco stick over the top of the corner cinder blocks, and 2 to 3 adjacent cinder blocks, until there is a thin film of hydrogenated vegetable oil glistening on the surface. Then, don face mask.
Step three: shake container of pepper over the surface, until no more glistening can be seen
Step four: use trowel or paint scraper to evenly spread the pepper / Crisco mixture, making sure not to leave any remnants of glistening Crisco or pepper on the neighbor's side of the cinder block's edge.
Caution: if breeze blows during steps 3 and 4, close eyes and turn head to avoid having pepper blown into eyes. Do not touched gloved hands to eyes.

Repeat steps 1-4 three more times, at each corner of the backyard cinder block fence, making sure not to spread the residual Crisco/pepper mixture on your ladder.

With this "barrier method" in place, the neighborhood cats who use the tops of the border fences as "cat highways" will find an unsavory (unless they are Cajun cats) mix of hair-ball tonic and spices on their paws, which they fastidiously clean, and will avoid coming into our back yard. Yes, they CAN leap down, and then climb back up farther away from the corners, but I've observed most of the cats are pretty lazy, and while getting down is easy, getting back up takes more work. Our old orange tabby in Indiana used to love shrimp, and would beg for it, standing on his hind legs with nose over the edge of the stove, on tippy toe. One day, Dr. Desert Flower flicked a shrimp tail covered in Cajun sauce out of the pan and onto the floor. I've never seen a cat drink so much water, after he tried to eat that tail. He also never begged at the stove again.

It gets pretty hot here in Phoenix in the summer time, but the melting point of Crisco is up around 117F. We only get that hot for a week or so in August typically, so I think the solution will last until at least then. I was going to use a tub of old bearing axle grease I had, but I figured that would be bad for the environment AND make the cats sick. That's all I need, more cat vomit in the back yard! (2 batches in the last year, cleaned up already)


  1. this is also effective at keeping Federal cats out of your yard, which is what i first thought it said.

  2. and by the way... for the peanut gallery:
    1) no, my backyard does not smell like chili pepper now
    2) the thickness of the Crisco spread was very very thin (less than "wafer thin" even), approx 1 or 2 mills (0.001) so there won't be much to "run" or "melt" later
    3) No, the spices have not lured Hispanic cats to my yard, Lou Dobbs
    4) upon close visual inspection this afternoon, as evidenced by paw prints, it does appear to have arrested the progress of several cats who were not brave enough (loved spice enough) to cross it. Yes, 2 cats HAVE entered the back yard SINCE installation, BUT, I credit those to fence jumpers who did not use the corners.

    Per my buddy Joe M's suggestion, I will be installing a motion sensor activated device that'll scare off the unwanted felines, as well.

    Stay tuned.

  3. Do you know where EVOO comes from? REALLY ugly olives.

  4. but Jason, they have Really nice personalities, and they love to cook, and will help you with the lit homework, and that retainer will be coming off next summer!

  5. Chili powder, red crushed pepper, cayenne pepper gets on the cat's paws then they wash themselves and they get it in their eyes, cats have literally scratched their eyes out because of this.

  6. Claudine,
    the Crisco did not survive the Phoenix direct sunlight, and melted right off, so the chemical barrier was a temporary fix. There's also a 12,000 pool, just inside the fence, that all the neighborhood cats consider to be a public watering hole.

    The feral cat population in our West Phoenix neighborhood has reached epidemic proportions, with gangs of cats roaming, pissing, and screwing in everyone's yards as foreclosed home owners abandoned their former pets. If you're so very worried about the cats scratching their eyes out, come over and I'll give you 6 to 8 feral cats in live traps that you can take far far far away from here, where you can take good care of them.


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