How to Get Rid of a Stray Cat

Encourage a stray to go on her way by making your yard an unattractive habitat or by calling in help from local agencies. A stray cat could bring disease or a bloody fight to your pets, or may just be an unwanted nuisance whose waste fouls your space.

stray cat sit on a cobblestone street
What appears to be a stray could be someone's beloved pet.
credit: katoosha/iStock/Getty Images

Show Compassion

The cat in your yard may not be a stray -- she could be someone's lost pet. If the cat looks healthy and well cared for, or has a collar, contact your local shelter and give a description. If you are able and willing, safely contain the animal in a space like a shed or garage, and search for owners or placement options. You can also take her to a vet to be scanned for a microchip. Use caution when handling an unknown cat; if she resists touch, leave her alone or enlist the help of professionals.

Don’t Offer Food

It can be easy to feel sorry for a stray, especially one who appears to have been dumped and looks to be in need of a good meal. However, feeding the stray will only make her stick around for more. If you feed your own pets outside, the stray may help herself to food, so give your animals their meals indoors for awhile. In fact, keep your own cats indoors until the stray goes away, or they could contract ringworm, tapeworm, fleas or other infectious, contagious diseases.

Install Motion-Detecting Devices

Cats don't like to get wet. A quick and harmless water shower from a motion-activated sprinkler can encourage her to keep moving. Place a sprinkler where the stray likes to hang out, or put it in an area you want to protect, like a garden or bird feeder. Sprinklers don't have to be permanent -- you can remove them when the cat is gone. An ultrasonic sound-emitting device can accomplish the same thing, though if you or your neighbors have pets, you could accidentally irritate or run them off as well.

Use Unappealing Smells

Buy a commercially produced cat repellent to spray in strategic spots of your yard, or use natural deterrents such as citrus peels, coffee grounds, red pepper, vinegar or mothballs. Cats don't like the smells of these and will steer clear. If necessary, block off areas the stray likes to stay -- flower beds, gardens and sandboxes -- with secure fencing. Cats are climbers, so you might have to cover these areas, too.