by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Walls, fences, gates and hedges are just that to cats – they are not considered boundaries in the way we intend them to differentiate properties from each other. Cats define their territories by defining objects as markers, in seemingly random places and patterns.
Cats who live in high-density communities often overlap territories. Where this causes conflict between cats there can be arguments over boundaries and possession. This leads to frustration and disagreement between residents.
For harmonious living in a complex, estate, or sectional-title unit, it is necessary to have pertinent regulations that are followed by all residents and applied equally in all circumstances. These will include regulations about pets.
Cats usually have different rules to other pets as they tend to move around, and are often accused of preying on smaller animals and birds. These can be difficult to prove, as one tabby cat looks much like another when running away, and there are other animals and raptors that prey on small animals.
Having consideration for neighbours and control over your cat can be a conflict if your cat enjoys being outdoors while your neighbour does not enjoy cat-fur on his furniture, or having other cats eating his cats’ food.
All domestic cats should be sterilised. Apart from controlling population growth, this will also reduce the need for territory, roaming, spraying, and howling at night.
Keeping your cat on your property is the ideal solution, but often almost impossible. Creating, within the confines of the building regulations, a catio or outdoor enclosure is the best option, giving your cat controlled outdoor access.
Cats that wander are exposed to many potential dangers, the most common being dogs, car accidents, other predators, poisons, and the possibility of theft or enforced removal by irate neighbours.
Another really good reason for keeping your cats on your property and under control is the rapid spread of deadly diseases amongst free-roaming cats, typically feral or stray males. These include Feline Aida and Feline Leukaemia
It is possible to keep cats happily indoors with sufficient stimulation and resources. Training to a harness is a great way of allowing them safe outdoor access.
All cats, especially those in high-density environments, should be micro-chipped and wear a collar with identification. This allows for the return of roaming cats and the identification of cats that come in from outside, either owned, stray or feral.
Issues with cats that do not live on the property should be seen as a separate issue to those with cats that live with residents. Resident and their cats should not be penalised because of other owners not controlling their cats, or abandoned or feral cats in the area. Consult with a rescue organisation for assistance with these external cats.
Although constitutions and sectional title rules can be changed, it should be noted that new rules that exclude pets cannot be back-dated, i.e. owners may keep existing pets but may have restrictions on new additions.