The War at Home: 5 Ways to Deal With Neighborhood Feral Cats Who Keep You Up At Night


One of the two most important pieces of writing advice anyone who aspires to write will ever hear is, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately, this is diametrically opposed with the other most important piece of writing advice anybody has ever heard, “Fake it ’til you make it.” But I’m actually feeling “experienced” this morning, as I just walked into the office because a feral cat I’ve named “Screechy” kept me up all night with it’s high-pitched, loud, Linda-Blair-in-Exorcist-esque incantations.

I can’t describe the sound it makes, though I can only guess it’s something like what would happen if you grabbed a bodega cat by the throat and “groomed” it with a few bottles of ice-cold San Pellegrino, sandpaper, and an entire puck of Bumble & Bumble Hair Wax. But since I’m the kind of animal lover who cries at pictures of sad puppies soundtracked by Sarah McLaughlin b-sides, I have to deal with this in the most “humane” way possible without going all Shining on my roommate. I can, however, go to war with it. Thus, five options, with a “nuclear” sixth:

1. Call Animal Control.

Pro: Cheap, easy.

Con: There’re a few problems with this. The first is that if you call Animal Control and tell them “there’s a loud cat in my backyard, and I can’t sleep” they will probably ask you if it’s some kind of exotic jungle cat that looks like it might be out of place anywhere but the Bronx Zoo or south of Madagascar. When you tell them no, they will likely make some kind of noise that insults your dignity, something between a guffaw and a scoff that’s almost less preferable to Screechy’s Call of the Wild. Then it’s going to take them two, maybe three hours to get there. Once they do, you can bet they’re going to wake up your neighbors who’ve been immune to Screechy’s “Night Moves” thus far. And then if they find it, they’ll kill it, which isn’t very humane. Essentially: You’ll piss of people who’re hard-worked enough as is, you’ll piss off your neighbors, you’re wussing out, and you’re ensuring the simple death of a defenseless creature. Your chances of sleeping well after this are better with Screechy recording a live album (“Screechy Comes Alive!“), unless you’re a terrible person. In which case, you’ll be fine.

2. BB Gun.

Pro: Fun.

Con: Per Wikipedia, which knows everything:

New York City requires that all realistic toy or imitation firearms be made of clear or brightly colored plastics. Furthermore, New York City makes possession of any pistol or rifle or similar instrument in which the propelling force is a spring or air unlawful without a license. See New York City Administrative Code § 10-131(b) and New York City Administrative Code § 10-131(g)(1)(a)

Now, getting a gun license is a pain in the ass, especially if you have any “priors.” I don’t, but I also don’t have the time to get a gun license. That said, if I were (theoretically) going to get my hands on a BB Gun — which my friends down the street may or may not illegally posses — I’d make sure to find a mostly obscured perch from which to snipe Screechy. Like my apartment window. This might also require the acquisition of night vision goggles, as I’m not exactly a marksman and don’t have perfect night vision. But I promise: A few nights of this — which, at the very worst, would penetrate a rib cage that’s obviously made of adamantium, anyway — and I’ll be sleeping fine. The upshot (pun unintended) of all of this, though, could be an addiction to hunting creatures in my backyard at night with night vision goggles and a BB gun, which might thereafter exist as an itch in need of perpetual scratching. Which might thereafter get me arrested. Also, gun violence begets gun violence. My struggle with Meow-Qaeda doesn’t need to devolve into a neighborhood gang war.

3. Water Balloons and/or Industrial Grade Super Soakers.

Pro: Fun. Comical. Cheap. Summer-themed, and thus, borderline whimsical.

Con: Labor intensive. Filling up water balloons is a pain in the ass, unless you decide to pull rank on your roommate, who has now obviously been conscripted into your blood vendetta. High risk of further frustration due to high possibility of water balloons exploding inside your apartment, which is already messy enough without water everywhere. Also, not a guaranteed win: Screechy probably needs a bath, and would likely take to a high-powered water cannon like most New Yorkers would a high-priced deep tissue massage. Even if you fill it with warm piss. Don’t act like you didn’t think about it.

4. Assorted Projectile Warfare.

Pro: Fun, and the kind of fun directly proportional to the manner in which you employ creativity and resourcefulness. What can you throw at this cat that’ll be awesome to throw at this cat? Answer: everything. Lit cigarettes, volleyballs, things that make squeak noises, coffee grinds, staplers, whole pineapples, bathroom tiles, rubber bands, rubber band balls, vintage threads, your ex-boyfriend’s vinyl collection, brillo pads, Time Warner Cable bills made into needle-sharp paper airplanes, other nearby assorted “detritus.” Also, a “scorched earth” postwar landscape might lower property value, so assuming you don’t get caught or arrested, you might be able to ask for a reduction in rent.

Con: Messy. Loud, depending on what you use. Likely to require an awkward explanation. Aforementioned creativity level directly proportional to how insane people will you think you are once you’re caught. Which is directly proportional to the level of sanity you’ve obviously descended to.

Don’t be ashamed if it comes to this. But be ready: Your return to civilian life after this won’t be easy.

5. Push Your AC Out the Window.

Pro: Fun. Effective. Comical. Also, ultimately humane: It’s gonna die anyway. This will be quick and effective and, if you’re on target, likely painless.

Con: Costly. Marginally labor-intensive, though more so if you’re a girlyman, and if the fight of your life is now between you and a feral cat who won’t shut the fuck up, chances are this isn’t exactly going to be a featherweight mission for you. Also: Will sound like a shotgun going off, followed by a demon escaping from hell. And if you miss, you’re going to be super-pissed. And if you only kinda miss, you’re going to have a super-pissed off cat that’s now half-dead and it’s not like he won’t be able to tell where that shit came from. Not something you want to chance if you don’t have a steady hand. Also, enjoy explaining this to your neighbors. “It just fell out…on this cat” won’t exactly pass muster.

And if none of that works….

The Nuclear Option: Armistice.

Pro: Feed it some tuna. Just put out some milk. You’ll feel good about yourself. You can feed it. Take care of it. Maybe even adopt it. Make life better for it, make life better for another creature on this planet where enough war is waged, enough creature-on-creature harm is done. In a city where kindness is often fleeting, and loneliness is stark, what side of it do you want to contribute to? Who knows! Screechy’s cries may just be cries for help. And you could end them. With love. Give peace a chance.

Con: You gave up, you pussy. He won. You’ve negotiated with terrorists and now you’ve opened up a Pandora’s Box of loud, fucked up feral animals who likely just want to torture you to the point of wanting to be put out of your misery, which is where they are. They want to bring you down to their level. You want to become not just a CatPerson, but a FeralCatPerson? They’re gonna make you one of them. You give in now, this is just the beginning. Of the end.

Ed. If you do in fact drop an air-conditioning unit on a cat sometime in the next few weeks, it might be a good idea to tip the karma of the universe in a manner less inclined to drop an air-conditioning unit on your head, and give some thought to The Humane Society of the United States, where pictures of cute animals and ways to help them await you.