Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
"Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat"
Good fences may make good neighbors, but they are mere nuisances to felines. I need feedback on this post, to settle an urgent question of practical ethics, in the general area of neighborhood pet management. Our neighbors are cat-intolerant, and this has generated friction. We are aggrieved--do we have a right to be?
We possess a number of cats that is well above the mean, but still in the single digits and still, I would argue, short of the threshold of pet-hoarding pathology (all were shelter cats or strays). Most of the cats stay in the house, but all are free to come and go, and while they generally stay in the immediate vicinity, they sometimes feel the need for more extended perambulations. Our cats are typically well-mannered, and most of the neighbors whom they have visited have expressed pleasure in having made their acquaintance.
A month or two after having moved into the neighborhood, the fellow next door, with whom we had had minimal contact (it is a rural area, and he keeps to himself), came over and politely mentioned that at least one of our cats had ventured onto his deck, and that his wife is allergic to cats. I had never heard of cat allergy being triggered by a cat passing through the back yard, and I mumbled something about the difficulty of constraining the movements of felines. I told him we'd keep an eye out for cats in his yard, and that he should feel free to shoo them away (in point of fact, I had never actually seen a cat in his yard--if anything they seem to prefer the yard on the other side of us--but I didn't doubt that it had happened once in a while).
We heard nothing else from them, until a few days ago we got a call from the county animal shelter about one of our cats--it had been caught in a trap set out by our good neighbor. The cat was unharmed, but of course there was a fee to reclaim our cat, and this time of year one hates to think of a cat stuck in a trap for whatever period of time it might take for someone to realize it is there. This time the complaint, per the animal shelter, was that paw prints had been found on the neighbor's car.
My point of view is that roaming cats are very much like barking dogs--they can be annoying to those who don't care for them, but they are just a price of living in proximity to other human beings, who tend to like to keep animals of some sort. Actually, I can't imagine how a cat or two walking through the yard is even remotely as annoying as a back yard dog that won't stop barking. The cats do not tear up plants or otherwise destroy property. The worst they could conceivably do is leave a bit of fertilizer behind, although they usually do that in the litter boxes or in the woods behind our house. Ours are certainly not aggressive in any way (they are all healthy and up to date on their shots).
Obviously with respect to law our neighbor has a right to trap any animal on his property that he doesn't want to be there. But with respect to ethics and social convention I think this is a ridiculous situation. Is the onus really on us to keep all the cats in the house so that none of them might venture past the property line? Oh, how I hope this fellow decides to get a dog--I have sensitive ears!