Kokua Line: Neighbor’s plethora of cats blamed for damage, stench
My neighbor has over 20 cats, some of whom are using my carport as their toilet. There’s feces all over, and flies or fleas.
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Today marks a change for Kokua Line. The column will now run on Sundays, plus Tuesdays through Fridays as usual; it no longer will appear on Mondays. Our goal on Sundays will be to focus on problems that affect quality of life in Hawaii — the question will be from one reader, but the potential solutions should apply to many.
Question: My neighbor has over 20 cats, some of whom are using my carport as their toilet. There’s feces all over, and flies or fleas. … The smell is very bad. We can’t eat out on our deck. My plants are all dug up. My screens are torn. There’s new kittens all the time. I’ve tried talking to the neighbor. … It’s becoming too much to bear. Isn’t there some rule about how many cats a person can own?
Answer: No, the city limits the number of dogs (10) and chickens (2) an Oahu household can own, but there’s no such limit for cats — an omission that is prompting a growing number of complaints to Kokua Line, from you in Salt Lake and from other readers in Maunawili, West Loch and Hawaii Kai. All bemoaned neighbors whose cats fouled lawns or gardens, killed birds or damaged property. All mentioned seeing kittens — indicating that at least some of these outdoor cats are not fixed.
That is against the law: Chapter 7, Article 6 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (808ne.ws/ROHChap7) insists that owners spay or neuter cats over 6 months old that roam outdoors, and that the cats have identification. The neighbors can’t claim these cats are strays; by law, if they are feeding the cats, they own them.
The Hawaiian Humane Society, as the city’s animal control contractor, has limited tools to enforce these laws. For example, it can fine an owner for failing to spay or neuter an outdoor cat, but it can’t make the owner do so — even if a cat with ID is trapped on someone else’s property and brought in as a nuisance.
Speaking of trapping, people who call the Humane Society about unidentified cats on their property are advised to use humane traps to catch the animals themselves and bring them in. But readers calling us say that physical task simply isn’t feasible, because they are elderly, disabled or face too many cats. They want a “cat catcher.”
So, what to do when you know who owns the cats but the owner isn’t living up to their responsibilities?
>> Call the Hawaiian Humane Society at 356-2250 and ask that it enforce whatever violations it can, for lack of identification, failure to spay/neuter or excess animal waste. The owner can avoid fines for failing to spay and neuter if he or she fixes the cats within 30 days of a citation.
>> Get in touch with CatFriends, a nonprofit organization that specializes in mass trappings of feral cats for low-cost sterilization ($5 per cat, or free during special promotions). Although it focuses on feral cats, President Jennifer Kishimori said the group also is willing to help in situations like this, when an owner seems overwhelmed by many reproducing cats. If the owner agrees, the cats would be sterilized and returned to her. See hicatfriends.org or call 226-4561. This group relies on volunteers, and needs more of them.
>> Sign up with the Mediation Center of the Pacific, which will call your neighbor and offer to mediate the conflict as a neutral third party. The fee for “neighbor disputes” is $50. Call 521-6767 or see mediatehawaii.org. A successful outcome could include a written pact that spells out how often she will pick up waste, what she will do to prevent her cats from hanging out on your property, and how much she will pay for damage that has already occurred, for example. “You’re neighbors, and you’re going to have to keep living side by side, so it’s best to try to work it out,” said Tracey S. Wiltgen, the center’s executive director.
>> If there’s no resolution, you could sue. You may wish to file a police report online at 808ne.ws/hpdonline to document property damage done by the cats. The category would be “miscellaneous damages,” which includes damage that is not criminal in nature and doesn’t involve a motor vehicle.
>> You mentioned being at your wit’s end. Whatever happens, don’t harm or relocate your neighbor’s cats. That would be against the law.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.