Cats invading your yard? What you can and can’t do about it

A kitten peers behind the bars of its cage inside the Shenandoah County Animal Shelter along Landfill Road in Edinburg. Area shelters report that it's kitten season and they have many cats for adoption. Rich Cooley/Daily

Area shelters are full of cats and kittens available for adoption.  So many in fact that recently the shelter in Winchester announced that it could not accept any more at that moment.

“Its summertime; between April and October is kitten season,” Winchester SPCA office manager Penny Hann said.

Cats are often indoor and outdoor pets, and she explained that is why animal control usually does not pick up cats unless they are hurt, sick or in some type of distress.

Cats visiting neighbor’s yards, Hann acknowledged, can cause some conflict between neighbors.

“Some people are not animal people,” she said.

One Strasburg woman discovered this when a neighbor trapped her cat and took it to the Shenandoah County Animal Shelter in June.

A police report was submitted to Strasburg police and the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, but no charges were filed, according to Capt. Wesley Dellinger of the Sheriff’s Office.

Trapping cats on personal property is not illegal – it’s what is done afterward with the trapped animal that could be.

Dellinger said a property owner who traps a cat is required to return the cat to its owner if he knows who that is. If not, the property owner is required to take it to a shelter so that the cat’s owner can be located.

Anyone trapping cats on their property cannot drop cats off anywhere they choose.

“They could be charged with larceny,” Dellinger said, adding that a person cannot hurt, maim or kill a cat he comes across on his property.

The Winchester SPCA does not often deal with people trapping cats, but Hann said it does sometimes happen.

Several months ago, three cats went missing from the Edgewood Drive area of Winchester. According to published reports, a neighbor was seen carrying away one of the cats in a trap. The cat was later found several miles away and was returned to its owner.

Hann confirmed a homeowner could legally trap a cat on his property and bring it into the shelter, but not dump it elsewhere.

“That’s cruel,” she said.