Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

There is a cat lady on my block who insists on feeding all the strays in the neighborhood in her backyard. That is fine with us, but the cats use the garden beds around the front of our house as their litter box. The neighbor only has weeds around her house, but the cats seem to prefer the mulch that we use to cover the ground under our shrubs. The smell from the cats' waste goes into our home and drives our two indoor-only cats crazy. We have tried all sorts of repellents that you sprinkle on the ground to deter cats, but none of them seem to work. Any suggestions? - Leslie Newman, Dix Hills

There is no easy solution here; what works in one area does not always work in another area or situation. As you noticed, the cats do not seem to eliminate around the cat lady's house as she does not have a substrate that is appealing to them. So, changing the texture of the beds is most likely the way to go, rather than changing the smell. (Also, repellents wash away almost immediately.) The only thing I have found that holds an odor that cats hate is coffee grounds -- in some cases just sprinkling fresh grounds under the shrubs seems to do the trick. To change the texture of the soil under the shrubs, I have found the best thing is to lay chicken wire flat on the ground under the shrubs and hold it down with large rocks or wire pegs. Leave it exposed at first. If and when the cats choose to not use that area anymore, you can cover the wire with a thin layer of mulch. Other people have told me that they lay branches with thorns cut from rose or holly bushes on the ground under the shrubs. White marble chips used as a mulch under the bushes also works very well. Finally, there is a device -- a sprinkler that has a motion detector attached to it -- called "The Scare Crow," by Contech Electronics. You attach a hose to it and place it near the beds. When the cats cross the motion detector, a spray of water shoots out to chase them off.


My son just moved back in with us and he brought his newly adopted beagle mix with him. The problem is that we live on a corner lot and have a 4-foot-high chain-link fence around our property. A sidewalk borders the fence on two sides. The dog runs back and forth against the fence whenever we let her outside, barking furiously at anybody walking down the sidewalk. The other day, a lady was walking on the sidewalk pushing a baby carriage and holding a toddler. The dog rushed up and scared the toddler badly. We had a trainer come in who advised us to use an electronic shock collar to teach her not to bark at people, but we are not sure if this is the correct thing to do. - Barbara Larson, Massapequa

The problem is that this is a self-rewarding behavior -- the dog learned that if she runs and barks when a pedestrian comes into view, that the pedestrian will then walk out of view. She has no idea that the pedestrian was doing that anyway. The dog now thinks that this has become her mission in life, as it happens every day, over and over again.

The trainer is correct. A shock collar will provide a correction to the dog that will stop her in her tracks if you press the button every single time she runs after a pedestrian. But the operative term is "every single time." That means you have to be outside with the dog for many hours correcting her as she does this.

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A quick fix would be to install a solid vinyl fence just inside the chain link one. This is an expensive solution, but by preventing her from seeing the people walking past your property on the sidewalk, she may no longer feel the need to run after them and chase them off. The solid vinyl fence works better than wooden stockade fences, as I have seen hard-core canine people-chasers actually peer through the gaps in the wooden fence to follow the people they are chasing away.

We have lived on the third story of a condo in Long Beach for three years and, for whatever reason, a group of pigeons has taken a liking to the ledge around our balcony. They seem to like to sit facing the water with their tails facing toward the building and leave droppings all over the floor. We chase them away when we are home, but what can we use to keep them off when we are not there? - Mel Goldberg, Long Beach

A simple solution is a Slinky toy. Just stretch it out and tie it securely to the ledge with some piano wire or zip ties. The pigeons will not be able to perch on the ledge and the Slinky is rigid enough so that they will not get tangled up in it if they do try to negotiate the issue.