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Q: Is there a law regarding stray cats coming onto your property?


Answer: You didn’t tell us where your property is, but assuming it is in Forsyth County, county code regulates the care and control of all pets, not just dogs. A Forsyth County ordinance prohibits people from letting an animal “run at large.” If an animal is not on the owner’s property, the animal must be restrained in some way. The ordinance covers dogs and cats, as well as other pets and livestock. The only exception is hunting dogs, as long as the hunting is legal.

The county ordinance is not specifically a leash law. A leash isn’t the only way that a person can keep an animal from running at large. For example, an animal in a pet carrier isn’t running at large.

Winston-Salem requires dogs to be on leashes when they are not on their owner’s property. Cats are not mentioned in that law. However, the county ordinance preventing animals from running at large applies in Winston-Salem. So cats and dogs that belong to someone else aren’t supposed to be using your vehicles and garden as lounge areas.

Your first step should be getting in touch with neighbors to see if the animals belong to someone in the neighborhood. Forsyth County Animal Control officers respond to complaints of cat problems and contact owners when identified, issuing citations for observed violations. To file a report, call 336-703-2490. People in other counties should contact their local animal control department for assistance.

If the cats are feral, you can get in touch with Forgotten Felines of Forsyth, a local rescue group that helps with feral or stray cats in Forsyth, at The site includes resources available in the area, volunteering opportunities, trapping tips, adoption guidelines for fostering/adopting cats through the Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation (AARF), and tips for taming feral kittens. Other helpful local groups that can give advice on feral cat rescue and spay-neuter options include the Humane Solution spay-neuter program, which you can find out more about at, and the Greensboro-based Feral Cat Assistance Program at

As for keeping outdoor cats away from areas where they are not wanted without harming them,, a website devoted to feral cat rescue, has some tips. These include:

  • Use a motion-activated sprinkler (“Before long, the cats learn the boundaries of the sprinkler’s infrared field and avoid entering it,” the organization said).
  • Use scent repellents.
  • Put out an ultrasonic device that makes a noise that dissuades the cats.

In all those cases, be sure that you are aware of the range of the device and that it won’t affect the animals when they are on their owner’s property, just push them out of yours.

You can read the group’s other tips and specific product recommendations at its website; we have created a link to that article at

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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