Keeping cats from using yard as litter box

Q: Seven cats that wander in my neighborhood are all over my property and use my kids' sandbox as a litter box. Is there anything that I can put down to keep the cats away?

A: Although there are products sold that claim to keep dogs and cats off your property via some kind of noxious-to-the-animals odor, I personally have yet to see any of them work.

If the cats were just using your flower beds as a litter box, then placing chicken wire flat against the ground or marble chips over it would keep them off. But that will not work in the kids' sandbox.

I solved a problem similar to yours by surrounding my back yard with a 6-foot-tall white fence with smooth sides flush against the ground. The cats cannot dig under it or climb it. If a cat made an extreme effort it could jump a 6-foot fence, but in most cases they will not bother, and they will just go somewhere else.

Q: Even though I have exposed my 5-month-old Chihuahua to other people, she still growls and snaps at anyone outside the family. How do I stop this activity?

A: All animals love to eat, and any animal -- domestic or wild -- will learn that humans are not to be feared if they are food providers. Any person who has fed squirrels and pigeons in a park regularly knows that, as soon as the animals understand the presence of humans means food is forthcoming, they lose all fear and clamber around human benefactors.

The same thing will work with your dog: When guests come over, just have them casually drop a few treats on the floor in front of the dog and talk to her in a happy voice, then walk away.

As the weeks go on and she realizes that only good things happen when strangers come over, she will gradually lose her fear and start to follow your guests around looking for treats.

Then you can graduate to having the guests give her the treats by hand and picking her up, but do not go to that stage until she is comfortable eating the treats off the floor.