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My old cat goes into the yard with me while I water (I don't leave him outside otherwise). Apparently he has managed to scale a 6ft fence and go into the neighbours yard, because I had a fairly unpleasant encounter with my neighbour today.

I saw my cat pop up (from what I thought was behind the shed) and heard my neighbour mutter through the fence "I'm gonna kill that cat, stay out of my yard".

Now... I didn't respond to him because I was shocked (no one has threatened me or my animals before). I had some time to cool down and I think I will leave him an apology card with a gift card to the garden center. I don't want to talk to him in person because honestly he seems a bit unbalanced.

The majority of the message will be along the lines of "so sorry won't happen again etc". But part of me (a bitter part?) also wants to mention that he shouldn't kill my cat if he sees it again. I don't plan on letting my cat out, but things happens and I don't want him dead. I also don't want him throwing poison around and killing my dog.

What I hope to achieve is getting him not to kill my animals and perhaps act a bit more reasonably if he sees a cat in his yard (talk to me first without death threats through the fence?). I don't know if I should just apologize and leave it at that, or mention that in the future I'd appreciate that he let me know there is a problem first before acting on his impulse? I am worried that adding all this will just make him angrier. On the other hand he already muttered threats so in a way I hope he realizes it might not be an appropriate thing to say.

How to apologize to my neighbour who threatened to kill my cat without annoying him and ending up with him hurting my pets?

  • Catsunami hi, welcome! I allowed myself to rephrase your question to remove the "should I", off-topic part. Feel free to rollback or edit if you think I got you wrong. – avazula May 29 at 5:38
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    Where are you located, and did your neighbor say this in English or another language? In the US, it's very common for someone to say "I'm gonna kill XXX", and it's merely an expression of frustration or anger and not an actual threat. – David K May 29 at 15:26
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    @DavidK, I'm in Canada. I am familiar with the use of that expression in frustration, but he sounded really mad. Like I think if he had a gun he would have shot my cat yesterday. – Catsunami May 29 at 15:39
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    Do you know what the cat did to annoy the neighbour? Personally I wouldn't even think about apologising for my pet being in someone else's garden unless they were causing damage or defecating in their garden. – yetanothercoder May 30 at 5:37
  • @yetanothercoder, I talked to him yesterday (brought the card). Apparently he has a nest of birds under the deck and the cat was stalking the babies. It is against our bylaw to have cats roaming, but like I said I never knew the cat was leaving the yard. I honestly thought my cat pooped in his yard or peed on the fence or something (he used to do that in my flower bed a lot). I felt an apology was appropriate, and he did appreciate it and apologized back for overreacting. However, cat is not allowed outside now anyway. – Catsunami May 30 at 14:51
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In the given case that you prime goal is to let your cat stay alive, I wouldn't go into any details about the threatening he did. Saying he is a very impulsive person, He is very likely to just curse around when seeing something like this, confronting him with that, will most likely not come over like a real excuse, but rather like criticism and no matter if he really would go to do any harm to your cat or not, that would just make the tension between you and him worse.

So just hand in an apology mentioning that you do your best to not bother him and are sorry for this happening.

I can tell from my own experience in several cases, that people are way more likely to be accepting and understanding if you communicate to them that you understand their trouble. But if you let this go in hand by hand with any form of criticism, they most likely just go defensive and are not even receptive for anything being said aside the criticism.

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    I'm accepting this answer because it addressed the question I asked. I specifically said that I didn't want to have a conversation with this guy, and while I did have a conversation with him, it wasn't planned. I wrote an apology card and handed it over after our brief conversation. I am glad I didn't mention anything about the cat murder. I think he appreciated it. – Catsunami May 31 at 14:59
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First, don't worry too much (yet). Many people use death threat as a general insult (even at their own children), without even the slightest intent to actually do it.

I would come personally to the neighbour and apologise, saying something like "It seems that my cat accidentally went into your yard. Please, if it bothers you, I will make sure it won't happen again." Don't mention that you know that he was angry, or that you were shocked. Just a quick apology for an accident. May be ask if he wants you to clean up.

However, if then the neighbour threatens with the killing again, I would mention that this would be a criminal act (but would hope it didn't come to that).

(Edit) Like many pet owners, I've been in a similar situation (just with dogs). My insistence on personal apology/communication is based on two observations: first, it carries much more weight, and second (which is related in fact) is that people behave more civil in personal interactions. Finally, you can judge the response: whether your apology was accepted and the problem actually solved.

  • I don't think it's rude to communicate with a card. This is also a man who has never returned a hello in the several years that we have been neighbours. Yesterday was literally the first time he has spoken to me (although sorta indirectly). I will obviously go to their house and say I'm sorry and hand them the card. But I am not going to ask for any more details, I heard all that I needed yesterday.Yesterday was a personal interaction (he was talking to a human wasn't he?) and he wasn't very civil. I'm sure he knows it's illegal to harm animals as is. – Catsunami May 29 at 15:44
  • @Catsunami, I understood that he spoke from behind the fence, not seeing you and not knowing you were there (maybe guessing and speaking 'out loud' with the intention to be heard, but that's another thing: either party can pretend they didn't hear/know. It's very different to face-to-face communication). Either way, under the circumstances, I'd say handing the card is perfectly appropriate. Moreover, if he already behaved obnoxiously and 'never returned hello', it may be appropriate to be very formal and send the card (and no gift cards!): you won't make friends anyway... – Zeus May 30 at 0:44
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    I was never going to send it. I'm not sure why you think I was going to use the mail service instead of going next door. – Catsunami May 30 at 17:40
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    @Zeus: The card would be (and as I got it, was in fact) required, cause not every one feels comfortable talking to someone not well enough known to same. Especially if it comes to a situation like this. With the card OP can just write down what they wanted to say and has not to worry about grasping for words in a face to face conversation. That's also why I wondered if this answer is actually a frame challange. – dhein May 31 at 4:53
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    @Zeus, I needed the card for two reasons: (1) If he wasn't home, I wasn't going to loiter and wait for him to come back, the card was going to serve as a message vessel, (2) because I find card apologies to be more thought through and polite. – Catsunami May 31 at 15:00

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