Even if you keep your cat safely indoors, your neighbors may not and as a result, you might be dealing with a few cats viewing your lovely garden as an outdoor litter box pit stop. This is a problem because there are potential health concerns, destruction to your plants and the added potential behavioral problem of having your indoor cat upset at the sight of an outdoor cat in his yard so up close and personal.
From the outdoor cat’s point of view, your garden can be a very inviting litter box alternative. The loose soil makes it easy for the cat to dig and cover and tall plants or shrubs provide some camouflage. So, you really can’t blame the neighborhood cats for choosing such an ideal location but still, it’s not the place you want them leaving their special “deposits.” Here are some tips for keeping cats out of your garden:
Garden Netting or Chicken Wire
Place the netting under a light layer of soil or mulch so it’ll be uncomfortable for outdoor cats to effectively dig in the garden. You can cut the netting to fit around plants. Some people also use chicken wire and that’s certainly very effective but the garden netting is much easier on your hands when tending to your garden and you won’t run the risk of a sharp edge sticking up out of the soil. If you’re having a severe enough problem with outdoor cats though, you may prefer to use chicken wire. Carefully cut holes for the plants to come through and be sure no sharp edges are exposed.
If you have a small decorative garden you can strategically place some smooth stones over the soil to deter the cats.
Motion-Activated Water Sprinklers
These can be very effective for keeping unwanted animals out of your yard. Just be careful about where you position them so they aren’t directed at someone walking in the driveway or on the sidewalk. If you have your own outdoor pets you’ll also have to make sure the sprinklers are positioned in areas where the cat or dog doesn’t go.
Cats generally dislike the scent of citrus and some people have had success with using orange or lemon peels. The problem with this is that it can also attract other unwanted animals such as raccoons. If you decide to go the citrus route be sure to routinely check them because the scent quickly fades. Another odor deterrent is blood meal. This stuff really stinks so use it carefully and don’t mix it into the soil.
Two other odor deterrents people have used, mothballs and citronella, are NOT ones I would recommend because both are toxic to cats. You want to deter the neighborhood cats and not harm them in any way.
Talk With Your Neighbor
If the same cat keeps coming around and you know where he belongs, there’s a chance you could have a pleasant conversation with the cat parent to try to come up with an agreeable solution. Perhaps the person isn’t aware of the damage being caused by the cat.
Plant Flowers That are not Animal-Friendly
I have some clients who plant marigolds in their garden because they are very unfriendly to bugs and some animals. The research I’ve done on the success of marigolds as a cat deterrent hasn’t yielded any definitive answer but it’s worth a try. Cats generally dislike the scent of lavender and rue so those are two other plants to consider for your garden.
If you have a fence that surrounds the garden or your yard you might want to consider a product such as Coyote Roller by Roll Guard. This product installs on the top of the fence and works like a rolling pin so when an animal tries to jump the fence he keeps getting sent backward. Coyote Rollers aren’t cheap though so there are many people who have actually created homemade versions. Do a search for Coyote Rollers in your favorite search engine and you’ll find additional sites with instructions for making your own.
Protect Yourself When Gardening
If you suspect cats have been eliminating in your garden, be sure to always wear gardening gloves and wash them regularly. Additionally, wash your hands every time you come in from gardening, especially before petting your own cat.
Need More Information?
For more information on cat behavior and training, refer to any of Pam’s books. The books from best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett have been called “cat bibles” by veterinarians, cat behavior experts and cat parents worldwide.
Due to Pam’s scheduling demands, we’re sorry but she is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.