Anyone with a garden knows how damaging feline visits can be. I can’t count the number of times that the pesky neighbourhood cat, a ginger tabby called marmalade, has dug up my carefully nurtured tulips, done its business in my vegetable patch, and generally made a nuisance of itself.
I began by trying to speak with its owner – but that didn’t work, because marmalade is a free-spirited soul and they don’t really have any control over him. Then, one-night marmalade had a fight with another cat from the neighbourhood in my garden – leaving a trail of destruction that you would scarcely be able to believe. So, I resolved to end my cat problem once and for all – if his owners couldn’t control him, then come hell or high water I would find a way to keep him out of my garden.
However, cats are very difficult to keep out – they are nature’s great acrobats and it is impossible to build a physical barrier that is high enough to keep them out. So, I plunged into internet research and eventually discovered a host of different humane ways to keep cats out of my garden.
Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause the most inconvenience. ~Pam Brown
This article is the fruit of those labours – with all the tips and tricks that I have worked for me.
Are Cats Bad for Your Garden?
Most gardeners love wildlife and actively try to attract it to their gardens, making them uncomfortable with the idea of actively trying to repel cats from their gardens. However, there are a number of mild and more serious problems, that feline visitors can cause which can damage you, your garden, and the other wildlife that calls it home.
Cats Are Not Very Polite Guests
Cats are renowned for their agility, which has made them YouTube stars, however, it is also the bane of many gardener’s lives. It means that cats can go anywhere and play with anything – no flowerbed is inaccessible, and no hanging basket is out of reach. Couple this with the fact that cats have a penchant for digging and your beautiful garden can be ruined in mere seconds. Put simply, if cats were house guests, they would be the kind who come round and spill red wine on your lovely, new, cream carpet!
Cats Are Bad for Other Wildlife
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), estimates that cats are responsible for an incredible 27 million bird deaths each year and up to 100 million other animal deaths in Britain. They are an invasive, non-native species, who are expert hunters – native British species are not evolved to be able to deal with them, making it an incredibly unfair fight. This is a problem for many gardeners because birds are good for your garden – they eat thousands of insects that feed on plants and help to maintain a natural ecosystem. Plus, who doesn’t love sitting out late on a summer evening listening to the twilight chorus?
Cats Can Cause Dangerous Diseases
Cats love to eat small mammals and birds, which often carry diseases that are harmful to humans – meaning that cat faeces has the potential to be very dangerous to humans. This problem is compounded by the fact that cats often see the soft soil of garden beds like a litter box. If a cat defecates in your garden, then it could put nasty parasites into the soil such as roundworm and hookworm or bacteria such as E. Coli or Salmonella.
Perhaps the most dangerous of all is toxoplasmosis, which is potentially fatal to those with compromised immune systems and has also been known to cause miscarriages. Cat faeces are especially bad for anyone who grows fruit or vegetables in their garden because consuming potentially contaminated food increases the risks exponentially.
What Is Attracting Cats to Your Garden?
If you don’t want cats to come into your garden, then you should begin by trying to understand why they are entering in the first place. You may just stumble across an easy solution that means that you don’t have to use some of the more proactive methods that we will examine later.
Is Someone from Your House Feeding the Cats?
You would be surprised how often food is the reason that cats are visiting your garden. If you don’t want cats to visit, then make sure that no-one from your household is knowingly leaving food out for them. However, it’s also possible that you or your family are unwittingly attracting them with food –
- Do you feed your dogs or other pets outside? If so, that is bound to attract other animals too.
- Do you like to have barbeques in the garden? If so, make sure that you clean everything thoroughly, because cats have a fantastic sense of smell and the smallest piece of meat may tempt them in.
- Do you have a bird table? If so, ensure that it is properly secure, because cats are very agile, and they may be stealing the food you are leaving out for the birds.
- Are your bins located in your garden? If so, make sure that they are secure, because cats could be rummaging around in your rubbish for food.
Cats Are Territorial and React to Smells
Cats are territorial creatures, who communicate via leaving smells on objects. This is commonly done using urine spray, so hosing down your garden walls with an enzyme-based odour neutralizer can really stop cats from visiting your garden.
Other Things That Attract Cats
Cats love to hunt and even stalk prey for fun. So, if you don’t want them to enter your garden, you must ensure that there aren’t any small mammals for them to chase. The best way to do this is to make sure that your garden is as uncluttered as possible. Clear away any clutter or brush that animals such as mice like to hide in because that will also stop cats from entering to hunt them.
Make It Difficult for Cats to Enter Your Garden
Cats are, perhaps, nature’s greatest acrobats, so it’s impossible to totally catproof your garden. However, you can make it more difficult for them to get in – board up small holes that provide access to garages, sheds, or your garden. Cats love to sneak into such places in search of prey, such as small mammals and rodents.
What about Your Neighbours?
Obviously, you have no control over what your neighbours do on their own property, but a simple conversation may often suffice. Perhaps, they are leaving food out for cats near your adjoining fence or feeding their own pets in their garden. Politely ask them if they are doing something to attract cats to your garden, maybe there will be a simple solution that will dissuade the feline visitors from coming in.
How to Stop Cats from Entering Your Garden
There are a variety of ways to prevent cats from entering your garden, digging in your carefully tended flowerbeds and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Remember that every cat is unique, so a tactic that works well with one cat may not be as successful with another – so change tact if one of the methods below isn’t working.
Cats have a much better sense of smell than us – we have around 5 million smell receptors, whereas cats have more than 200 million smell receptors. Thus, by filling your garden with odours that offend cats, you can discourage them from entering it, without dramatically changing the overall design of your garden.
Odours from Predators
Many shops offer commercially produced cat repellents, which smell like animals that cats don’t want to encounter, such as foxes, dogs, and other animals. The repellents usually come in the form of a powder that can be sprinkled around your garden or in a particularly problematic area, where the cat usually enters from. We always recommend researching specific products yourself, however, they are always non-toxic and will not damage your garden.
Coleus Cania (The Scaredy Cat Plant)
A more natural solution to the problem comes in the form of plants that you can grow in your garden, which give off scents that cats do not like. The most famous of these is Coleus Canina or the scaredy cat plant, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s known to emit an odour that cats do not like, which will discourage them from entering your garden.
There are a variety of other plants that are believed to discourage cats from entering, including rue, lavender, and pennyroyal. Simply plant them sporadically throughout your garden and sit back and enjoy a feline free garden! I personally like to use lavender, because I think it smells nicer than the others, although there is also evidence that it might not be as effective.
Other Smells That Cats Don’t Like
Other odours that have been known to discourage cats from entering gardens, include dried blood and citrus. You can get the smell of dried blood from certain fertilizers, however, citrus is much easier – simply drop some peels from things such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit in your garden.
If you don’t want to use an odour barrier or an odour barrier hasn’t worked, then you can also use physical objects to repel cats from your garden.
Chicken wire won’t prevent cats from entering your garden, but it will discourage them from doing damage to your plants. Simply, put the chicken wire down, before you plant, using wire cutters to ensure there is plenty of space for them to grow. Cats hate walking on things like wire and other rough materials, so it will really discourage them from doing it.
A More Natural Option
If you want to do something more natural, then you can use things such as pinecones, holly leaves, or eggshells. They won’t damage your plants and will discourage the cats from digging in your garden because they try to avoid coming into contact with coarse materials.
If you want to do something more extreme, then you could install electric fences around your garden. There are humane options that can be found online, via portals such as responsibleconsumer.net
Bumps and Other Coarse Materials
Cats are very acrobatic and usually enter gardens from above. This means that you can discourage them from entering your garden, by making your garden fence or wall less appealing to walk on. This can be done in a wide variety of ways, ranging from small bumps to other coarse materials. Some people install things such as spikes on their walls or fences, but we wouldn’t recommend going this route as it is not very humane and is harmful to other animals, such as birds.
Everyone knows that cats don’t like water, making it a very could way to discourage cats from entering your garden. Keep a water gun on hand and spray any cats that enter your garden with it. This method might seem a bit cruel, but it does not damage the cat in any way and will teach it that it is unwelcome in your garden.
You could also install things such as motion-triggered sprinklers in your plant beds, which will activate when a cat comes near it. The most popular version of these is a Scarecrow Sprinkler, which can be purchased at most well-known gardening stores.
Cats also have much better hearing than humans, meaning that you can also use sounds to deter cats from your garden. One such product is known as ‘CATWATCH’ – an electronic cat deterrent that produces as sound which humans cannot hear, which is unbearable for cats. It has a motion sensor in the product, so it will only activate when triggered.
CATWATCH is endorsed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, meaning that it is totally humane and has been proven to reduce cat visits by up to 33%. It is available from most reputable garden suppliers.
Light deterrents can also dissuade cats from entering your garden. They’re usually not as effective as sound and smell; however, they do work well if you want to protect a particular area.
One of the best, and easy to make, light deterrents can be made using old CDs. Simply loop a piece of string through some old CDs and then dangle them above the area of your garden that you want to deter the cat from. In theory, their reflection should dissuade the cat from going on that particular part of your garden.
You can also sporadically place plastic bottles that have been cut in half throughout the area of the garden that you don’t want the cat to enter. Their reflection will also dissuade the cat from roaming through your plant beds.
Purchasing a dog, merely to protect your garden from cats, is a foolish idea and we certainly wouldn’t recommend it. Dogs often do as much damage as cats, not to mention the fact that bringing any animal into your home is a large undertaking that should never be done lightly. However, dogs will discourage cats from entering your garden, so it could be an argument in favour of getting one if you were considering doing it anyway.
Ways to Mitigate the Damage That Cats Can Do to Your Garden
There are also several ways that you can manage what cats do in your garden. Instead of locking them out altogether, you can encourage them to treat it the way that you want.
An Outdoor Litterbox
One of the main reasons that gardeners want to keep cats out of their garden is that cat faeces is riddled with bacteria and parasites. Installing an outdoor litterbox will encourage the errant feline to do its business there, instead of your vegetable patch, reducing the risk of it passing the dangerous diseases on to you.
Outdoor litterboxes are easy to create, simply build a small sandpit in your garden – most cats will naturally be inclined to defecate there instead of in your plants. If you decide to go down this route, then we strongly recommend that you regularly clean the area, to reduce the risk of infections and dissuade other cats from coming there.
There are several plants that cats love, such as catnip, mint, and honeysuckle. If you plant any of these in a part of your garden, then any feline visitors will spend more time with them than in any other part of the garden. We find that this solution works especially well when used in conjunction with an outdoor litterbox located close to the plants that attract the cats.
Don’t Suffer in Silence!
Having a garden is one of the most wonderful things in the world and you shouldn’t let a pesky feline visitor ruin it for you. There are a host of easy to implement and humane ways to deter cats from your garden. Don’t let the neighbourhood cat dig up your vegetable patch – act now and reclaim your garden for yourself!