How to Keep Cats Away From the Garden


Kitty Boy Floyd

Photo Credit
Robin Sweetser
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My cat “Kitty Boy Floyd” can be useful to have around the garden, keeping unwanted rodents at bay, but he can be destructive as well. How do we keep cats away from the garden with natural deterrents and cat repellents? Let’s explore this topic!

My cat loves to dig in the soft dirt, especially after I have planted some tender seedlings, and just the thought of cat poop in the vegetable beds makes me nauseous. Not only disgusting, it can also harbor many harmful pathogens and parasites. 

floyd_049.jpgKitty Boy Floyd, my furry friend, in the garden.

  • Wire - Freshly turned soil is very appealing as a litter box so we have found that laying down chicken wire, plastic fencing, or even bird netting on top of the soil keeps him from digging. He won’t even walk on it. It is easier to do it before planting and just clip the wire to make larger holes for the plants. It can be covered with mulch to make it look more pleasing.

cat-proof_garden_002_full_width.jpgAfter catching Kitty Boy Floyd digging up my newly planted onions, we covered the bed with plastic fencing.

  • Row Covers - We use a lot of row covers on our plants and have found that if they are well anchored he stays out of those beds otherwise we often find him taking a catnap in the warm protected, environment the covers offer.
  • Mulch - Cats dislike stepping on rough or prickly surfaces so try scattering pinecones, brush or twigs over the surface of the soil. Thorny clippings from roses, holly, or raspberries are especially effective but will prick you as well so wear gloves. Rough mulches like coarse wood chips or stones are hard for them to dig in.
  • Water - Cats like dry soil so keep yours moist to make it less inviting. Or go one step farther and squirt them with a hose if you catch them in the act. If neighborhood cats are sneaking in at night, try a motion activated sprinkler. They’ll soon get the message!
  • Fences - It is hard to fence cats out. The fence needs to be very tall with a floppy top so they can’t land on it. It also needs to buried at the bottom so they can’t sneak under. It can be an expensive but effective solution.
  • Repellents - Cats have sensitive noses and strong smells can act as deterrents. Citrus is not a feline favorite so next time you eat an orange or squeeze a lemon, cut up the peels and spread them around the area you want the cats to avoid. Sprays made from citrus, citronella, lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, or rosemary oil mixed with water can be applied to those areas as well. Vinegar, hot pepper, or garlic sprays may have some effect too. Don’t use mothballs because they are toxic to you and the cats. Urine deterrents should be avoided since they just provoke male cats into spraying over them to mark their territory.
  • Plants - Instead of making sprays you can grow some cat-repelling plants such as rosemary, lemon thyme, rue, lavender, or Russian sage. Or you can sprinkle the dried leaves of these plants around the spots you are trying to protect. Plants with prickly leaves like sea holly or globe thistle may deter them too. Look for Coleus canina, called the scaredy cat plant; it is said to be very effective at keeping cats away.
  • Bait & Switch - To keep kitty out of the flowerbed why not try giving him a place of his own - preferably on the other side of the yard, away from your precious plants. Cats will be drawn to catnip or valerian plants. If you construct an outdoor litter box filled with dry sand for them to dig in, they just might make use of it and leave your garden alone.

Another furry friend who’s decided this is “her” pot.

Do you have any furry friends causing chaos in the garden? Please share your experiences!

And see our article about how to keep certain troublesome birds away from the garden!

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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