How to Keep Cats Away From the Garden

January 29, 2019
Cats in the Garden

Kitty Boy Floyd

Robin Sweetser


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Cats can be useful around the garden, keeping unwanted rodents at bay, but they can be destructive as well. How do we keep cats away from the garden with natural deterrents and cat repellents? 

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 harbor many harmful pathogens and parasites. 


Kitty 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.


After 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.

We hope this helps! 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 This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

Reader Comments

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cats in the garden

I have been putting cayenne peppers down and he stopped for awhile now he just does his thing on top of it. Would use the water censor but it by the front door, so poor paper boy or anyone who comes calling. Vinegar did do anything either.

Cat Box in Garden.

I have a friend that buts dumps her cedar filled cat box into her veggie garden. I think its not a good idea. How do I tell her not too and why not.

That is just nauseating! I

That is just nauseating! I hope you never eat anything that comes from her garden! She needs to stop that practice right away. Cats carry all kinds of parasites that can live in the soil for years. Toxoplasmosis is one of the worst. It is especially dangerous for women of child-bearing age because it can cause birth defects. Please tell her to dispose of her cat litter in a more responsible way.

Keeping the cats out of the garden

I sprinkle cheap ground coffee where I don't want cats to be....simple and inexpensive; smells good too!

What about soda bottles?

I know many people use big striped soda bottles filled with water to scare away cats and dogs, and they swear by them. Any thought about it? The same goes for transparent plastic bags to scare away flies.

Those are new ones for me!

Those are new ones for me! Worth a try though!

Discourage outdoor cats altogether!

Yes, cats can be "useful" to keep rodents away, but they are indiscriminate killers, and have been decimating the songbird population in the U.S. for decades. In addition to this (which is bad enough), they can also become a meal for diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey. *Please* keep your cats indoors!

Well said Heather! Many of

Well said Heather! Many of the cats causing problems are feral. A lot can be said about spaying and neutering as well.


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