Keeping Cats Out of the Garden

Have your or the neighbor's cats decided to use your garden as their personal litterbox? What are some effective methods of keeping our furry friends out safely? This is a guide about keeping cats out of the garden.

A cat sitting in a garden bed.
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Because cats like soft, dig-able soil, every year my flower gardens were at risk of my cat using them as a litter box and digging up my new seedlings, flowers or plants, but I found an answer!

Last year I bought sand (nothing fancy, just two of the cheapest bags I could find) and made an outdoor litter box by dumping the sand into a small pile, behind a stand of plants growing up a trellis, so she would feel safe to go out in the open.

I brought kitty outside and placed her in the 'kitty sandbox' and she immediately knew what to do and went to the bathroom! Occasionally we will go out and scoop up hard pieces, but the weather makes it largely self cleaning and there is no smell! This saves us time and money since she goes more outside than inside in the nice weather and reduces our buying of as much litter as in the past.

I have never seen her go in the garden again, to use it as a litter box, but she does check out the rabbit that lives in there. :) I have never seen any other cat use the box either since I think they avoid another cat's fecal scent.

Now my plants can grow unimpeded by my kitty!

kitty in outside litter box
    Keeping Your Cat from Using Garden as Litter Box
    CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    When we had a garden (and there were lots of feral kitties around us in that neighborhood which was near a park), we just scattered fresh orange or lemon peels throughout the areas and that seemed to do the trick. Cats do not like the smell of citrus peels, which are harmless since the kitties don't bother them at all.

    Please do not ever put things like Tabasco sauce or other harmful things anywhere that a helpless little animal might be blinded or made terribly sick by eating or coming into contact with it.

    Source: A lifetime of gardening, dealing with animals and looking for ways to do both safely and enjoyably.

    By Julia from Boca Raton, FL

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    I grow sugar snap peas in a half-barrel, right outside my back door. The neighborhood kitties think that this is an ideal cat-box location and used the barrel as such, driving me (and my indoor cats) crazy! I got some of the plastic construction fence (comes on a roll) and cut a length long enough to cover the opening of the barrel, plus an inch or so on each side. I stapled the "fence" over the top of the barrel, at the top of the edge, making a perforated cover through which the baby plants can grow, rain can fall, and the tomato tower can fit for support. No more cat problems!

    Yes, I can re-plant through the fence material - drop the new seeds in, poke with a stick or a pencil, and they are good to go! I am hoping to get this year's peas into the barrel this weekend. I like to plant them around Thanksgiving, but got distracted this year - we'll have fresh sugar snap peas for Easter dinner!

    By MooseMom from Elk Grove, CA

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    To keep cats out of the garden, make some small holes in the bottom of an old plastic milk jug. Put some mothballs inside the jug and put lid back on it. Hang it on your garden fence or close to the garden. A lot of animals don't like the smell of mothballs and you put them in the jug to keep them dry so they smell longer. This won't harm the little kitty.

    By mamacrafter from TN

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    I keep cats out of my raised veggie beds by placing bamboo skewers about 8 to 12 inches apart in a grid pattern. You want them to be close enough, so that cats are uncomfortable digging or even walking through the garden.

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    Tips for keeping cats out of planters without chemicals.

    Never Use Mothballs

    The following is from the Purina Website. The site clearly lists Mothballs as a potential poison whereas cats are concerned. The use of mothballs is NOT recommended.

    Please err in the side of caution when dealing with the health of any member of your family, be they two legged, fourlegged, winged or scaled.

    Many common household items have been shown to be lethal in certain species. Miscellaneous items that are highly toxic even in low quantities include pennies (high concentration of zinc), mothballs (contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, one or two balls can be life-threatening in most species), potpourri oils, fabric softener sheets, automatic dish detergents (contain cationic detergents which could cause corrosive lesions), batteries (contain acids or alkali which can also cause corrosive lesions), homemade play dough (contains high quantity of salt), winter heat source agents like hand or foot warmers (contain high levels of iron), cigarettes, coffee grounds, and alcoholic drinks.

    By Mrs Cohen - Northfield, VT

    Jacks or Sticks

    Buy some cheap "jacks" (the game you played when a child) and put a few around on top of the dirt on your plants. Cats do not like things that poke. I keep the neighbors cat from lying in my flower beds by sticking some small sticks in the soil. The cat doesn't even come near the area anymore, she knows it is not a good place to lay down.

    By Judy

    Water Spray

    Newspaper wouldn't deter my cats. I keep several spray bottles around with water. I used to mix it but vinegar I got it in one of the darling's eyes and I'll never forget the pain on his face, even though he's been dead for years. I just spray them with plain water now, sometimes ice water. This is a great way to break up fights too, even with dogs. We call it "Dampening their enthusiasm."

    By Linne

    Nylon Netting

    For keeping cats out of the soil of big potted house plants, try this. Buy some nylon netting at the fabric store, brown or black would blend in best, and cut it in a circle to fit on the pot (with a slit from one side to the middle). Slide it around the plant and lay on top of the dirt. Water and fertilizer can still reach the roots, and the cat doesn't like the texture of the netting and won't climb or dig in the dirt.

    By Darby

    Stones or Mulch

    I have found that lining my planters or potted plants with small pebbles or rivers stones work great. For the really large areas, try mulch or larger hard pieces of bark. Good luck!

    By Nicole

    Red Pepper

    We had several neighborhood cats using our planters for their potty but they stopped when we sprinkled the dirt with some red pepper. It really work.

    By Nrsnice1

    Thorny Rose Cuttings

    To help keep cats out of flower boxes between blooms, save small rose branch cuttings and stick them in the box soil straight up. The cats push them out of the way if they are laying down. They should eventually get the drift that this box is off limits.

    By Mary

    Orange Peels

    Use the peels of an orange. Toss them in your garden or planter, cats don't like them.

    By fido5344

    Aluminum Foil

    Aluminum foil with holes punched in it laid over the dirt and then weighted down with a rock or two should work.

    By By Racer

    Chicken Wire And Mulch

    Layer the soil with chicken wire and cover with a bulky mulch like tree bark. They can't dig and the bark makes it uncomfortable to lay on, while looking nice.

    By By Leila

    Fox Urine And Other Ideas

    My mother used to have a problem with neighborhood cats; they used to come into her yard all the time and they would jump over the fence and trample all over her flower beds. Someone suggested that she use fox urine. You can get special containers for liquid fox urine. Just hang them on the plant, or sprinkle the powdered stuff on the dirt around it. It's very expensive, but it works, and it is completely nontoxic.

    A cheaper remedy might be sprinkling very hot pepper powder around the plant. A neighbor of mine used to mix up a concoction of the juice from garlic jars and ultra hot pepper powder which she diluted with water and sprayed on the plants. Animals can smell the stuff from quite a distance and it scares them away.

    I used to have a cat, and one of the ways that I trained her to stay away from my plants was by spraying her with a plant mister whenever she went near them.

    Another thing I would do was roll up a newspaper and hit the floor with it. Cats have very sensitive hearing. It bothered her greatly. It didn't take her very long to realize that there were consequences for playing with my plants, and she stopped quickly. I never had trouble with her and the plants again.

    By skbeal

    Peat Moss

    Cover the dirt in the planter with Sphagnum (peat moss). It kept my cats out of the planter and is actually good for the plant as it retains additional moisture.

    By Nick

    Rose B's Ideas

    There are several approaches. One would be to put the plants where it is hard for cats to get to them. That is usually easier said than done! However, it will take a while before cats explore in places where they risk falling into water. So, some of my outdoor plants are perched on an "island" in a kiddy pool. Some of the indoor ones are set above the kitchen sink. If your planter is fairly easy to supervise, you could fill an atomizer bottle with a mix of half water, half vinegar, and spritz the cat who gets too curious about the houseplants. Don't get the vinegar on the plants! We keep a spray bottle handy, mostly because vinegar water is pretty effective at diluting and deodorizing erroneous puddles on the carpet (kittens make mistakes) and where a tom has sprayed. For the most part, when one of our cats starts toward one of the forbidden areas (the dining room table is so tempting!), we just have to shake the spray bottle and look the offender right in the eyes.

    Perhaps you can provide a separate planter for cat use. Fill it part-way with kitty litter, and never forget to change it when company comes. This can work because it is easier to dig in litter than in a potted plant. I use this method for my garden; at each edge of our property, we have a pile of cat litter so cats can find an easy place to dig *other than* my vegetable garden! Mulches can help. I found that what cats liked about my freshly planted or freshly weeded beds was the loosened soil. So, as much as possible, I now cover my garden beds with a layer of mulch. Cats may actually like some mulches better than the real litter, so be ready to change kinds. One that discourages them is newspaper layered all over the bed, and held down with a few rocks at the edge and a sprinkling of something like peat moss. Indoors, you might try large gravel, decorative rocks, seashells, or knickknacks. I think that Spanish moss might work, and nut shells (saved from our snacks -- get unsalted) . You are looking for something that just doesn't seem suited for digging in.

    You could put a piece of screen or hardware cloth over the planter, with openings the plant can get through. You might use the mesh that is used for flower-arrangements, and let the stems grow up through it. You could plant a ground-cover plant in the planter. We have some small trees in planters with moss covering the soil. In others, we have a *weed* that has edible leaves. In others, we grow grasses that have interesting textures. You can grow short plants under tall ones, short plants that tend to fill up the space and even show a tendency to sprawl. (Coincidentally, one nice plant for underplanting taller ornamentals is called catmint. An herb, rue, is said to deter cats.) This can be quite attractive and double the enjoyment of your container plants. You can group smaller pots in the larger planters. All those rims get in the way of digging. This can also save time when you are watering. Animals rarely choose to mess where they eat. So, if you feed you cats at the planters, if you put their food dishes or treats right in there, chances are, the cats will not use those planters as litter boxes. In the same vein, you might try growing shallow dishes of rye grass for cat nibbling, and place those in the planters. To sum up these ideas, you try to place something between the cat and the potting soil you don't want dug up, and you make sure the cat has a convenient alternative place to dig his potty.

    Rose B, mother of three, in NC

    Keeping Cats Out Of Your Neighbor's Garden

    We love our next-door neighbor, but I think she's trying to tell us something. She put moth balls all along the line between our yards, I guess to keep our kitties out of her garden. But moth balls are toxic!

    Here are several easy, safe, and effective ways to deter cats from using your neighbor's garden as a litter box, but, unlike moth balls, they don't pose a health hazard to cats or humans. Or, heck, you could do what my boss suggested and try releasing a whole herd of gophers or mice. Then your kitties will be the guests of honor! (Just kidding!)

    There are many herbs that cats don't like to be around, including lavender, rue, geranium, absinthe, and lemon-thyme. Also, a German professional gardener, Dieter Stegmaier of Essingen, has created a hybrid so repulsive to cats, they stay a yard away from it. It smells like schnapps to us, and is actually a pretty and hardy plant with blue flowers that bloom throughout most of the summer. Its Latin name is Coleus canin. You can order it through various mail order services in Germany.

    This mixture is easy to make and can be used anywhere you want to repel cats (or groundhogs, for that matter):

    • 2 parts cayenne pepper
    • 3 parts dry mustard
    • 5 parts flour

    Simply mix together and sprinkle.

    By Cait Johnson, Assistant Producer, Healthy Living Channels

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    I just hit on this idea three days far, so good. I have a 'serenity garden' filled with sand. I use a rake to make different designs in the sand. My cat uses his intestinal contents to mess it up. I had several rolls of black net that is used for covering trees so birds won't eat the fruit. This stuff is very inexpensive. I covered the sand with it and weighted it down along the edges with pretty rocks. My cat hates this stuff...his claws get stuck in it when he tries to dig. Extra perk: When the sand is dry, I can use the rake (Upside down) and still make designs right thru the net. Yippee!

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    How do I keep cats out of my flowers in pots on my porch?

    By Jodi

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    You can put rocks around the plant in the pot - as many rocks as you need to completely cover the soil. OR, you can get a roll of "garden fence" in various colors and cut a piece to fit the top of your pot. Cut a slit in the fencing, so that you can place it around your plant, and lay it on top of the soil or staple it to the rim of the pot.

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    Lots of pine cones, the stickier the better! Just put them all around the stem(s) and fill the pot with them.

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    How can I keep stray cats from urinating on my flowerpots? What is there that I can use as homemade cat repellent and stop them from using my garden as a bathroom?

    By achongolele from Brandon, FL

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Get a good squirt gun and fill it with water. Squirt the cat every time it comes into your garden or near your potted plants. It won't take long for kitty to decide your yard is not worth getting wet.

    ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Please help, my neighbour's cat is using my garden as a litter box. I've cleaned it once but the cat returned. If I put moth balls out will this keep the cat out or will the cat eat them?

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    I want to deter the cats & dogs from using our yard as a toilet but not deter wild birds or harm them what to use? We have feeders out on platforms on poles in yard & bird baths.

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    I am looking for solutions to stop outdoor cats from using my outdoor plastic shed as their litter box.

    By cats rule

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    I agree with the previous poster regarding the lemons. There are some cat repellants that work, but their smell is almost as bad as the cat pee, and they all have to be re-applied after a rain. I think orange peels or grapefruits might work just as well. I have repelled them with lemon scented Mr. Clean splashed on my wall, where stray males were spraying their scent. Do not use something toxic like moth balls. Much worse than the cat smell, and far more toxic to you!

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    Here is what I've found to deter cats from areas they are unwanted and prevent spraying.

    CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Cats like soft soil and will make a bee line for where you've just been digging. Dig a hole, blow up a balloon, and bury it in the hole. When the cat comes to inspect the nice soft soil, thinks this is a nice place, and starts digging, bang!

    CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    If orange peels and lemon peels work, why not use orange or lemon juice in a garden sprayer and just spray the yard?

    By Buddy J.

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Ants would be attracted to orange juice. Plus the zest of the fruit is where the oil is and is what makes it so strong.

    ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
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    How do you prevent cats from using your flower boxes as litter boxes?

    By Gerry S.

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Sprinkle used coffee grounds around liberally. Cats do not like the smell of coffee. It will also smell good.

    ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    This may not work in every situation, but it's worth a shot. Use some of the pointed wooden skewers (think kabobs), and insert them into the ground close enough together to keep the cat from being able to dig and bury.

    CommentMoreRead More...Was this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    How can I safely repel cats from using my garden as a litter box?

    Hardiness Zone: 2a

    By Linn from Halifax, Nova Scotia

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Lay "chicken" wire or "rabbit" wire down in your flower bed. Since most cats will scratch a hole and then scratch again to try to cover the potty up, they are frustrated by the wire and will move on to a more kitty friendly source of dirt. I hold the wire down with rocks or tree limbs. You could use any landscape decorative weight to hold it down. You will probably have to wait till fall or spring to lay down the wire so you don't ruin this years flowers.

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    Save all your lemon and orange peel after use and place them around the garden where the cats get in. Also, if you can identify the areas where they defecate (they tend to use the same spots ), put some peels there too.

    CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Recently there are feral cats who are doing their "business" in my flower bed.
    How do I get them out of there?

    By Lorraine from Bristol, CT

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Plant onions and garlic around the border. They make nice flowers also when not harvested. The cat's won't like the smell. In the mean time, till the plants grow, puree a garlic and onion mush in a blender (raw), slowly add a bit of water at a time till it is thin.

    Pour it into an empty hand dish detergent bottle with a flip tab (The pull up kind might get clogged with bits), then squirt a stream of the solution around your garden each morning. It will water your garden around the edges which some times get missed and keep the cats away. (Or so my mom and son say) My son's a pro.

    ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
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