Keep Cats Out Of Planters

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):

Simply mix together and sprinkle.

By Cait Johnson, Assistant Producer, Healthy Living Channels

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My younger cat likes to dig in my plants use it for kitty litter, and eat the plant especially cactus.

And spraying her with water doesn't help.

Thank you! Norm S

Editor's Note: Put foil over the dirt in the plants and crimp it over the edge of the planter. It will keep the cat from digging.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

I have tried pebbles, bubble wrap, screen, netting, marbles and pokey sticks to no avail. My cat still tromps my plants like Garfield thru a flower bed. Even hot pepper does not work! I am at my wits end! Any other advice?

Editor's Note: Try putting aluminum foil around the plant. They hate foil.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

So glad that I had decided to do a little "research" on the use of mothballs. It was a recommendation that was recommended yesterday and I totally forgot to purchase mothballs yesterday. I will use the 2 parts cayenne pepper-3 parts dry mustard & 5 parts flour. (before I use aluminum foil as I really don't want to appear to be some sort of kook). Not knowing what mothballs are made of I was aliitle nervous about the use of mothballs. I am so very thankful that there was information available to persuade me off of the use of mothballs. Poison. I will tell the person who recommended the idea of mothballs as a cat deterant. You bet !

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I bought some cinnamon scented pine cones for Christmas, to place in bowls around the house. Not too long after that, my cats discovered the joys of playing in the giant pot where my 4' tall fatsia is growing. I put the scented pine cones all around the base of the plant. It smelled pretty, looked nice, and instantly ended play time in that pot.

I bet regular pine cones would work just as well and best of all, they are free.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

I used aluminum foil and the cat would either find the edge between the pieces and borrow beneath one, or would actually rip a hole in the foil.

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I have two issues with my cats and my flowers - a new kitten is the big culprit! I have a flower box on the side of my house and one day I noticed a small body flying by the window. The kitten is jumping from the deck into the flower box and then using this as a jumping off point to get on the roof! Gotta love my cats. I intend on putting geraniums into the box once spring arrives here but I'm concerned that, on the first leap, she will break the expensive flowers. I have taken it down in the meantime but how do I protect the plants? Once she gets there, I see from your suggestions that, hopefully, she will not like the geraniums but that first jump may damage them. She is also pulling the screws out of the wall from the weight. It sounds like someone is pounding the side of my wall when she lands and takes off. Any suggestions? My older cat as well as the kitten are also using my beautiful raised beds for a giant litter box. Can I plant veggies in these or is it now contaminated?

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Hello, You have posted some really good ideas. I only have exception to one of them. The Rose Bush Cuttings! If a cat steps on a thorn, it can cause an infection if it breaks the skin on their pad. I have worked for a Veterinarian for over 27 years and we have pulled thorns from quite a few cats. The cats are treated with antibiotics.. if they are not treated the infection can travel through their system and cause death. This is also true with humans.

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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 discourage my neighbor's two cats from pooping in my front yard planter which is covered with small pea gravel? It sort of looks like kitty litter! My friend suggested moth balls, but I was wondering if anyone on ThriftyFun has a method that has proven to work.

Thank you.

By Judy P.

AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

Sprinkle cayenne pepper. Needs to be done after each watering.

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In This Article
A cat sitting in a garden bed.
Keeping Cats Out of the Garden
Home and Garden Gardening Pest ControlMarch 1, 2007
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