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Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

By Ellen Brown


I was wondering how I can keep neighborhood cats from using my flower garden for outdoor litter box. What I can do to deter that?

Holly from OR



This is a question that comes up a lot. I'm going to list all of the tactics that I can think of and hope readers can give you some additional tips.

Talk To Your Neighbors (Try to Resolve The Problem Amicably)

This is the logical first step, but I realize that often times it's impossible to know to whom these cats really belong to. If you know where it is that the little darlings call home, it's time to meet your neighbors.

Before you appear on their doorstep, check with your city government about local leash laws. I'm sure that once you educate your neighbors on the possibility of kitty ingesting potentially toxic plants, the dangers of handling soil contaminated by feces and your legitimate concerns over the safety of backyard birds, they will be more then happy to let kitty play indoors for the rest of the summer (or at least somewhere far away from your garden). Should the acquisition of this information fail to initiate the response you're looking for, kindly let them know that, regrettably, you'll be forced to call animal control if kitty persists in selecting your flowerbeds as a place to relive herself.


Other Tactics

  • Plant a small plot of catnip or cat thyme in a corner of your yard to lure cats away from your garden. Plant it around a small sand box. Cats will always prefer using fine sand to using heavy garden soil. With luck, you can persuade your neighbor to provide an outdoor sandbox in his yard instead of yours.

  • Spread prickly textures around the garden such as pinecones, holly leaves or medium coarse gravel on newly turned over dirt. You can also try placing large river rocks over bare areas of soil. Cats love fresh soil so keeping it covered up will help to keep them from using your garden as a litter box.

  • Make a deterrent with two parts cayenne pepper, three parts dry mustard and five parts flour. Sprinkle this around plants and near areas cats frequent.

  • Cut up citrus peels and lay them throughout your flowerbeds. Cats detest the smell of citrus and don't like walking on sticky objects. Supposedly, they also dislike the smell of cayenne pepper, blood meal, marigolds, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, lavender oil, lemon grass oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and mustard oil. Any of these may act as deterrents.

  • Stick disposable plastic forks (tines up) in containers, window boxes or in other areas that cats seem to favor. Just make sure you don't stick these in places where cats can jump down on them from above.

  • Try Cat-Scat Mats (available at garden centers). These are mats designed with flexible spikes to keep cats out of your garden without hurting them. You can cut them down to the size you need and most gardeners seem to think they work quite well.

  • Install motion activated sprinklers, and never miss an opportunity to deter cats with a strong spray from the garden hose. You might also keep a spray bottle or long-range squirt gun near the front and back doors and ask family members to help you keep an eye out for kitty.

  • Spread used tea leaves around plants.

  • Lay chicken wire down (cats don't like digging in it) or cover plants with wire cages if necessary.

  • Borrow a friend's dog for a few days to patrol the yard.

  • Invest in commercial products like predator repellents or high-frequency sound emitters.

  • To help minimize damage from salts left behind from urine, add fresh soil, peat moss and plenty of water to dilute the soil and counter the effects.

  • Finally, remember that unless it's a wild cat, this isn't a cat problem; it's an owner problem. Refrain from punishing the animal for the owner's bad behavior. The cat is, after all, just doing what cats do. And for those of you who let your cats roam freely outdoors, please (we're begging you) consider keeping them inside or securing them while they are outdoors (I have 4 cats that are more than happy to bask in the sunshine or nap under my Hosta leaves while on tethers).

Good Luck!

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

Cayenne pepper or Vicks Vapor Rub (or Icy Hot, get the generic from the dollar store). Sprinkle the pepper around, rub the Vicks on the fence or some Popsicle sticks. Don't use the common remedy of mothballs as they are poisonous. (07/17/2006)

By thriftyboo

Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

Our cats hate the essential oils we put out to deter bugs. Peppermint and Eucalyptus, and Echinacea are the three we use. (07/18/2006)


By lifewithmadman

Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

Used coffee grounds are said to deter cats, and as an added bonus are good for the soil, also citrus peels (oranges/lemons); I had good success in deterring my cats from scratching on the ottoman by using lemon essential oil in a spray bottle (07/19/2006)

By cailifouhnofthemist

Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

Look for a "Scarecrow Sprinkler". It is motion activated to send a 3-second burst of water. Keeps cats, dogs, and deer away, but it is way too tempting for the neighborhood kids. I turn mine off in the daytime. (07/19/2006)

By Daisy

Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

I would lay garden netting over the soil. After a few times the cats should lose interest and move on (07/25/2006)

By valery

Cats Using Flower Garden as a Litter Box

Hi everyone,

I realize my response to the above post is from 2006, but I thought I needed to update it. I recently received an email from someone who read my response and was concerned over my recommendation to use cayenne pepper as a deterrent. She cited several serious injuries that could occur to cats as a result of ingesting pepper or getting it into their eyes. I agreed with her.

Ironically, most of the commercial animal repellents you find in garden centers do contain some form of cayenne pepper, usually in fairly low concentrations. Many garden books also cite it as a home remedy,
including those written by Jerry Baker. My information came directly from Cat Fanciers of
America (you can also find it posted on their website).

After checking several other sources, I have discovered that several SPCA websites also list cayenne pepper as safe to use as a deterrent for cats (although they do warn the people using it not to let it touch their skin). I have not seen any shelter websites warn against using it, but I did read one account of a cat owner whose cat suffered injuries from pepper poisoning.

Apparently, not everyone is on the same page on whether or not this remedy is safe.
Personally, I am of the opinion that safe is better than sorry when it comes to the possibility of injuring an unsuspecting animal, so I no longer recommend using it. Cat owners; please respect your neighbor's gardens.

Happy gardening!



By Ellen

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