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Keeping Cats out of the Garden

By Ellen Brown

Q: How can I keep the neighbor's cat out of my garden?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Windella from Pasadena, CA

A: Windella,

This question really comes up a lot and seems to be a universal problem among gardeners. There are a variety of tactics to keep the neighbor's cats out of the garden. First of all, talk to your neighbors about your concerns. Tell them you don't want their cats ingesting any harmful plants, you want to be able to consume your vegetables without worrying about contamination and you're worried about the safety of backyard birds. If your neighbors seem completely unreasonable, check with your city government about leash laws and make sure your neighbor knows that you will be forced to call animal control if the problem persists.


Other tactics to try:

  1. Planting 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.

  2. Spread prickly textures around the garden such as pine cones, holly leaves or rock mulch on newly turned over dirt. This will help to keep cats from using your garden soil as a litter box.

  3. 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 below places where cats can jump down on them from above. You might also 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.

  4. Install motion activated sprinklers, and never miss an opportunity to deter cats with a strong spray from the garden hose.

  5. Spread used tea leaves or citrus peels around plants.

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

  7. Invest in commercial products like predator repellants or high-frequency sound emitters.

Good Luck.

Q: I'm sure you've been asked this question a hundred times already, but here goes anyhow. First off, I live in a duplex with a fenced-in back yard. I am fortunate in the fact that I have some space in which to garden for veggies and have a nice flower patch along with a few rose bushes. My problem is my neighbor's cats. Don't get me wrong, I do love cats, just not in my back yard. I have an old dog, but would not want to use anything that would either hurt my dog or the cats. I just want to be able to get them out of my yard and keep them out (except for Bogie, of course). Other than spraying them with the water hose when I see them, do you have any other suggestions that would be workable in keeping the cats out of my yard?


Hardiness Zone: 7a

Thank you and God bless...
Mary from Redding, CA

A: Mary,

First of all, it's unfortunate that your neighbors feel it's okay to let their cats roam freely about the neighborhood. Not only does it put backyard wildlife in jeopardy, but also, it's dangerous for the cats. Fortunately for your neighbors, you're a cat lover. Good fences should make for good neighbors. Since your neighbors are not getting the message, start by asking them for help in keeping the cats out of your garden. Explain that you don't want to worry about their cats ingesting harmful plants and that you worry about being able to consume (and share with your neighbors) any edibles that have been grown in soil contaminated by cat feces (it is dangerous). Maybe you could offer your neighbors a pot of catnip to place in their yard to act as a distraction, or even designate a small spot in your yard (well away from the rest of your beds) for growing catnip, or cat thyme.


If there are specific areas that cats seem to be favoring in your garden, try spreading chicken wire, pine cones, rock mulch or prickly holly to deter them from scratching and digging. You could also try Cat-Scat mats, available at garden centers, which are mats made with flexible spikes that won't hurt them, but will keep them out of your beds. Disposable plastic forks (tines up) will also work when stuck in pots or around ornamental plants. Just be sure not to place them in areas where cats will jump down and land on them (like below balconies, etc).

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



Trying to keep cats out of the garden

Mix 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of mustard, with 1 cup hot pepper sauce that contains habanero peppers, and 2 cups vinegar, with 3 cups water. Blend well. Pour a thin stream in several areas of the garden. Sounds silly, but it works. (07/18/2004)

By Shirley Mac

Keeping Cats out of the Garden

My mother-in-law used moth balls and the cats hated them. She just spread some around her plants. (06/25/2007)

By Faye

Keeping Cats out of the Garden

Cats like to dig in freshly turned soil where vegetables and/or flowers are planted. I sprinkle red pepper all around. If it rains I re-sprinkle. It may take four to six different sprinklings of red pepper, but it works like a charm. Cats hate it and stay away from it. I think it works with dogs, too. (05/04/2008)


By Nancy.

Keeping Cats out of the Garden

I used a mixture of black peppercorns, cayenne, red pepper flakes, curry powder, black pepper, chili powder, and dry mustard, I sprinkled it throughout my garden (veggie garden) and so far it is working great, and it's even working to deter the horsehair worms. (05/26/2008)

By Janet

Keeping Cats out of the Garden

Our neighbourhood is infested with stray cats that were constantly spraying our doors and basement windows. Our whole house reeked of cat urine. We started sprinkling paprika (about once a week) and now I don't even see them in our yard. It's not quite as harsh as cayenne if anyone is concerned with hurting cats. (07/14/2008)

By wontonamera

Keeping Cats out of the Garden

You can also use empty clear bottles and fill them up with water and I don't know why it works, but the cats don't like their reflection or something and it scares them away. (02/23/2009)

By Megan

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