Keeping Cats Out of Gardens & Yards

Keeping cats out of gardens and yards where they are not wanted can be an important way to maintain peace with neighbors.  A variety of tools and techniques will help you accomplish this:

Motion-activated sprinkler

Our favorite device for keeping cats away!  It detects when a cat enters an area and then shoots out a burst of water which scares the kitty off (though rarely getting him wet).  Before long, the cats learn the boundaries of the sprinkler's  infra-red field and avoid entering it.  Once the cats are trained, the device may no longer be needed.

Motion-activated sprinklers can be hooked up to a hose or you can buy a model with its own reservoir.  Because water is the essential ingredient, the sprinklers won't work during freezing temperatures.  So the time to first put one out and condition the cats to stay away is during warmer weather.

Models include:

Ultrasonic device

Similar to a motion activated sprinkler, an ultrasonic device emits an infra-red field over the area to be protected.  When a cat steps into the field and triggers the device, a high frequency sound alarm is set off.  The noise is imperceptible to people but highly annoying and startling to cats. The key is to make sure you don't try to cover an area larger than the device is designed for.  The devices are also most effective when placed at or near entry spots for the cats.

Creative uses for ultrasonic devices include putting one on either end of a property line, facing one another.  Whenever a cat crosses the line, at least one of the devices should go off.  Cars in driveways can be protected by mounting the device high up on a garage and pointing it down at the parking space.  They can be used in any weather, though if batteries are required, they may need to be replaced more often in cold seasons.

Models include:

Scent repellants

Reports on the effectiveness of scent repellants are mixed, sometimes working quite well and other times not at all. Scent repellants should be placed or sprayed around the edges of a yard or garden, the top of fences and on any favorite digging areas or plants.  After rain, repellants often need to be replenished, especially sprays.

Naturally-based (non-chemical) products include:

  • Coleus Canina, available at Rosy Dawn Gardens and other nurseries.  This plant is popularly known as the "Scardy-Cat" or "Pee-off" plant because it emits an odor offensive to cats, but not to people.  Plant three feet apart in the area to be protected.  WARNING:  there are many varieties of coleus plants, so be sure to order only Coleus Canina.  You'll need to order early in the spring planting season before the plants sell out.
  • Havahart "Critter Ridder" Dog & Cat Repellents  
  • Common household items may protect gardens or flower beds.  These include the herb rue, either planted or sprinkled in its dry form, orange and lemon peels (cats dislike citrus smells), cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, lavender oil, lemon grass oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and mustard oil.

Physical barriers

Cats love to dig, so deterrents to this behavior will help keep them out of gardens and flower beds.  Barriers to digging include:

  • Cat Scat Mats, available from Gardener's Supply and other retailers.  These plastic mats have flexible spikes.  When the mats are pressed into the soil so the spikes point upwards, they discourage digging without harming the cat.
  • Cover exposed ground with rough surfaced rocks.
  • Prior to planting, lay lattice fencing on the ground, then place flowers and seeds in the openings.

Also keep in mind that systems designed to contain cats within a yard can also be used to keep them out.  See our page on Cat Containment Systems.

Outdoor Litterbox

If you want to stop cats from eliminating in a spot, like your garden, one way to do that is to give them a more attractive place to go.  Inexpensive options include:
  • A large pile of peat moss in the corner of the yard, approximately 4 feet square and 8 inches deep.
  • A sandbox, using regular "kiddie sandbox" sand
  • A large Rubbermaid storage bin filled with several  inches of kiddie sandbox sand.  Cut a doorway approximately 8 in. x 8 in. in one of the short sides, above the level of the sand.  For extra neatness, put an actual litter box with regular litter inside the storage bin instead of the sand.

To attract the cats to their new bathroom, put a couple of pieces of the cats' poop in the new digs (while wearing gloves of course). The cats will enjoy digging in the peat moss or fine sand and will shift to using it.  To reduce odor, dump the peat moss or sand once a month or so and replace.  Scooping occasionally will also help.