Maintain peace with the neighbors
Not everyone wants cats playing in their yard or digging in their garden. Keeping the cats away from areas where they're not welcome is an important way to maintain good neighbor relations. In the end, the cats are going to be better off if the neighbors are happy than if the situation is one with constant conflict. A number of tools and techniques can be used to keep cats out of gardens and yards:
Motion activated sprinklers
Our favorite deterrent! Using infra-red rays, the device detects when a cat (or similar sized animal) enters an area and then shoots out a violent burst of water. The spray rarely hits the cat, but startles him and scares him away. Before long, cats in the neighborhood learn the boundaries of the infra-red field and become trained to stay out. Motion activated sprinklers can be hooked up to a hose or purchased with their own reservoir. In cold climates, the device will not function in wintertime because the water will freeze. Put it out instead during the spring, summer or fall in time for the cats to be trained by winter.
Similar to a motion activated sprinkler, an ultrasonic device covers the area to be protected with an infra-red field. When a cat's motion within the field is detected, the device emits a high frequency alarm that is imperceptible to people but highly startling and annoying to cats. It's important not to try to cover an area larger than the device is made for and, if possible, to place it near points of entry for the cats. Creative uses include protecting a property line by placing one device at one end of the line, a second at the other end, and then facing them towards one another. Parked cars can be protected by mounting a device above the parking space on a garage, then pointing it down. Ultrasonic devices can be used in all types of weather, but if batteries are needed, they may need to be replaced more often in colder temperatures.
- Bird-X Yard Gard (it's bird friendly!)
- YouPest offers a variety of ultrasonic cat deterrents, including models with varying strengths and ones that are solar or battery operated.
- Bell & Howell 50104 (solar powered), available on Amazon
Scent repellants get mixed reviews, sometimes reportedly working well, other times not at all. Effectiveness is maximized by placing or spraying them around the edges of the area being protected, including on top of fences, and on any favorite digging spots or plants. They often need to be replenished after it rains, especially the spray varieties.
Natural (non-chemical) products include:
- Coleus Canina (photo) is a plant popularly known as the Scardy-Cat or Pee-off plant because it emits an odor offensive to cats but not people. Available online from Rosy Dawn Gardens or other nurseries. Plant no more than three feet apart around the area in question. Be aware there are many varieties of coleus plants, so be sure to order Coleus Canina. You'll need to order early in the spring planting season before they sell out.
- Critter Ridder by Havahart is derived from hot peppers.
- The smell of many common household items sprinkled in dry form may protect gardens or flower beds. You can try orange and lemon peels (cats dislike citrus scents), the herb rue (which can also be planted live), cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco and various oils, including lavender, lemon grass, citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus and mustard.
Barriers to digging
Cats love to dig, which is why they're attracted to gardens and flower beds. Physical deterrents to this behavior will help keep them away. Ideas include:
- Cat Scat Mat (photo) from Gardener's Supply Company and other retailers. The 78 inch long mat has plastic teeth/spikes pointing upwards which discourage digging without harming the cat. It can be rolled out on the border of a garden or cut into pieces and placed in planters.
- Rough-surfaced rocks can be used to cover exposed ground.
- Prior to planting, lay lattice fencing on the ground and then place flowers and seeds in the openings.
Build an Outdoor Litterbox
One way to stop cats from eliminating in one spot, like a flower garden, is to give them a more attractive place to go, preferably well off in a far corner of the yard. Inexpensive options include:
- A large pile of peat moss approximately 4 feet square and 8 inches deep.
- A sandbox, using regular "kiddie sandbox" sand.
- Fill a large Rubbermaid storage bin with a few inches of kiddie sandbox sand. Cut a doorway 8 inches by 8 inches in the bin just above the level of the sand. For extra cleanliness, instead of sand, put a litterbox with regular litter inside the bin.
To attract the cats to their new bathroom, place a couple of pieces of the cats' poop in the new digs (while wearing gloves, of course!) To reduce odor, replace the peat moss, sand or litter regularly. Occasional scooping will also help.