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Keeping cats out of gardens and yards

Working with the neighbors

Not everyone wants cats playing in their yard or digging in their garden. Keeping the cats out of areas where they're not welcome is an important way to maintain good relations with the neighbors. In the end, the cats are going to be better off if there isn't conflict. Fortunately, there are a number of ways, listed below, to keep cats out of gardens and yards. Remember that TNR will make cats better neighbors, too. Neutering means dramatically less noise, no foul odors from unaltered males spraying, less roaming and no kittens. 

Havahart motion activated sprinkler

Motion activated sprinklers

Our favorite type of deterrent! The device emits an infrared field and, when a cat enters it, shoots out a sudden burst of water. The spray rarely hits the cat, but is very startling and scares him away. Before long, cats in the neighborhood learn the boundaries of the infrared field and stay out of it.

Accessories include batteries, a hose, and a Y connector if you want to attach another hose to your spigot. Be sure the range of the device matches the size of the area you're covering - you may need more than one. Because the sprinkler is connected to a hose, it won't work if the water in the hose freezes. So if you're in a cold climate, deploy the device during the spring, summer or fall in time for the cats to be trained by winter. 

There are many models to choose from. Two of the more popular are:
- Critter Ridder Motion-Activated Animal Repellant & Sprinkler by Havahart (photo)
- Hoont Cobra Animal Repeller - see also solar-powered model 

Ultrasonic cat deterrent

Ultrasonic devices

Similar to a motion activated sprinkler, an ultrasonic device covers the area to be guarded with an infrared field. When a cat is detected, the device emits a high frequency alarm that is imperceptible to people but highly annoying to cats. Most cats leave right away though it can take a week or two before the more stubborn ones get sufficiently irritated. The sound does not penetrate physical barriers like walls or fences. They can be used in all types of weather though batteries may have to be replaced more often in cold temperatures.

The effectiveness of ultrasonic deterrents is highly dependent on placing them properly and not exceeding their maximum coverage range. There are other factors, too, such as height and which sound frequency is selected. Often people think they don't work, but the real problem is they were not correctly installed. Download our guide How to Use an Ultrasonic Cat Deterrent to make sure you're doing everything right, plus learn some creative ideas for placement.

There are numerous products available with different features, including AC adapter, solar-powered, audio frequencies for other kinds of animals, audible alarms, strobe lights and more. Two 4-star rated examples include:
- Bird-X Yard Gard (photo) - Covers up to 4,000 square feet! Also comes in a solar powered version
- Broox  is solar powered and comes with a flashing LED light as well.

Purrfect Fence

Cat-proof fencing

Fencing designed to keep cats within an area like a yard can also be used to keep cats out. Just face the slanted top of the fencing outwards instead of in. Cat-proof fencing is relatively costly but highly effective. It can be purchased as a stand-alone fence or as an attachment to the top of an existing fence. Manufacturers include Purrfect Fence (photo), and (in the UK and Europe) ProtectaPet.

Oscillot Cat Containment System

Oscillot Cat Containment System

The Oscillot system consists of roll bars, also called paddles, installed on top of existing fences. When a cat attempts to jump up and over the fence, the roll bar spins upon contact, forcing kitty to drop safely back to the ground. Check out the Oscillot site for videos of the product in action. 

Like cat-proof fencing, the product is marketed for keeping pet cats contained, but can also be used to keep free-roaming cats out. Oscillot can be purchased from distributors in North America and Australia (which offers international shipping). Note this product may not function during winters in cold climates if the roll bars get wet and freeze.

Coleus canina from Nnplant

Scent repellants

Scent repellants take the form of sprays, pellets, plants or other items. They generally get mixed reviews, sometimes reportedly working well, other times not at all. To be most effective, they should be applied around the edges of the area being protected, including on top of fences and around any favorite digging spots or plants. After it rains, they may need to be re-applied, especially the sprays. Some natural (non-chemical) products:

- The plant Coleus Canina (photo) is popularly known as the scardy-cat or pee-off plant because it emits an odor offensive to cats but not people. Place them no more than three feet apart on the borders of the protected area.You can buy live plants from an online nursery like Nnplant or seeds from Amazon.

- Critter Ridder Animal Repellant Granules are made from black pepper, piperine and capsaicin. They're sprinkled on the ground by hand or with a lawn spreader.

- Natural Armor All-Natural Animal Repellent is a spray with a peppermint scent.

- The scent of many common household items may keep cats away. You can try orange and lemon peels, the herb rue which can also be planted live, cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco and oils such as lavender, lemon grass, citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus or mustard.

Barriers to digging

Barriers to digging

Cats love to dig. By making it difficult or awkward for them to dig, you can discourage them from using your garden as a play station or litter box. Examples of physical deterrents:

- The Cat Scat Mat (photo) is pressed into the soil with its rows of  plastic spikes pointing upwards. The spikes irritate but don't harm cats. It can be rolled out on the border of a garden or cut into pieces and placed in planters. A 78 in. L x 11 3/4 in. W roll can be bought from Gardener's Supply.

- Rocks, especially one with rough surfaces, can be used to cover exposed ground.

- Prior to planting, lay lattice fencing on the ground and place flowers and seeds in the openings.

Build an Outdoor Litterbox

One way to stop cats from eliminating in one spot, like a flower bed, is to give them a more attractive place to go in a far corner of the yard. Inexpensive options include:

- A large pile of peat moss approximately 4 feet square and 8 inches deep. Replace as needed.

- A plastic sandbox filled with inexpensive play sand. To reduce odor, scoop regularly and replace sand as needed.

- A large storage bin with a doorway approximately 7 in. x 7 in. cut out in one of the short sides (using a box-cutter to first trace the opening, then slowly slice through).  When cutting the opening, leave a lip of a few inches on the bottom of the bin. Then fill the bin with play sand up to the bottom of the doorway. Or instead put a litterbox with regular litter inside. Scoop regularly.

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!)