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Keeping cats out of gardens and yards

Peace with the neighbors is a click away

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 relations with the neighbors. In the end, the cats are going to be better off if everyone is happy than if there is constant conflict. A number of tools and techniques, listed below, can be used to keep cats out of gardens and yards. Keep in mind that TNR will make cats better neighbors, too. Neutering means dramatically less noise, no foul odors from unaltered males spraying, less roaming and so less visibility, and no kittens. 

Havahart motion activated sprinkler

Motion activated sprinklers

Our favorite deterrent! Using infrared rays, the device detects when a cat enters an area and then shoots out a sudden 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 infrared field and are trained to stay out.

Motion activated sprinklers are connected to a hose. In cold climates, the device will not function in wintertime if the water in the hose freezes. Put it out instead during the spring, summer or fall in time for the cats to be trained by winter. Common accessories needed are a hose, a Y connector if you want to attach another hose for gardening or other purposes to your spigot, and batteries.

Models include:
- Critter Ridder Motion-Activated Animal Repellant & Sprinkler (photo) by Havahart
- Hoont Cobra Solar

Ultrasonic cat deterrent

Ultrasonic devices

Similar to a motion activated sprinkler, an ultrasonic device covers the area to be protected with an infrared field. When a cat is detected, the device emits a high frequency alarm that is imperceptible to people but highly startling and annoying to cats. Ultrasonic devices can be used in all types of weather (though remember if batteries are used, they may have to be replaced more often in colder temperatures).

The effectiveness of ultrasonic deterrents is highly dependent on placing them properly and not exceeding the maximum coverage range of the device. There are other factors, too, such as height and sound frequency. Often people think they don't work, but the real problem was they did not install or use them correctly. Download our guide on How to Use an Ultrasonic Cat Deterrent to make sure you're doing everything right, plus learn about 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. Options include:

- Bird-X Yard Gard - Covers up to 4,000 square feet! Also comes in a solar powered version
- PestAway

Cat-proof fencing

Cat-proof fencing

Fencing specially designed to contain cats within areas, like a yard, can also be used to keep cats out. Just point the slanted top of the fencing outwards instead of in. Cat-proof fencing is relatively expensive, but if you have the budget, it's highly effective. It can be purchased as a stand-alone fence or an extension to the top of an existing fence. Manufacturers include Purrfect Fence (photo), and ProtectaPet.

Oscillot Cat Containment System

Oscillot Cat Containment System

Oscillot involves installation of roll bars, also called paddles, on top of existing fences. When a cat attempts to jump up and over the fence, he has to grab hold of the roll bar which spins upon contact and forces 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. Designed and manufactured in Australia, Oscillot now has a USA-based distributor for North America. Also sold in Australia where international shipping is available. Note that this product may not function during winters in cold climates if the roll bars get wet and freeze.

Scent repellents for cats

Scent repellants

Scent repellants - which can take the form of sprays, pellets or even plants - 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) - a plant 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 around the area you're trying to protect. Be aware there are many varieties of coleus plants, so be sure to order Coleus Canina. Available online from Rosy Dawn Gardens and other nurseries. Order early in the spring planting season before they sell out.
- Critter Ridder Animal Repellant is made from black pepper, piperine and capsaicin.
- 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

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.

Barriers include:
- Cat Scat Mat (photo) from Gardener's Supply Company and other retailers. The 78 inch long mat has plastic 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. Also available on Amazon.
- 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 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.