10 Ways to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard or Garden

Illustration depicting ways to keep cats out of a garden
 Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018

There are many reasons to keep cats out of a garden, but given their incredible climbing and jumping abilities, how is this possible? Admittedly, this can be a challenge. Cats are unpredictable, and there are few sure-fire cat repellents. Domestic cats wander around due to curiosity, mating, hunting, feeding, and establishing territory. Feral cats and homeless strays may be looking for a place to call home. However, there are some approaches known to stop strays and other feline intruders from using your garden as their own personal litter box.

Cat Repellents

Cats can be discouraged from digging in your garden beds or pussyfooting around your property with these tactics or products:

  • Preventative planting with chicken wire: Lay chicken wire down on top of your soil or mulch, across the planting bed before you plant. Cats hate walking on chicken wire. Using wire cutters, cut out holes in the chicken wire that are sufficiently large for installing your plants.
  • Bristly material: If your garden bed is already established, you can prevent pussyfooting by mulching the problem bed with sharp-edged pine cones, holly cuttings, egg shells, or a stone mulch. Cats prefer to dig and poop in loose dirt and will be put off by these rough materials. For other areas, you might use a plastic carpet runner with the nub side up to discourage cats perching or lounging.
  • Smelly plants: Some plants give off smells that cats dislike. One such plant, Coleus canina, goes by the common name "scaredy cat plant." It is also effective if you have trouble landscaping with dogs. Other plants often recommended for keeping cats away from yards are rue, lavender, (which is also a deer-resistant plant), and pennyroyal. You can plant these between your other plants.
  • Electric wire fence: Like rabbits, cats can be kept away humanely with the popular Mr. McGregor Fence, a fence so safe that even ResponsibleConsumer.net recommends it.
  • Water guns: Water is "Kryptonite for cats." When you catch cats in the forbidden area, you can try squirting them with a Super Soaker or similar water gun. Such action may reinforce the notion that they are unwanted in your planting bed.
  • Water devices: Devices such as Scarecrow Sprinklers detect an intruder's presence and fire a blast of water at it.
  • Ultrasound devices: Cat Stop is an electronic cat deterrent device that operates on a high frequency that is inaudible to humans but unbearable for cats. Installation is easy. You simply situate the device so that it faces toward the garden. A motion sensor detects the intruder's presence, and Cat Stop then gives off its high-frequency sound, scaring off the cat.
  • Sound and repellent devices: The SsssCat! repellent device uses sound and a sprayed repellent and is motion-activated. You can also make your own noisy device by placing marbles or pebbles in an empty can that can be upset when a cat walks on a fence. Or, use a sensitive bell or wind chimes that make noise when a cat causes a vibration.
  • Commercial cat repellents: Shake-Away powder bears the scent of the urine of predators that cats fear, namely, coyote, fox, and bobcat. This commercial cat repellent comes in a granular form, which you simply sprinkle around the problem area. The product is advertised as being non-toxic and organic and will not harm your plants.
  • Smelly substances: Cats reportedly don't like dried blood (as is found in blood meal fertilizer) or citrus. Use peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit in your garden. Some people use mothballs. You can also use cayenne pepper flakes, but those will sting and you may not want to use that on your pet. The "Mythbusters" show busted the myth that lion's feces and clear bottles of water deter cats.

Be sure to change your tactics regularly. A new cat in the neighborhood might not be as sensitive to your usual methods, so switching them often can lead to more success.

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Watch Now: 7 Ways to Keep Cats Out of Your Garden

Provide a Cat-Friendly Area to Attract Them Away

Strike a compromise by planting a separate bed of catnip plants, in another part of the yard. Not all cats go nuts over catnip plants, but those who do may come to view their "catnip patch" as their own private sanctuary and make it their new favorite hangout, thereby allowing you to keep your garden as your own sanctuary.

Better still, make a sandbox just for cats and keep it in close proximity to the catnip plants. Chances are that the sandbox will serve as a magnet for cat poop. Sure, you will have to clean up the cat poop afterward. But at least you will know where it is.

Cleaning Tactics

Keeping your yard, garden, and property clean and decluttered can reduce visits from stray and wandering cats.

  • Don't feed your pets outside, as the food smells will attract other animals, including cats.
  • Keep your outdoor grill clean to minimize food smells.
  • Be sure your trash bins are secure.
  • Wash urine spray from walls or doors as soon as you detect it. Clean with an enzyme-based odor neutralizer to prevent repeated spraying. This is how cats mark their territory.
  • Clear away brush and clutter that can harbor mice and other small prey that cats love to pursue.
  • Board up all holes that can give access to sheds, garages, or areas under decks or porches. Feral cats and their prey may seek refuge any place they can get into.
  • Keep bird feeders safe by using feeder baffles and placing them where the birds won't be endangered by cats.

Preventing Visits from Wandering Cats

Your yard may attract pets whose owners allow them to wander outdoors, strays who formerly had homes, and feral cats. Use these tactics in addition to the cat repellent and cleaning methods.

  • Talk to your neighbors: Work with your neighbors to prevent their pets from visiting your yard or hunting birds you want to protect. Suggest that the neighborhood cats wear bells and bright collars to help birds see them and escape. Let the neighbors know that you do not want cats in your yard. Also, if the whole neighborhood works together to reduce feral cat visits, the problem will lessen.
  • Contact the authorities: If your community has laws, regulations, or homeowner association restrictions, you can ask what can be legally done to prevent wandering cats. Learn what measures you are allowed to take.
  • Humane traps: When other tactics fail, check to see if you are legally allowed to set humane traps and capture wayward or feral cats. If you discover the pet has tags, it is an opportunity to discuss the issue with the owner. Turn stray felines over to animal control or shelters.
  • Support programs for strays and feral cats: Check for trap-neuter-release programs or other community programs that feed or care for feral cats. Support local cat shelters so they can care for more strays.