How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard or Garden

Try odor, physical or sound barriers, or water as natural cat repellents

stray cat in a backyard

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

Domestic cats, feral cats, and homeless strays may wander into your yard or garden due to curiosity, mating, hunting, feeding, and establishing territory. Some may be looking for a new place to call home. Since cats have incredible climbing and jumping abilities, keeping them out of your outdoor area can be challenging. But fortunately, there are ways to keep cats out of your yard and to do it humanely. Take a look at a few good cat repellents and approaches to stop feline intruders from using your garden as a litter box.

How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard

Catherine Song

Review the Types of Cat Repellents

Cats can be discouraged from digging in your garden beds or pussyfooting around your property by employing a few tactics or products. Be sure to change your tactics regularly. A new cat in the neighborhood might not be as sensitive to your usual methods, so regularly switching them can lead to more success.

Odor Barriers

A cat's nose is highly sensitive to smell. You may be sensitive to the smell of cat urine in your yard since humans have 5 million odor receptors in your olfactory system. By comparison, a cat has 200 million odor receptors. If your yard or garden has smells that offend cats, you might have great success keeping them away.

Commercial cat repellents use the odor barrier method to discourage cats from entering an area. Shake-Away powder has the scent 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 non-toxic and organic and will not harm your plants.

You may have heard that commercially available lion feces works as a deterrent; this method has been discounted. The popular "Mythbusters" show busted the myth that it works to deter cats.

Some plants give off smells that cats dislike. One such plant, Coleus canina, goes by the common name "scaredy-cat plant." It is also useful if you want to keep your dogs away from your landscaping. Other plants recommended for keeping cats away from yards are rue, lavender (which is also a deer-resistant plant), and pennyroyal. Plant these between your other plants.

Cats reportedly don't like the smell of dried blood (found in blood meal fertilizer) or citrus. Use peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit in your garden. Some people spread used coffee grounds or use mothballs, while others use eucalyptus or vinegar. You can also use cayenne pepper flakes, but it is not humane—it can sting and cause pain.

Physical Barriers

Use physical barriers like chicken wire on top of your soil or mulch across the planting bed before you plant. Cats hate chicken wire or bristly material. Using wire cutters, you can cut holes in the chicken wire that are large enough for installing your plants.

For a mulching option, you can use sharp-edged pine cones, holly cuttings, eggshells, or 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 from perching or lounging.

Electric wire fence might seem like an extreme option, but try a humane version that keeps rabbits out of gardens.

Water Repellent

Water is another type of physical barrier that is like kryptonite for cats. When you catch cats in the forbidden area, you can try squirting them with a Super Soaker or similar water gun. This method reinforces the notion that they are unwanted in your planting bed. Since you can't sit in your garden the whole day, every day, instead you can get a water device, such as a ScareCrow Sprinkler, which detects an intruder's presence and fires a blast of water at it. Be careful that you don't get neighbors or other visitors wet in the process!

Sound Barriers

Cats have a much higher hearing range than humans. 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 install the device facing the garden or your yard. A motion sensor detects the intruder's presence, and Cat Stop gives off its high-frequency sound, scaring off the cat.

The SsssCat! repellent device uses sound and a sprayed repellent and is motion-activated. You can also make a 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.


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

Make Your Area Unattractive to Cats

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

Smells Attract Cats

Don't feed your dogs or other cats outside in your yard. Food smells will attract other animals, including cats. After you use your outdoor grill, thoroughly clean it to remove food bits and minimize the food smells. Also, make sure your trash bins are secure, so felines can not rummage through your rubbish.

Wash urine spray from walls or doors as soon as you detect it. Urine spray is how cats mark their territory. Clean with an enzyme-based odor neutralizer to wash away territorial markers and to prevent repeated spraying.

Other Cat Attractors

Cats like to stalk prey for fun. Make sure that your yard is not hospitable for critters that cats like to chase. 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 in any place they can get into.

Keep bird feeders safe by using feeder baffles and placing feeders where cats won't endanger the birds.

Designate a Cat-Friendly Area

If you do not want the cats to leave entirely, but you want to curb cats from ransacking your entire yard, strike a compromise. Plant a separate bed of catnip plants in a small corner of the yard. Not all cats go nuts over catnip plants, but those that do like a catnip patch might make that area a private sanctuary and favorite hangout.

The rest of the garden or yard will be left alone if you make a sandbox just for cats and keep it near the catnip plants. The sandbox will be a magnet for cat poop. You will have to clean up the cat poop afterward, but at least it will be in one logical place.

Curbing the Stray Population

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. Let the neighbors know that you do not want cats in your yard. Suggest to neighbors who have indoor-outdoor cats that their cats wear bells and bright collars to help birds see them and escape. Also, if the whole neighborhood works together to reduce feral cat visits, the problem will lessen.

Contact the Authorities or Removal Agencies

If your community has laws, regulations, or homeowner association restrictions, ask what you can do to prevent wandering cats. Learn the measures you are allowed to take. 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.

Humane Traps

When other tactics fail, check to see if you are legally allowed to set humane traps and capture wayward or feral cats. Turn stray felines over to animal control or shelters. If you discover the pet has tags, contact the owner to pick up their animal, and discuss the issue with the owner. 

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  1. How to Keep Frustrating Felines out of the Garden. Oregon State University.

  2. An Informed Approach to Animal "Pests" in the Garden. Halton Region Master Gardeners.