How can we keep our cats out of our kids' sandbox?

Photo of Persian Cat in Garden
Persian Cat in Garden. © Getty / Andrea Kamal

Reader's Question:

How can we keep our cats out of our kids' sandbox? About eight months ago, my husband brought home to me two beautiful Persian cats.  They are both adult cats that have been used to being both inside and outside cats.  I'm having a problem with both
of these darlings using my children's sandbox as a litter box.  I realize that the cats don't know any better, but is there anything I can do to prevent them from "going" in the kids' sandbox?


Franny's Answer:

While your Persian cats were both indoor and outdoor when they first came to live with you, they can be trained to stay indoors. First, you need to provide them with enough litter boxes inside the house, and train them to use them. The rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one extra. So that would mean three litter boxes inside the house.

If your yard is safe from your cats' escaping, and predators and other cats entering, you could still let them outside periodically, as long as you could supervise them. Some cats love to play fetch, as much as dogs do, so bring a few toys outside with you, such as catnip pillows or balls with bells inside. Even chasing toys such as da Bird, are fun outdoors. Just make sure the cats don't get over-tired or over-heated while they are outside.

Suggestions for Keeping Your Cats Out of Your Kids' Sandbox:

Most of the people who ask about cats using their children's sandbox are people complaining about neighbors' cats or stray cats.

While it's sometimes difficult to persuade neighbors to keep their cats indoors, here are a few of the tips I give them, which you might also use.

  • Spray a vinegar-water solution around the kids' sandbox. Cats dislike the smell of vinegar and will likely keep their distance.
  • Save orange, lemon, and other citrus peels and sprinkle them around shrubs and plants as well as the sandbox. Cats hate the scent of citrus as much as vinegar. To make the peels go further, grind them in a blender to release the citrus oils and mix with water.
  • If you drink coffee, save the used grounds and sprinkle them around the sandbox. Cats hate the smell of coffee grounds too.

If these products do not work, I must urge you to fully cover the children's sandbox to prevent the cats from entering it. There is a possibility that the children or you, their parents could contract toxoplasmosis, if your cats or neighboring cats have been previously infected.