Natural Cat Deterrents for Gardens

Cats howling outside or using your garden as a litter box? Learn about some natural deterrents that might help keep the cats away.

cat-deterrent
Neighbors’ cats in your garden? By: Jay Woodworth

Temperatures are rising all over the country, and something else may be rising along with them: the number of cats in your garden.

Stray or outdoor cats may howl at night, hang around your house or use your garden as a litter box. Depending on how many cats are in your area and how often they stop by to deliver a present, the odor can become unbearable. Fortunately, there are a few methods available to help deter the cat walk from ending up at your house.

Opinions differ on the most effective methods, and there are conflicts about the use of harsh cat deterrents (such as cayenne powder). Read the suggestions below and see which might work the best for you.

Plant and Essential Oil Deterrents

Several plants give off a scent that is unpleasant to cats. These include lavender, rue, rosemary, marigold and Coleus canina, also called Pee-Off or Scaredy Cat. Adding these plants to your garden may help deter the cats.

Most people recommend the Scaredy Cat, lavender and rue plants, but some homeowners have reported success when adding rosemary or marigold. If adding plants isn’t an option or there is still a problem, one of the other options may work.

Essential oils found in fruits or sold as concentrated oils can provide a deterring effect to cats. Peels from lemons or oranges placed around the home or garden will give off a citrus scent disliked by cats. Concentrated oils can be mixed with water and sprayed in these same areas if desired. Oils recommended include peppermint, lemongrass, thyme and rosemary. Citronella is also recommended as a deterrent.

To mix essential oils: Use one part oil to three parts water. Shake well and use as a spray around the areas you want to prevent the cats from visiting. Care and consideration should be used with oils because if they are absorbed by a cat’s skin by either being sprayed directly onto the cat or ingested, illness or death can occur. It is for these reasons that we do not recommend soaking cotton balls in oils and placing them around the house.

The same dangers exist for mothballs. Besides owners complaining about the smell that some say is worse than the cat waste, the mothballs can be toxic to cats and other animals.

Water and Fencing

Many cats are known to avoid water, although there are many examples of cats who enjoy it. One idea to keep the cats off the lawn or out of the garden includes using water as a deterrent. It doesn’t seem feasible to sit outside armed with a spray bottle all day and night, but there are automatic sprinklers that can operate based on motion. Even if the cat likes water, the startling function, sound and water spray should be surprising enough to run the cat away.

Fencing options may depend on the area to be protected or your garden’s location. Fencing placed around the garden should be angled outward to prevent cats from climbing over it.

Other options include burying chicken wire or lattice fencing just under the soil surface to prevent the digging habit cats use when eliminating waste. Other garden additions include pine cones, mulch or gravel; cats don’t like the texture of these items when stepping on them, so placing them around gardens and plants may serve as an additional deterrent.

This video shows our suggestions and a few more:

Commercial Products

There are products sold commercially that claim to deter cats, although many are made for more than one type of animal. The products may come in the form of a spray or granules to be spread around the protected area.

The effective agent in some mixes is essential oils, while others use the urine of predators such as foxes or coyotes to keep the cats away. Ultrasonic deterrent devices have shown some efficacy, and there are many types to choose from (affiliate link).

If you have the extra ground space, you might also consider planting a cat garden designed to attract the cats to a specific area. Catnip and barley grass are usually favorable. If you have an indoor cat you want to stay off certain surfaces, sandpaper, aluminum foil, double-sided tape or tall gates may be effective.

Other ideas as shown in the above video include placing spaced chopsticks or stones around plants. These can also be used for potted plants and containers as well. It will make digging and walking around the plants difficult. For larger areas, an upside-down plastic chair mat will expose small rubber prongs usually designed to anchor into carpet. This will make walking on the material uncomfortable and will likely deter cats from entering the area.

If your problem involves cats howling or mating, consider contacting your local humane society about their trap-neuter-return program. Although procedures will vary depending on your location and humane society policies, an effective TNR program in my area allows for cat trap rentals to be rented for a nominal fee. Once the cat is trapped, it is brought to the humane society and is spayed or neutered. After a short recovery period, the cat is released to the same area.

Some animal control or humane society offices may euthanize the animals instead, so ask for details about their procedures to ensure it is a fix-and-release program.

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