University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
KEEPING CATS OUT OF THE GARDEN
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Some people love cats. Others hate them. But whatever your feelings
about felines, chances are you probably don’t want them digging up your
garden. So, what do you do?
First, it helps if you can think like a cat. With the exception of a
few plants, catnip being the main one, cats really aren’t out to destroy
your beloved perennials or garden vegetables. What they really like is
the dirt. Most cats think the outdoors is their litter box, and a patch
of dirt is an invitation to come do their business. It also makes a great
place to play or roll.
One way to keep your own cats from roaming into the neighbor’s garden,
is to make your space attractive to them. In an out of the way corner of
the yard, plant a patch of catnip, the aphrodisiac of cats. Spread some
sand for sleeping nearby. Or, if your feline companions prefer to keep
you company in the garden, leave a cat-sized play area in one part of the
garden. Make sure you plant or mulch the rest of the garden so your cats
have no other place to roll and will stay in their designated area.
If you don’t want your neighbor’s cats in your garden, you will need
to take more drastic measures. Try spraying the intruder with a blast from
the hose. Most cats will turn and run although some actually enjoy water,
especially on a hot day. For them, you must try other tactics, like planting
rue. The blue foliage makes this an attractive garden accent, but cats
can’t stand the odor and will make a wide berth around the planting. Thorny
roses also deter cats.
Some gardeners use homemade remedies. Although I can’t personally attest
to the success of these methods, it won’t hurt to try them. Sprinkle your
plants with crushed pepper. It will irritate cats and may even produce
a few extra pepper plants in the garden. Cayenne is also said to work though
you will need to reapply it after every rain. Or try ground-up grapefruit
and lemon rinds. Or make a tea of rue, hot pepper liquid, or lemon juice
to spray on plants.
Commercial products like predator urine and cat (and dog) repellents
also are available at many garden centers. Or try to get rid of unwanted
cat visitors with devices that use sound, light, and/or water to scare
them away. Another possibility is to lay down mats, which have soft upward
facing points. It won’t hurt you–or the cats–to walk on these, but most
cats don’t like to step on them.
If you have bird feeders near your garden, move them to a new location
or hang them higher than a cat can jump. Otherwise, cats may continue to
visit your garden in hopes of catching birds.
Finally, remember that cats are not stupid creatures. They can be taught.
Sometimes a stern “no” is all it takes to teach a cat to stay out of the
garden. But if all else fails, there’s always cat behavior modification–better
known as therapy–for your furry friend, and you!
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