You may like to see neighbourhood moggies around your garden. But cats may not be quite so welcome when they kill birds that you are trying to attract to your bird feeders, or scratch up or dig in your vegetable plot, creating a mess and flattening tender young seedlings before they get the chance to grow. Worst of all is when cats pee in your garden and create a stink. Fortunately, while it is unlikely that you will be able to keep cats away entirely, there are a number of easy ways to deter cats from entering your garden.
Create Physical Barriers to Deter Cats
Creating a barrier that cats cannot cross can be a challenge. Fences and walls can often be scaled by feline visitors. If you do not want to make your garden a fortress, with high, chain-link fences all around, it is generally better to consider ways to create barriers around certain parts of your garden that you want to protect.
For example, a polytunnel or fruit cage can provide a certain level of protection for a fruit or vegetable garden – keeping cats off your primary growing areas and keeping your plants safe. Placing closely spaced spikes, forks or chopsticks in the ground around vulnerable plants will not keep cats away entirely but can deter them from digging or lounging around in an area of soil and breaking the stems of plants nearby.
Cats are sometimes drawn to compost heaps, especially if they are anaerobic and have begun to smell. Cats may try to mark the area with their own scent. Creating an enclosed compost bin, or creating a physical barrier around and on top of the heap may help to deter cats from marking in the area.
Cats will often tend to choose the path of least resistance, and so another way to create at least a partial physical barrier is to create a closely-planted hedge or border of prickly or thorny shrubs across a route that you would prefer them not to take. Prickly shrubs that will discourage cats by forming at least a partial physical barrier include:
- Blackberry brambles
- Wild roses
Plant To Deter Cats
Another way to deter cats is to place cat-repelling plants around your main growing areas to discourage them from entering the area. Plants that may deter cats, at least to an extent, include:
- Curry Plant
- ‘Scaredy cat plant’ (Coleus Canina)
It is important to note that these plants will not keep cats out of your garden altogether. But they may discourage them from lingering in the immediate vicinity, or choosing to make a ‘toilet’ area close by.
Add Smells to Deter Cats From Certain Areas
In addition to including plants whose smells cats find unpleasant, you can also add other cat-repelling smells to deter them from certain parts of your garden. For example, you can:
- Scatter citrus peel on the ground around plants.
- Sprinkle dried herbs (from cat-repelling plants mentioned above) in your growing areas.
- Spray or mark areas with essential oils (such as citronella, lavender etc.)
- Dust cayenne pepper around your growing areas.
Cats will often return to the same toilet area again and again. Removing their scent from the area and cleaning up mess will deter this practice. Clean up faeces and spray an area where a cat has peed with vinegar to mask/ get rid of the smell.
Attract Cats To A Different Part of the Garden To Protect Growing Areas
Since you are unlikely to be able to keep cats out of your garden entirely, you can also consider welcoming them in – but steering them to an area of your garden where they will do less damage or cause less of an irritation.
Encourage cats to go to the ‘toilet’ in a particular area by creating a sand box that they can use instead of your garden beds.
Entice cats to a cat-friendly part of your garden by planting attractant plants such as:
- cat thyme
- spider plant
While cats can be a minor annoyance in a garden, it is best to adopt a live-and-let-live approach and to try to accommodate them, as you accommodate all the various creatures that visit your garden.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.