Fluffy ginger cat walking along a fence

Looking for ways to prevent unwanted cats visiting your garden?
Image: lkoimages

Fed up with neighbourhood cats fouling your flower beds, digging up seedlings, and damaging your plants? Potential solutions to the problem are many, but no one method is 100% successful, which is why it’s best to deploy an integrated anti-cat strategy. Think of yourself as a Monty battling the moggies, it’s time to plan an effective – non-harmful – campaign to rid your garden of cats. Here are some tried-and-tested options…

Secure your outer perimeter

British shorthair cat clambering over a fence

Make your boundaries difficult to navigate
Image: Tomas Wolfschlager

Make getting into your garden as awkward for cats as you can, and they’ll slink off to use someone else’s flower beds for their relief. Try stretching a string or wire a few inches above your fence line, or fix a band of soft, collapsible fencing to the top of your garden wall or fence – cats will find it tricky to negotiate these kind of hazards, and won’t be able to rest on top of your fence.

You might also like to try tacking chicken wire to your fence top, angling it away from your garden so cats will have to hang backwards if they’re determined to access your backyard. Do bear in mind, however, these kind of solutions look somewhat unsightly – you have to be pretty desperate to resort to them!

Border defences

Lavender and gravel garden planting scheme

The combination of lavender and gravel is unpleasant to cats
Image: Del Boy

Cats love to be comfortable while about their “business”, so make your patch as unpleasant as you can and, with luck, they’ll seek alternative arrangements. Cats hate the feel of chicken wire under their sensitive paws, so place a layer over your flower beds, cutting holes through which your plants can grow.

Alternatively, use a sharp gravel mulch, put down eggshells, sprinkle holly leaves, or place pine cones around the base of trees whose bark you wish to protect from cats’ clawing and climbing. Cats love dry, loose soil for their toilet, so water well and fill your borders with plants so they don’t have room to squat.

Plants to deter cats

Coleus canina (scaredy-cat plant) from Thompson & Morgan

The scent of the ‘scaredy-cat’ plant deters cats, dogs, rabbits and foxes
Image: Coleus canina (scaredy-cat plant) from Thompson & Morgan

Cats have a powerful sense of smell which you can use against them. By growing plants with strong perfumes that cats find distasteful, you make your garden a whole lot less attractive to feline visitors. Bear in mind that, just as some cats don’t love the smell of catnip, not all cats react to plants intended to deter them – but these are definitely worth including in your strategy:

  • Lavender – this garden favourite produces dainty purple flowers and smells divine to us humans. Bees love it and cats do not.
  • Rosemary – a kitchen staple, rosemary is a hit with pollinators. It prefers a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
  • Rue – once known as a medicinal herb, rue has bluish foliage and yellow flowers – grow with caution because rue is poisonous and physical contact can cause skin blistering.
  • Lemon balm – cats don’t like the smell of citrus and will avoid plants that smell of it.
  • Pennyroyal – with a powerful spearmint smell, this plant is an antiseptic, and an insect repellant.
  • Scaredy cat – specially bred as a cat deterrent, coleus canina smells horrible to cats and other animals but, provided you don’t touch the leaves, you won’t be able to pick up the whiff of dog urine this plant emits.

Chemical warfare against cats

Hand holding watering can pouring water over a flowerbed

Water around your flowers with a vinegar solution, or try heavily scented essential oils
Image: iko

Jeyes fluid and mothballs are often touted as effective cat deterrents, but they’re poisonous to cats and other animals. Natural options are a better alternative to using harmful chemicals to repel cats.

Try spraying white vinegar diluted in water – but be cautious – a vinegar solution won’t harm acid loving plants, but could potentially damage other garden plants if it’s too concentrated. That being the case, another option is to soak tea bags or cotton wool balls in vinegar and place them strategically about the garden – cats don’t like the smell and will avoid them.

Moggies are also dislike the smell of citrus and other herbal extracts – add a few drops of essential oils to your watering can. Citronela, lavender, orange, peppermint are all effective, especially when you use them in combination.

Cat scarers

Pest XT Solar Powered Ultrasonic Flash Pest Repeller from Thompson & Morgan

Cats will avoid the high-pitched screech of sonic scarers
Image: Pest XT Solar Powered Ultrasonic Flash Pest Repeller from Thompson & Morgan

Sonic cat scarers are a proven technique for scaring cats away. When animals cross the sensor, these systems emit a high-pitched sound barely audible to the human ear but very uncomfortable for cats.

Unfortunately cats sometimes get used to the sound from a sonic system and learn to ignore it, others will ignore it from the get go; still others learn to walk around the problem, and foul other parts of your garden. Sound is one weapon in your arsenal, but it’s far from the whole deal.

Attack is the best means of defence

Cats and water don’t mix
Image: Pest XT Battery Powered Jet Spray Cat Repeller from Thompson & Morgan

Cats hate to get wet, and learn to fear the jet from a spray cat repeller. It works when the cat triggers a sensor, switching on a water spray connected to your garden hose – they’ll pelt for the fence as fast as their paws can carry them.

Cats make wonderful pets but when they use your garden as a public convenience, they’re a “purr–fect” nuisance. Hopefully these anti-cat measures will keep your lawn clean – if not, perhaps it’s time you resorted to the “nuclear” option – a dog.


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