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Cats In Your Garden? 10 Tips How to Keep Cats Away

by | Mar 4, 2020 | Cat Behavior & Care | 6 comments

Why would you want to keep cats away? Well, if you have indoor felines and strays keep trespassing, that can put your pets’ tails in a twist. Other times, the stray or feral cats abuse your hospitality, poop in your garden, or stalk the birdbath and terrorize the birds. If you have plants that prove dangerous to cats, visiting felines could be poisoned. What’s a responsible cat person to do?

How do you shoo unwanted cats out of your back yard? Maybe you have a dog that likes to dig, too. With spring weather fast approaching, lots of folks now find that community cats, strays or even feral felines have decided to make themselves at home in unwanted places. Here are my 9 tips to keep cats away.

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“Can I bring all my friends, too?” Image Copr. Maria Magnus/Flickr

10 Ways to Keep Cats Away

I’ve read a number of “how-to” articles over the years about ways to shoo cats away. We need kitty kryptonite! Many suggestions resort to what I’d consider inhumane methods. Those who read this blog LOVE cats! We don’t want to shock them with electric fences or poison them with toxic materials (as sometimes suggested). Yikes! Here are my best 10 tips how to keep cats away.

1. Talk to Owners

When your neighbor’s cat roams, have a talk to figure out ways to keep the cat safe and out of your yard. Perhaps explain that your dog may object and injure their pet, or that you want to protect the songbirds in your back yard.

When a friendly cat hasn’t been claimed and just hangs out in the neighborhood, work together to keep these community cats safe and cared for. A well-nourished kitty is less likely to stalk your birds. Perhaps someone can be persuaded to adopt the cat or share the responsibility to work toward a solution. Work with your neighbors to prevent their pets from visiting your yard or hunting birds you want to protect.

cold weather cat dangers

2. Manage Feral Cats

A truly feral cat has no owner or family and must hunt to survive. Learn about ways to humanely manage feral cats. They need shelter and food, so deny them access to forbidden places by boarding up cubbyholes or openings into porches, garages, and outbuildings. Create more appealing cat habitats far away from your living area, and the cats will stay away. Protect feral cats during cold weather with these tips.

3. Check With Animal Control

If you’re unable to find the owner, your local authorities often have resources for safely trapping feral or stray cats. Each community has different regulations and laws, so research what you can do based on your neck of the woods. The scared feline you believe to be feral may turn out to have a microchip that will reunite Kitty with his lost owners.

how to keep cats away

4. Wash Pee-mail Cat Urine Marking Away

Cats mark their territory by spraying urine on prominent (usually vertical) landmarks, like doors and walls. The odor not only tells other cats they own the property but also announces their sexual status. The smell may bring the cat to return to the scene time and again to refresh his Pee-mail message. That also proves arousing to your indoor-only cats and can prompt them to return the aromatic favor, but on the INSIDE of your house. Wash down any places you find to remove the urine, and use an odor neutralizer to eliminate the minuscule traces cats still can detect. Having the cats neutered will reduce their inclination to spray, too.

5. Booby Trap Cat Targets

Cats dislike surprises. While you can’t patrol your yard all the time, there are automated motion detectors that can shoo cats away from forbidden areas. You can set up water sprinklers on timers, or invest in products like the Scarecrow Sprinkler.  These devices are triggered by the cat’s presence and fire a blast of water at it.

There also are repellant devices that employ sound and lights to keep cats away or shoo away other critters. The SsssCat! repellent is an aerosol can that triggers with motion and produces a HISS of air to scare interlopers away. Other devices use ultrasound detectable only to the target animal. Be careful choosing ultrasound products, though, since your indoor pets may also be harassed by the sound.

cat hunt

6. Eliminate the Cat Smorgasbord

Cats looking for a free meal are drawn to prey hangouts. Mice, bunnies, and squirrels love woodpiles and hidy holes filled with leaves and other debris to raise babies. Birds fed on the ground or from birdfeeders and birdbaths within cat pouncing distance prove irresistible to roaming cats.

Clean out the clutter, and keep yards and fields mowed. Tidy up trash bins that attract vermin, so cats won’t follow the rats to your door. If you feed your pets outside, pick it up and clean the area or the leftovers will bring out the cat nibblers. Position birdbaths away from cat perching ops, and place bird feeders out of reach. Include a feeder baffle to keep industrious cats at bay.

how to keep cats away

7. Deny Stray Cat Digging & Lounging Ops

Cats love soft, sandy soil to dig and eliminate. That’s why fresh garden soil proves so attractive to stray cats. Of course, you object to the feral cats using your petunias to potty! To keep cats from excavating, just lay chicken wire over the top of your mulch or soil before you plant. Clip openings with wire cutters to allow for placing your larger plants. Seeds will come up in between the wire mess with no problem.

You can also make mulch beds unattractive by making them prickly. Scatter pine cones, holly or rose bush trimmings, or other sharp-edged items over the top of your munch bed. Depending on the planting, you could even use eggshells or a stone mulch that’s hard on soft paws.

Cats love warm places to snooze. If you want them away from the warm hood of your car, drape a plastic carpet floor runner (nub side up) over the surface. That also protects the paint from cat claws.

8. Use Natural Cat Repellents

Check with camping supply stores that service fishing and hunting enthusiasts. They’ll have a number of “predator” products that you can share in the garden. The urine smell of coyote, fox or other predators will give stray cats pause.

Cats hate the smell of citrus. Scatter orange peels, or the peels of lemons, limes and grapefruit among your plants. Please do NOT use mothballs, as those can cause problems for beneficial insects as well as the cats. You want to shoo them away, not poison them.

9. Landscape to Repel Cats

Cats are particular about plants, so design your garden to either attract or repel the strays. Coleus gives off a scent cats don’t like, and sometimes is called “scaredy cat plant.” Rue is another plant that repels cats, and you might try lavender as well. Plant these in between your other plants.

CAUTION! Some gardening gurus recommend pennyroyal but AVOID this. Pennyroyal can cause toxic reactions in cats.

10. Attract with Plants

Most of us know cats love catnip, so why not plant a cat-friendly garden in one corner of the yard. Cats also enjoy other mint plants like peppermint and spearmint. Kitties that are rolling and lounging and drunk on the ‘nip won’t bother your birds in the other part of the yard.

Better still, make a sandbox just for cat digging ops. Plant it near to the catnip area, and perhaps give the cats a tree to climb and lounge. You will have to police the outdoor litter box to clean up the poop and pee (or will end up with more cats, but you can keep it in one area.

How do you deal with the problem? Any suggestions to add? Of course, a great alternative is to adopt the lil’ interloper and solve the outdoor trespass problem altogether. (That’s what happened with Karma-Kitten.)

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

6 Comments

  1. Brenda

    Running off visiting cats is a big invitation to rats to invade yards…

    BUT for those who want to: Be out in your yard a lot. If they don’t like people, they aren’t around when you are. One of our feral kitty visitors got tired of our yard when we were out late a few too many times to suit him (though not often at all by most standards! (We tried to mend our ways so he’d be comfortable but he started staying in his own yard more anyway which was good for him.)

    I’ve read the suggestion of sharing your cat’s poop in the four corners of your yard as a way of letting the visiting cats know it is NOT their territory. I am pretty sure we tried that at least once when our dear Lucky was indoor/outdoor and it helped as he kept his territory under his control. I know that I would try it extensively if for some reason I wanted to run off visiting cats.

    We have a bird friendly AND cat friendly yard & the two yards on our street with the most birds have the most cats. (We don’t own the visitors; they are either owned already or don’t want to get to know us.)

    Some of the noise that passes for music would do the trick. Our cats have been known to leave the t.v. room/den even for some classic rock and roll and certainly they depart if there is rap on t.v. or in a movie. Noise ordinances and manners don’t really allow noise outside but it might work.

    I think perhaps it was horticulturist Felder Rushing who suggested bird wire over one’s garden.

  2. Franklin Steele

    I really look forward to your blog. Every time there is such valuable information. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and research.

  3. Cathy Armato

    Great suggestions! There are so many humane ways to deter cats, there’s no reason for people to implement dangerous or inhumane solutions.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Amy Shojai

      Yes, exactly! The cats that have shown up here have ended up inside my house (and heart, LOL!).

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