Cats aren’t always purrfect. They love to dig, scratch fence posts, and may even go to the bathroom in your precious flowerbeds. If you have a not so fabulous feline friend visiting your garden, here are a few ideas on how to keep cats out of your yard.
My Cat Magic
I want to start this article off by saying I do have a cat. Originally a stray, Magic is a mischievous and handsome little fellow. Every time he hears me talking, he wants attention. He loves heights, jumping places he shouldn’t be and he knows how to have a good time.
While I love the guy, I will say that he does affect my garden. He likes to dig in my herb garden to sleep, and he’s the reason I rehomed all my lilies. Just a hint of the pollen could be bad for the little guy.
However, he does so much good for me in the garden. Not only is he the world’s best rat killer, but he also patrols the property and helps to deter other cats. And most importantly, I love his company while I’m puttering away in the garden. His presence alone does wonders for my mental health, inside or outside!
Why Cats Can Be a Nuisance
That all being said, I can certainly understand why you would want to know how to keep cats out of your yard. After all, it’s not all sun lounging and rat hunting.
Cats tend to dig in garden beds. They don’t know the difference between a vegetable bed and an outdoor litter box.
Male cats also like to mark their territory. It can be annoying to have a neighbour’s cat or stray periodically come in and spray your favourite plants. Stinky!
Additionally, cats are natural hunters. They could even try to catch beautiful songbirds in the garden. They may even be a terror to chickens if you have some.
Cats are good climbers and jumpers, so it can be difficult to keep them out when they’re not wanted. Luckily, there are a few harmless and natural ways to keep stray cats out of your yard.
How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard
First and foremost, cats love squishy and soft soil. Whether they’re trying to lounge or go to the bathroom, the goal is to make your garden beds someplace they wouldn’t want to hang out.
Since cats don’t like any pokey surfaces, cover the soil with things to make it less appealing. The goal is to make it look like the opposite of a litterbox. Here are some ideas:
- Chicken wire: use metal or plastic chicken wire to cover your beds. Most plants can still grow through, but it stops the cats from digging.
- River rocks: larger rocks, uneven rocks are better, but pebbles should also help.
- Eggs shells: every time you crack an egg, sprinkle the eggs shells in your garden beds.
- Sharp twigs: take cuttings from holly leaves, rose bushes, blackberries, barberry bushes, and more pokey plants and spread them across your garden.
- Thick mulch: a thick and pokey mulch also does the trick. Pinecones also work!
- Short twigs: you can also collect a bunch of smaller size twigs while pruning and lay them in bunches in your garden. The bees may enjoy them too!
- Bamboo skewers: stick bamboo skewers with the pointy side up throughout the garden. Space them close enough that it makes it difficult for a cat to lay down.
Unlike most dogs, most cats don’t like getting wet. Use water to your advantage! Cats hate having wet paws, so if a certain cat likes to patrol your yard at a specific time of day, try watering the lawn and garden during then.
You can also spray down any areas they like to mark. Oftentimes, cats will mark the same spots so you can wash their scent away to keep them from returning.
If a cat is in the yard and you catch them red-handed, you can grab a super soaker and spray next to the cat. It should scare them off completely.
Another alternative if you’re not at home or in the garden 24/7 like me, is to use motion-activated sprinklers. They will go off at the hint of movement and scare away the feline. Just be sure to pay attention to how often they go off and obey water shortages.
While cats have a thing for climbing things, you can make your fence less accessible to cats. For fences with fence posts, you can tie an additional wire or string across the top. Cats will hesitate to jump up and climb over it.
You can also get spikey plastic fence caps. These prevent cats from walking across fences. They are uncomfortable for the cat but not harmful.
Finally, grab a tub of Vaseline and spread it across the top of the fence. Cats won’t like the feeling of it under their paws and will hesitate to jump up again.
Cat Repellent Plants
Just like other harmful pests, you can actually grow certain plants to keep cats out of your yard. Cats have powerful noses and don’t like the smell of some plants. Try planting these:
- Lemon thyme
Other scents that cats don’t enjoy include bone meal fertilizer, citrus, coffee grounds, and red wine vinegar. Try spreading your morning coffee grounds and citrus peels in the garden and see if it helps keep the cats at bay.
Cat Repellent Spray
Commercial cat repellent for yards tries to mimic the spray of predator urine. That certainly doesn’t sound appealing to me and I’m never quite sure what ingredients are inside of these sprays. I always opt to make something myself whenever I can. Natural cat repellent spray can work just as well!
To make your own, mix together the following ingredients in a spray bottle:
- White vinegar
- Whole cloves, crushed
- Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- Chilies, the small and hot ones, finely chopped
- Dish soap
- Black pepper
For full measurements, see the recipe card at the end of the post.
Let the mixture steep overnight. Spray the mixture wherever you want to keep cats away from. You won’t need a ton! Respray once a week until the cats get the hint and don’t come back.
Note, this spray is fairly stinky so only spray outside the house and avoid spraying by open windows.
If all else fails, maybe it’s time to make peace with your new feline friend. Try chatting with your neighbour about their cat and see if they can help to keep their cat out of your yard. If they have a tendency to bug birds in the garden, ask if they can wear a bell around their neck.
You can also try to create a place in the garden just for the cat. This will attract them to the right spot in the garden and deter them from your precious vegetable and flower gardens.
Plant catnip for the cat. You can also create a little sandbox for them next to the catnip to give them a place to hang out and go to the bathroom. With this method, you will likely have to clean up every once in a while.
More Posts About Gardening with Pets
- Cat-Safe Houseplants: 20 Plants to Fill a Plant-Friendly House
- Safe Gardening with Dogs and Cats: Common Garden Plants Poisonous to Pets
- Houseplants that are Poisonous to Pets: How to Keep Your Fur Babies Safe
Natural Cat Repellent Spray
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ tbsp whole cloves crushed
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 2 small red chilies finely chopped
- 2 drops dish soap
- Black pepper
- Mix together all ingredients and place in a spray bottle.
- Let the mixture sit overnight.
- Spray wherever stray cats visit your yard.
- Reapply once a week until the cats no longer return.
Thank you for mentioning that lilies can be dangerous and deadly for cats. I removed my day lilies when I discovered only a small amount of pollen on a cat’s fur (they lick their fur, of course, and ingest the pollen) can kill them. Cats have a very delicate liver, and it does not take much for toxicity. Obviously, I am strictly an organic gardener. I’m not sure I would put pepper in the cat repellant as that can be terribly painful if they get it in their eyes, but your recipe appears to be a good one. I love my cats and enjoy seeing them enjoy my garden. I have not had much trouble with my cats digging in the garden because I cover most surfaces with plants (fall, spring, summer) and heavy mulch (for winter) and put rocks and stones on any exposed areas of soil, and pavers that form a small courtyard. The pavers provide a nice arrangement, a small open space in the middle of the garden, and paver-walkways in all four directions (which form quadrants of soil for my plants). The courtyard is a nice place for guests as well as a sunning and cooling place (depending on the time of day and season) for the cats. I have a small white picket fence around the garden, and arbor gateways. It’s a very nostalgic and quaint garden which my husband built for me. I see my cat Franzi often on the pavers, and my other cat Bunnie can be found hiding behind the butterfly bushes for a shady get-away. I have not found a dead butterfly yet. My cats seem to know I love all living things and they only watch the butterflies. I know that may sound incredible, but it’s true in my garden. :) Also I’ve read some butterflies have a bitter taste for predators, and perhaps my cats know this. Unfortunately I have seen Bunnie chasing green lizards, but I’ve never seen her kill one. Maybe I’m just not looking closely enough or perhaps she only chases them OR perhaps the lizards are faster? The only dead animal I have found was a robin in another part of the yard, sadly, but it was not inside my garden. The robin was untouched with no obvious wounds, as far as I could discover, so I have no idea if a cat killed it or if it died of another cause. At any rate, I was very sad about that robin. We feed birds in our backyard, and uncannily we’ve never found a dead bird or tell-tale feathers around the bird feeder. The robin’s death was a couple years ago, and it was the only time I have found anything like that. I’m aware that I’ve been lucky so far, and lucky with my cats repecting my garden. Your cat is beautiful, by the way. Gorgeous photographs! I like your ideas and will employ the ones that will work for me. Thanks so much for this lovely and informative article.
Like you I would like to start by saying I do have a cat and yes, they can be a nuisance in the garden but even more disconcerting is that they are responsible for killing millions of songbirds and other small beneficial garden creatures every year. If you truly want to be a responsible cat owner you should absolutely keep kitty indoors. This is also best for your kitty as they themselves are at danger from predators, cars, diseases, etc. when allowed outdoors. I myself have lost 3 cats to raccoons and coyotes.
Worldwide, our songbirds now face many challenges due to loss of habitat, global warming, pollution, etc. and are alarmingly disappearing and or their numbers are steeply declining and so free roaming cats are just another obstacle to their survival. Please keep kitty indoors for her/his safety and for the health of our planet.
Does this also work on chipmucks & squirrls ? That’s who I have a problem with. Thanks for all your great info, can’t wait for more!
Some of the ideas, yes, but they have differing instincts (cats bury poop and squirrels cache food). The best thing to keep squirrels away, ironically, is cats!