Cats are fantastic companions to many of us. They are second only to dogs for the country's favourite pet. As much as we love our feline friends, they sometimes come with a few problems. The most obvious is their love of exploring their surrounding environments, often including your garden! Cats invading your garden is not a new problem; it’s one that has plagued gardeners and homeowners for years.
Common cat problems
Feline visitors are not always a problem. Some people love to make friends with the cats that come into their garden. Some of us even encourage cats to visit with treats and food! However, this can become part of the problem for those of us who would prefer these cats to stay away.
These are some of the problems that visiting cats can bring.
- Cat poop. It isn’t a pleasant subject. It’s smelly, dirty and has a particularly unpleasant, sticky texture that gardeners, quite rightly, hate. In addition to this, there are more significant reasons to want to discourage cats from pooping in your garden. Cats are carnivores which means their faeces could contain parasites and pathogens that can make you ill.
- Cats are fantastic hunters. Hunting is an instinctive part of a cat's personality and behaviour, and according to The Daily Telegraph, it is one of the leading reasons people don't like cats in their gardens. Unfortunately, this means they can catch, kill or deter wildlife and birds from making your garden their home.
- Cats dig, usually to go to the toilet, which can cause issues if a cat has decided your garden is the perfect place to use as a bathroom! They then set about digging up all your flower beds and newly planted vegetable seeds.
Cats and your legal rights
There are legal responsibilities that pet and animal owners have when it comes to the care of their pets, including how their pet behaves and causes injury or damage to others. For dog owners, this means keeping dogs on a lead and not allowing them to trespass on others property. So, surely the same applies to cats? Unfortunately, if you don’t want cats in your garden, this isn’t the case. Cats' ‘right to roam’ is protected, and it is understood they're likely to enter people’s gardens and outdoor properties.
If you have unwelcome feline visitors, then there is little you can do legally. Unless the cat or cats are causing a significant nuisance, you have little right in law. Most cat problems are not a significant enough problem for legal intervention. What you can do is to use alternative solutions to deter cats from gardens naturally. Whatever action you take, make sure any deterrents you do use will not cause harm, injury or illness to any animal. Not only is hurting an animal something we all want to avoid, but it could end with you being the one in a sticky legal situation.
How do I keep cats out of my garden?
When it comes to keeping cats out of your garden, there are a whole host of things you can try from plants to repellents. You can even buy fencing and gadgets that scare cats or make it difficult for them to enter your garden in the first place.
What you need to be careful of is not to allow cat deterrents to dominate your garden. You want to keep enjoying your garden after all! With this in mind, the method to try first is to plant your garden full of beautiful plants and flowers. These look and smell great but have the added benefit of deterring cats.
There are several plants thought to work against deterring cats. Here are just a few.
- Citrus or mint-scented plants. A cat's nose has millions more scent receptors than our human noses. So, if a plant smells strongly to us, then it is unbearable to a more sensitive nose. Add plants like lemongrass or the many varieties of mint to your flower beds. You could even take leftover orange and lemon peels and sprinkle them around the borders of your garden.
- Coleus Canina. This is also known as the “scaredy-cat plant” and is often bought at garden centres as a cat deterrent.
- Prickly bushes and shrubs. Cats have sensitive paws and will avoid areas that cause them discomfort. Add a selection of thorny bushes to some areas of your garden to discourage cats from entering.
- Herbs and Spices. There are a wide variety of these edible plants that we love, but cats hate. Strong smells such as curry, garlic, pepper are all scents that cats tend to dislike.
- Add some gravel to your garden. Gravel can have mixed results. Get fine gravel, and you have created a perfect litter tray for your local feline population. However, cats will avoid larger gravel types, because they're uncomfortable to walk on.
- Install some cat proof fencing. One major thing you can do is to stop cats from entering your garden at all. There are a few types of cat-proof fence types to choose from. These include adding rubber spikes to the top of your fence. You can also add chicken wire so that cats can't climb over the fences.
We spoke to Clare Stone from Home and Roost, who specialise in handmade homes for pets and garden wildlife, who had an alternative suggestion to using plants. Clare told Age Times: "Unfortunately, many of the plants that deter cats can be a turn-off for other animals too.
"This can be a problem if you are keen to encourage wildlife in your garden. so can sturdy fences with no gaps and spiked tops.
"One of the best ways to deter cats without making wildlife unwelcome is to get yourself a water pistol. A good squirt of water won't harm a visiting kitty one bit, but they REALLY don't like it. It only takes a few direct hits for a cat to decide there are friendlier places to hang out and start to give your garden a wide berth."
What is the best cat repellent for the garden?
All cats have different likes and dislikes. What might repel one cat might encourage another. You might need to spend some time trying different solutions until you find one that works for you and your local neighbourhood cats.
If you have tried all the natural plant repellents, there are a few extra things you can try.
- Homemade sprays. You can mix up a smelly solution of water and scented ingredients such as citronella, peppermint or lavender oils. Spray this around the perimeter of your garden and in any hotspots where cats seem to linger.
- You can make up a solution with water and vinegar and use it as a spray. However, be careful with this one. Vinegar isn’t a pleasant smell for anyone so use it sparingly and in areas that won’t end up annoying you.
- Chilli or pepper dust. Cats detest both of these so you can mix up a small bowl of these two spices. Then sprinkle it around the perimeter of your garden.
- Citrus oils. Drip a few drops of your favourite citrusy smell on your fences and patios. Cat’s loathe the scent and will avoid the area.
How to keep cats out of your garden
Cats can be a nuisance for many reasons. They can scare off local wildlife, catch birds, and their poop can be dangerous! There is no need to worry. With a little trial and error, you can find a solution to keep these pesky animals out of your garden. A lot of the plants mentioned in this article can deter cats. An added benefit is that they also add interesting smells and colours to your garden. Add these to some natural cat repellent sprays and cat proof fencing and garden design, and you can have a cat-free garden to enjoy.