How to Keep Cats Out of the Garden – 8 methods

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Cats are very popular pets, with over 25% of American households owning one or more. While they may be cute and cuddly, cats can be a nuisance when left to their own devices.

There are over 58 million pet cats in America and possibly as many as 100 million self-sufficient feral cats. That’s a lot of neighborhood cats and wandering cats that could be wreaking havoc in gardens!

Cats can be a nuisance when digging in the garden, using it as a litter box, or killing wildlife such as birds. If you want to humanely keep your neighbour’s cats away from your garden, you should read on for tried and tested methods for how to keep cats out of garden.

Why it’s important to keep cats away from gardens

There are several reasons why you may want to keep cats out of your garden, including:

  • To protect the plants and flowers that you have worked hard to grow
  • To prevent them from using your garden as an outdoor litter box – nobody likes cat poop!
  • To stop them from killing wildlife such as birds, rodents, and reptiles

While some people may not mind a cat or two in their garden, others may find it to be a nuisance. Short of keeping their cat locked all day indoors, there isn’t a cat owner out there who can talk to their cat and tell them to stay out of other people’s gardens!

Thankfully, some methods can be used to keep cats away from gardens without harming the cat in question.

What do cats love, and what do cats hate?

Cats are attracted to gardens that offer them food, water, and shelter. Gardens with many hiding places or areas where they can climb are also appealing to cats. There are several plants and flowers that cats love to sniff or eat, including:

  • Catnip (also known as catmint)
  • cat thyme
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Valerian
  • lemongrass

If you’ve got any of these plants in your garden, chances are good that a cat will find its way there probably sooner rather than later!

On the other hand, cats dislike certain things and can be used to keep them out of the garden.

These include:

  • Citrus scents (lemon, grapefruit, orange)
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee grounds
  • Sprayed Water
  • Loud noises / high frequency sounds / ultrasonic devices
  • Herbs (mint, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender, Oregano)
  • Scented Plants (Geraniums, Rue, Scaredy cat plant, eucalyptus, citronella)
  • Prickly plants (Roses, holly, hawthorn, agave, barberry)
  • Predator urine

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, some of the items on this list also appear on the list of things cats love.

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If you can incorporate more of the things that cats dislike into your garden, you’ll be more likely to keep them out.

8 Methods to Keep Cats Out of the Garden

Water

Cats need to drink water, but they don’t like getting unexpectedly wet any more than we do!

One way to keep cats out of your garden is to spray them with water whenever you see them. This will soon deter them from entering your garden as they’ll associate it with getting wet.

You can use a garden hose (on low / medium), a water pistol, or even a motion-activated sprinkler to keep cats away.

You should never be cruel to cats or other animals, so make sure that the water is not too cold and that you don’t aim it directly at their face.

Scatter items

In our list of cat deterrents, there are various items which you can sprinkle around and amongst your plants to keep cats away. These include:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Citrus peels
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Holly cuttings

These are all natural things that will keep cats out of your garden without harming them but will biodegrade over time and add nutrients to your soil. It does mean you’ll have to replenish them every now and then.

Cat repellent sprays with citrus scents

Many commercial cat repellents and sprays are available, but you can also make your own cat repellent spray using water and citrus peels.

To make your own cat repellent spray, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 litre of water
  • half a cup / 100 g of citrus peel such as lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Add the citrus peel and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, strain the mixture and pour it into a clean spray bottle.

You can then use this to spray around the perimeter of your garden or on specific plants and garden furniture.

This spray will deter cats from entering your garden as they don’t like the citrus scent.

You’ll need to reapply it after it rains or if the plants get wet, but it’s a cheap and effective way to keep cats out of your garden

Cat repellent sprays with essential oil

You can also make a homemade cat repellent spray using water and essential oils such as lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, or peppermint.

To make your own cat repellent spray, you’ll need:

  • Glass spray bottle
  • 1/2 litre of water
  • essential oils such as lavender, lemon, eucalyptus or peppermint

Using a glass spray bottle is important as essential oils can break down plastic.

Add two drops of each of your chosen essential oils (8 to 10 drops in total) to the water and shake well. You can then use this spray in the same way as the citrus spray above.

As well as being a great cat deterrent, this spray will also make your garden smell nice!

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Cat repellent sprays with vinegar

You can also use vinegar to make a homemade cat repellent spray.

To make your own cat repellent spray, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 litre of water
  • half a cup / 100 ml of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Pour the water and vinegar into a clean spray bottle and shake well. You can then use this to spray around the perimeter of your garden, or on specific plants and garden furniture.

The vinegar smell will deter cats from coming into your garden. You’ll need to reapply it after it rains or if the plants get wet, but it’s a cheap and effective way to keep cats out of your garden.

Make digging unpleasant

If you have a problem with cats digging in your garden, you can do a few things to make it less appealing for them.

You can bury pine cones or repurposed plastic carpet runners or wooden chopsticks just under the surface of the soil so that when they try to dig, they’ll encounter something sharp and unpleasant.

Buried pine cones will also degrade and add nutrients to your flower beds over time, but watch out for sprouting pine trees!

Garden design to keep cats out

You can also incorporate some design features into your garden to make it less appealing for cats. These include:

  • Using plants that have sharp leaves or thorns, such as rose bushes
  • Creating raised garden beds with a trellis on one side, so cats can’t jump in
  • Use chicken wire around the perimeter of your garden to discourage cats from jumping over
  • Building a fence around your garden
  • If you have the time and money, building a fence around your garden is the best way to keep cats out.

You can use any type of fencing, but chicken wire is a popular choice as it’s affordable and easy to work with. You’ll need to bury the chicken wire around the perimeter of your garden so that cats can’t dig underneath it.

Keep them only where you want them

If you are less bothered about an area of your garden, you can use items from the list of things cats love to make it more appealing for them, such as a catnip plant or a scratching post. This will encourage them to stay in the cat friendly area and avoid the rest of your garden.

Conclusion

With a little bit of effort, you can keep cats out of your garden and protect your plants and wildlife. Try out one or more of these methods and see what works best for you.

Remember that a cat you don’t want in your garden may very well be a beloved pet in someone else’s home, so always use humane methods to deter them, and never be cruel to animals.

If you have your own cat, ensure they’re spayed or neutered to help control the population of unwanted cats, and neutered cats tend to live longer too.

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