Cats are adorable creatures with a great sense of humor, but when it comes to gardening, they can be a big nuisance and nothing else, especially if they don’t belong to you!
Neighbors’ cats or stray cats can cause a lot of damage to your plants, or the wildlife within. Simply yelling at a cat is unlikely to work for long, as they will just enter your garden when you’re not around.
Luckily, there are things you can do to make your garden as unattractive to cats as possible, and they don’t cost a lot of money.
You may even find that you already have some solutions in your kitchen cupboard that will keep them out.
Let’s take a look.
How To Recognize Stray Cats
Stray cats can look similar to our pet cats from a distance, but there are a lot of important differences to be aware of.
While they have similar instincts that include hunting and marking their territory, there are some things you should know.
One of the biggest, noticeable differences is that domestic cats are much healthier-looking. Their coats are shinier and softer (clear of fleas and other parasites), and their eyes are clear. Most domestic cats, but not all, have collars, so you know they belong to someone.
Stray cats are warier of humans than those cats that live with us, and they have every reason to be.
Some feral cats will even be aggressive first and ask questions later, always on the defensive. If they feel threatened, they may attack you.
What Attracts Stray Cats Into Your Garden?
Like most animals, stray cats will come into your garden for three things: shelter, food, and water.
Cats may sleep on top of warm compost, windowsills, or roofs, where they are less likely to be disturbed.
Feral cats are also attracted to any food scraps or garbage lying around, as this is an easy meal for them.
Their keen hunting instincts will also attract them when you have wood piles full of mice, and lots of birds in your garden, or if you have a pond full of fish.
Cats will also come into your garden in search of water in dry spells, especially if you have a bird bath or a water bowl set aside for your pets.
All of these factors can attract cats into your garden, but that’s not to say you have to try and get rid of the wildlife that’s attracting them, stop eating outside, or avoid putting food out for the birds.
Instead, there are some steps you can take to make your garden as unwelcoming as possible to cats, and they will soon get the message.
How To Keep Cats Away From Your Garden
The curiosity of a cat is a famous thing, and these inquisitive hunters will explore for miles, but there are some things you can do to keep them out of your garden and prevent them from wreaking havoc on the plants and wildlife.
Don’t Feed The Cats!
This might be an obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning. As soon as cats realize that there is food on offer, they will keep visiting your garden, and this will also attract strays, which can mean that there is a risk of disease spreading through your garden.
If you do see cats that look underfed or stray, it’s best to contact your local cat shelter, which will be able to make sure they are looked after.
Make Sure The Environment Is As Unwelcoming As Possible
Cats love to laze around and relax as much as they like, and sun-trap areas combined with the soft ground do a lot to attract them into your garden.
It’s worth laying chicken wire around your flower beds and pots to keep cats away from them, and you could also use broken eggshells (sanitized and dried in the oven first) to stop them from getting too comfortable in your garden.
It’s worth noting that this method will not stop cats on its own, as these felines have been known to lie around on the gravel and other rough surfaces without any discomfort!
Another thing to note is that cats like to chew on long grasses, so it may also be worth putting wire around these plants, too.
Use Strong-Smelling Plants
Like many mammals that can wreak havoc on your garden, cats are sensitive to strong-smelling plants.
They have a very strong sense of smell, and you can use this to your advantage by planting geraniums, lemon thyme, lavender, and rue in your garden. While these plants smell lovely to us, they are overwhelming to cats.
You might also consider planting pennyroyal, too. Whatever you do, avoid catmint, as this actively attracts cats!
Borrow Or Get A Dog
Dogs are great companions, but they also help to deter cats from your garden, as well as other animals that will cause damage to your yard (but they can also be the problem. See also How To Keep Dogs Away From Your Garden).
This doesn’t mean that you should set the dog on the animals. Far from it. Their presence is usually enough to put off those creatures you don’t want in your garden.
Even if you don’t have a dog, ask someone who does if you can borrow them to walk around your garden. If they toilet while they are there, even better, as the smell will put off cats and other animals.
Put Nets Over Ponds
Another thing that attracts cats like a magnet is a pond. Some cats will simply watch the fish swim, but more often than not you’ll see a paw trying to swipe the fish out of the water, and obviously, this is something you want to avoid.
If cats are visiting your garden because you have a pond, put a strong net over it so the cats can’t get anywhere near the fish, and this will go a long way in preventing them from coming into your garden.
Use Cat Repellents
Along with the methods above, it’s worth using some methods that actively repel cats from your garden.
Don’t Use Moth Balls
While it’s important to know what to use to repel cats, it’s also vital that you know what not to use. Moth balls do keep cats away, but they do more harm than good.
They can also be a danger to your pets, your children, and animals you actively want in your garden.
There are much safer methods than this that you can use, and these are outlined below.
Citrus Oils And Peels
Citrus oil and the peel carry a very strong fragrance, especially with a cat’s keen sense of smell.
Dry citrus peels and pop them in aerated containers around your garden (not leaving them uncovered, as this will attract pests), or use a solution of water and citrus oil and spray it around your garden.
Always repeat this after heavy rain or watering, as the water will wash away the smell.
Coffee grounds don’t just discourage cats, but also slugs and snails. It’s worth drying out the used grounds before spreading them around the garden and making sure you refresh them occasionally.
You can buy a spray of predator urine to keep the likes of cats, squirrels, and other potential pests away from your garden.
Spray around the borders of your property, and you should see less frequent visits from cats.
Keep doing this when it rains, and this will soon stop cats from coming onto your property if you combine it with other methods.
Keeping Cats Away From Your Front Door
One of the places cats like to lurk the most is by your front or back door. Not only do they have a good place to watch the world from, but they may also try to come into your home!
You can’t always be in your garden to defend it from cats, and this is something they know very well.
What you can do, however, is use a motion-activated deterrent that will keep them away, especially when you aren’t there.
It helps that these are often solar-powered, saving you money, too.
One of the most effective deterrents is a motion-activated sprinkler, or one that fires a jet of water when it detects movement, effectively scaring off the cats.
You might find that after this happens a couple of times, the cats will get the message, and avoid your garden entirely.
That doesn’t mean that you should get rid of the deterrent, however, as they might just come back after a while, if they spot it missing from your garden.
You can also get deterrents that mimic the eyes of predators, or invest in an ultrasonic sound deterrent, too.
It’s worth mentioning again that cats don’t like the smell of citrus. You can either buy a spray or make your own, and mist generously around your front door, porch, and path.
Use Aluminum Foil
Some people have used foil in the past to deter cats from jumping on kitchen counters, as they don’t like the noise and the reflective surface, so it’s worth a try putting it around your porch.
It does look odd though, and make sure you don’t reflect the sun and accidentally bake a plant!
How To Keep Cats From Pooping In Your Yard
It’s never pleasant to discover a cat has done its business in your yard, especially if you were digging a hole to plant a bulb and come across poop.
Not only is it a gross surprise, but the feces can also be full of harmful bacteria, diseases, and microorganisms.
Here are a few ways to stop cats from pooping in your yard.
Don’t Have Sandboxes
This one might seem obvious, but it’s one of the biggest magnets for cats. Sandboxes are fun for children, but cats treat them exactly like litter boxes, and this can spread all sorts of nasty diseases.
So it’s best to do away with the sandbox entirely or get one that has a clam-like opening and closing mechanism so that you can safely shut it when not in use, so cats can’t use it.
If They’ve Toileted Before, Use An Enzyme Spray
Cats love to mark their territory, and will always make a beeline for places that smell like them or other cats.
If cats have toileted in your yard, use a pet-urine enzyme spray to get rid of the smell, and this will help deter them.
Driving Off Male Cats When You Have A Female Cat
Male cats will always come to your yard when they sense your female cat is in heat. Here’s how to stop them.
Keep Your Female Cat Inside During Heat Cycles
If spaying isn’t an option, simply keep your cat inside while she goes through her heat cycle. You don’t want an accidental pregnancy, or male cats fighting over her.
Get Your Female Cat Spayed
This will solve the problem permanently, as once your cat stops having seasons, the males won’t come looking to mate.
Spray Down Areas That Cats May Be Marking
Male cats like to spray their urine to mark their territory, so a way of deterring them is to hose down these areas and use an enzyme spray to get rid of the smell.
How To Make Sure Stray Cats Stay Out Of Your Property
You need to use a combination of the above methods for cats to get the message, but if you have a run-in with a particularly stubborn cat, perhaps it’s time to try something else.
Get In Touch With Local Cat Shelters Who Will Lay Humane Traps
With stray cats, it’s worth getting in touch with your local animal shelter, rather than just trying to drive them away.
They will trap the cats and do a health assessment, making sure to find them a home and treat any diseases they may be carrying.
Work With Your Neighbors
Most likely, it’s not just you who is annoyed having cats wandering around yards as they please.
Work with your neighbors and see what works for them, what methods you can take together, and if it’s a neighbor’s cat that’s the problem, it’s worth talking to them about it.
Stray cats may not always be the problem, especially if your neighbors have cats. Maybe you don’t mind the occasional visit from these felines, but perhaps they are getting on your nerves and causing damage to your plants.
Never approach your neighbors angrily if their pets are causing you trouble.
Always have a calm conversation once you’ve taken preventative measures such as planting strong-smelling plants and using cat deterrents if those don’t seem to be working, and see what you can do.
Remember that not all methods will work for every cat, so it’s worth trying out different ones to have the best chance of getting rid of them.
If you find that stray cats are becoming a large problem, it’s worth contacting your local animal shelter, which will be able to help with this issue.
Not just to help get them out of your property, but also to make sure they get the attention and homes they deserve.