20 ways to keep cats out of your garden

New Zealanders love cats, but what our beloved pets leave behind in the vegetable patch can be dangerous to our health. Cat poo can contain the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a disease that can cause muscle pain and flu-like symptoms. In the most severe cases, toxoplasmosis can damage the brain, eyes and other organs, and is particularly serious for pregnant women as it can infect their unborn baby too. Even touching the soil where a cat has toileted can expose you to the nasty bug. That’s why it’s always a good idea to wear gloves when tending your vegetable garden, and to wash your hands thoroughly after gardening. Wash all fruits and vegetables from your plot before eating.

NZ Gardener asked for readers’ top tips to keep cats out of vegetable gardens. Here are some of the many responses! Let us know which works for you, and if you have tips of your own, be sure to share.


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1. Old hanging baskets

Whenever I plant seeds or seedlings, I always put old wire hanging baskets over the plants and seeds to protect them.

Fay MacDonald, Whangarei

2. Netting

I love my cat Missy. She is friendly and gets on with the neighbouring cats, but her mates leave a calling card in my garden. I’ve tried all sorts, including leaving citrus peels and placing plastic forks around precious plants which seems to be working. I also lay plastic netting over freshly dug soil to stop them scratching out my seedlings and newly planted garlic.

Carol Jane, Te Awamutu

20 ways to keep cats out of your garden


They may look cute, but cats can get up to mischief in your garden.

3. Arches

I’ve cut up pieces of wire trellis that I bend into low arches over my new seedling patches. They don’t look too bad and also make it easier to chuck frost cloth over in a hurry. The cats won’t do the hard work to go in my seedling patch when there’s a far more accessible spot next door!

Diana Moyle

4. Electric fences

I use a battery-powered electric fence unit which works extremely well. The cats only visit once and usually kick up quite a bit of dirt on take-off. If you’re lucky enough to see this, it’s quite spectacular. But don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

Roger Clement

5. Tree pruning fence

I used our apple tree prunings to make a fort-like fence around the garden edge. It was quick and easy to roughly trim the sticks to a 30cm to 40cm length, poke them in the soil then using the more “whippy” prunings, I wove them in and out of all the upright prunings. Eventually the fence falls apart so I then use the sticks as kindling.

Niki Davidson

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6. Moggie fence

Use bamboo stakes and wide mesh cloth bought by the metre. Mesh cloth is sold as windbreak cloth or insect mesh. The width of the mesh becomes the height. Use long bamboo stakes pushed into the ground (or steel waratahs if you have them). Surround the area area with bamboo stakes pushed firmly into the ground, not too far apart. Make sure there is a gap with no string between stakes that is wide enough for you to fit through to weed or harvest your crop. Find a height to let the mesh cloth “drop” to the ground without a gap at the bottom. Wind string around each stake then on to the next stake, until you reach the last stake. Leave one stake without string – this will be your entrance to the garden bed. The mesh cloth is then attached to the string – I just used clothes pegs because they were available. To access the garden, simply peg the mesh cloth to the next stake at the top, overlapping the cloth, peg the cloth together two to three times down the length of the last stake. Remove the last pegs and fold back the cloth. Push a weed mat peg, irrigation pipe peg, tent peg or similar through the mesh and into the ground all around your fence to prevent any mischievous moggies from slipping under the mesh to wreak havoc!

Zita & Brian Oldham, Kerikeri


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7. Catnip

I sell herbs and vege plants at a local market and one of the plants I (try to) grow is catnip. The plants have to harden off outside and the catnip is always either upended or lying on its side in the pots and covered with cat hair. We don’t even have a cat!

Dianne McConnell

8. Distraction 

I find that distraction is best. Fill a litter tray with compost and attract them to that instead. My three cats go where I have laid an area of mulch. They seem to prefer it there rather than among my veges. For people who are troubled by other people’s cats, the answer is to get your own cat!

Barb Hyde, Manawatu

9. Cat biscuits

Scatter dry cat biscuits around the area and replenish as required. Supposedly cats won’t “toilet” where there’s a food source.


20 ways to keep cats out of your garden

Plant catnip away from your veg patch.

10. Wallys cat repellent

My solution is Wallys Cat Repellent, purchased online for $16 at gardenews.co.nz. This product is napthalene crystals and while it smells quite fresh and clean to humans, felines detest it and it certainly works. It is not harmful to animals or birds apparently. I have no hesitation in fully recommending this product.

Mavis Clifton, Lower Hutt

11. Sheep pellets

Living in an area with a lot of cats, including one of my own, and being one of the few people with a garden, mine became the communal gathering place. I noticed the only garden they didn’t touch was my vegetable box where I had spread sheep pellets on top but hadn’t dug them in. So, I did this with the rest of the garden and watched cats sniff the garden, then back off and make other ablution arrangements. Repeat the application once they start to break down and you are not only cat-free, but are adding nitrogen to your soil. Spread about a handful of pellets every couple of square metres.

Mari Hewson, Waimate

12. Coffee grounds & plastic milk bottles

I have about a dozen cats that visit my home, probably because I don’t own a cat. I appreciate them for dealing to rodents, but I didn’t like them doing their business in my flower and vege gardens. I solved this by sprinkling spent coffee grounds around the plants. I also use mesh to stop the birds and cats from digging up my newly sown seeds and cut milk bottles for seedlings. When the seedlings reach the top of the milk bottles I pull the bottles off. Cats and birds don’t touch my seedlings when they are like this.

Linda Power

20 ways to keep cats out of your garden


Linda Power’s broad bean seedlings protected by milk bottles.

13. Pepper

I buy packs of white pepper and transfer them into a sprinkle container. When I’ve sown seeds or have vulnerable seedlings, I simply sprinkle it around the area. It keeps the neighbour’s cats away, doesn’t harm plants or the garden and is easy to reapply after rain or watering.

Ray Anderson

15. Citronella tea bags

Keep your used tea bags and soak them in the citronella oil available at hardware stores, the type that’s used to burn in barbecue lamps to keep mozzies away. They need to be re-squirted with the solution every three to four days, and dispersed around the garden.

Peter Thorburn

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14. Pot covers

Using old plant pots with bamboo stakes to keep cats at bay really works wonders. It’s extremely cheap and is a great way to use those old plastic pots. The cats can’t position themselves comfortably nor get a good rake at the ground to disturb your plants.

Carol Garnett

20 ways to keep cats out of your garden

Use old plastic pots to cat-proof your plot.

16. Lawn clippings

I cover any bare earth with thin layers of grass clippings. I was sceptical at first as did not think this would keep cats off, however it works well. You do need to keep topping the areas up but it is worth it.

Chris Sorensen

17. Rose prunings

I stick my rose prunings through my vege garden. Not only does it stop my cats, you also have the chance of the prunings rooting and having some free roses.

Katrina Christison

18. Mothballs

Just pop mothballs around your vege patch and they’ll repel cats every time. They slowly break down with the rain, but at a couple of dollars a pack it’s a cheap, effective solution.

Rose Brown

19. Lemon balm

We had trouble with cats at our kindergarten, always pooing on the bark area. We planted lemon balm along the fenceline as a deterrent. I’m not sure if it really worked but we had plenty of lemon balm for our herbal tea!

Maree Riordan

20 ways to keep cats out of your garden


You could get a dog to keep the cats away…. but who knows if that’ll work!

20. Vicks Vaporub

Remove the cat poo quickly so other cats don’t try to reclaim the area. Smear rocks or sticks with Vicks VapoRub and push them into the vege garden.