Tips for Repelling Cats
It can be tricky getting a cat to do what you would like in the best of circumstances. T.S. Eliot wrote of the cat called the Rum Tum Tugger, “a curious beast, his disobliging ways are a matter of habit…” All too often, the places you don’t want a cat to go are just where they want to. But is there really, as Eliot said, “no doing anything about it”? Surprisingly, there are several techniques to repel cats from the areas of your property you want to protect.
Let’s face it! The reason cats are in your garden is that they like your soil and want to turn your carefully tended garden into their litter box. To make the soil less appealing, you can add more plants to your garden to minimize exposed soil. Another method is covering soil with chunky mulch, river rocks, or pebbles. If you’ve recently seeded a flower bed, you may be able to protect it with wire mesh or netting to hide the attractive loose soil from the cats.
Stick a Fork in It
Placing physical objects like plastic forks (tines facing upwards), wooden popsicle sticks, or chopsticks into the soil can help discourage this damaging behavior. Simply push these objects into the soil every 5-8 inches or experiment to find a placement pattern that works best for you. As effective as this technique might be, it may not be the look you want for your garden.
Tip: Use brown or black plastic forks to create a more aesthetic deterrent!
Since they are such agile leapers and climbers, a fence or garden wall does nothing to keep away cats. However, you may be able to protect specific points of your lawn or garden with hardware cloth or netting. For instance, cats will readily use young trees as scratching posts. To protect their trunks, wrap the tree in hardware cloth. You might also try a plastic tree guard. And if you keep a pond on your property, you may want to use netting to protect the fish from curious claws, but be sure to check regularly for any tears.
One plant that is particularly good at repelling cats is Ruta Graveolens or “Rue.” It’s a semi-woody perennial that grows to about 2-3 feet high and wide with gray-green foliage and clusters of small yellow flowers in summer. Rue prefers full sun and, once established, can grow in poor soils and hot, dry sites. It is hardy in zones 4-9. However, you may just not feel that Rue fits in your garden, or may also need more immediate results.
Citrus and Coffee grounds
Cats don’t like the smell of citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons. So, you can try scattering citrus peels in your garden beds to keep cats out. Some claim to have success repelling cats by sprinkling used coffee grounds as well. In either case, you would have to experiment on just how much would be satisfactory to get the job done.
Get Them Wet
Cats hate being wet. However, conditioning cats to avoid your garden beds by consistently spraying water on them can be a time-consuming defense strategy. A motion-activated sprinkler will harmlessly spray a cat without you having to stand vigilant at all hours, but this sort of automated defense system may not be economical or practical for you. It may also spray mail carriers and delivery persons if you are not careful how you direct it.
Like Cats & Dogs
Unless raised together with dogs, most cats will stay away from them. So, if you find yourself with an annoying cat problem, it’s a safe bet you don’t already have Fido protecting your property. If you have a friend who is a dog owner, maybe they can offer you some of their dog’s shed fur. Scattering a few handfuls in your garden may be enough to fool a cat into thinking you have a dog somewhere, just waiting to bark at it.
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