They’re cute, fluffy, and the subject of hilarious YouTube videos, but cats don’t belong in your vegetable garden. If you are a cat owner, then you’re already aware that they don’t answer to humans, so keeping them out of restricted areas is no easy task. However, to save those precious parsley plants, read this article written by an expert in feral cat management.
We hope these work, but in case they don’t, we added a few techniques of our own. Did we miss any humane methods that work for you? If so, leave us a comment!
The favored option. Most cats hate water and they hate surprises. These sprinklers use infrared to activate when an animal invades a territory. Water is squirted in the invader’s general direction for a few seconds, designed more to frighten than to soak. Here are three product options:
The Scarecrow, an Amazon customer favorite for about $50. One reviewer says:
“Day 1, The sprinkler went off a dozen times….it was fun to watch….never seen cats run so fast.
Day 2, Twice a cat came into the yard and set off the sprinkler…..run, kitty run!
Day 3, 4, 5 Zip, nada, zilch…..no cats….they actually walk around the property….no signs of digging in my garden either.
This thing has worked for me, it’s humane and effective. The only downside is forgetting about it and setting it off yourself…which I have done twice.”
Note that these sprinklers won’t work in the winter, but cats can be trained quickly to avoid the garden area.
One reviewer says:
“It’s actually quite ingenious. This product seems to work best at, say, keeping cats, rabbits, or deer out of the garden or other specific areas. In my experience with it so far, most complaints about this form of animal repellent seem to fall into two categories: 1) using it for the wrong purpose and/or 2) using it with incorrect settings or adjustments. I have an on-and-off resident skunk that likes to take up residence under my backyard shed, bringing occasional complaints from my neighbors. However, this is definitely not the right product for that situation. I solved that one by other means. But deer and cats are generally scared off by this device, though each will probably require different settings.”
This is the same concept as invisible “fences” that keep dogs within yard boundaries. A high-frequency alarm goes off after this device is triggered, but don’t worry–the alarm cannot be heard by human ears. This harmless method will work in winter, but is battery operated so lower temperatures may result in more frequent replacements. Here are two product options:
CatStop monitors up to 280 square feet for $55.
One gardening reviewer says: “I just have to write this review, it saved my Square Foot Garden. I read Mel Bartholomew’s book called “Square Foot Gardening (higly recomended reading if you like gardening) and decided that I would build a raised garden. To make a long story short my raised garden was 4 x 4 feet and 2 feet high, filled with lots of manure and wonderful soil. At least that’s what the cats in the neighbourhoods thought. They all came and did their businss in my garden…. I was really ticked off! Then I heard about Cat Stop. During the first 24 hrs after I had installed it, I only had foot prints in my garden and after that not one visit from a cat. This product is incredible. Thank you Contac for keeping my garden free from cats.”
Bird-X YG is effective up to 4,000 square feet for $30.
A reviewer reports:
“I have never been a cat guy, but since having to clean up my neighbor’s cat poop on and off for the last two years, my unappreciation for this worthless animal had evolved into outright HATE. I am a pretty animal-friendly dude (non-hunter, throw smaller fish back, etc) but lately the sight of my neighbors cats have evoked unsavory, downright dubious plots to rid myself of this vermin (a cat relocation program was in the works…until my wife shot that down). Thankfully, I came across this device and after tweaking the settings a bit, there has been no feces in sight! It remains silent to human ears as long as it is on a setting for smaller pests (cats/racoons and smaller)and stays on the continuous ac setting. I accidentally had it on the battery setting (even though it was plugged in) for the first few days and the switching on/off of the device produces a very audible ZAP sound. My wife commented that she thought it was shooting at her whenever she pulled into the driveway. It’s only been 1 week, but I’ve noticed that the cats are keeping a WIDE birth of my property. Worth the money.”
Trying to hide the delicious aroma of vegetable plants is another option. Scented repellants can be placed around the edges of beds, on fences, or around your yard perimeter.
One option is to order the Coleus Canina plant, which omits an offensive odor to cats (but like ultrasonic devices, humans won’t be affected). They should be planted about three feet apart outlining the area to be protected. There are several varieties of Coleus plants, so be sure you do an internet search for Coleus Canina in the early spring before dealers run out of stock. Here’s one vendor that is now taking orders.
You can also use household items to deter cats. Try using citrus peels, cayenne pepper, coffee grinds, a rue herb, or lavender, citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus, or mustard oil. All of these are offensive to cats’ sensitive noses.
Finally, if you’d rather just purchase pre-mixed products, try Havahart Critter Ridder. The organic formula claims to repel more than just cats using oil of black pepper, piperine, and capsaicin. This product comes in several sizes and media (both spray and pellets), starting at $12. It will need to be re-applied after rainfall.
One reviewer put it this way:
“Critter Ridder works very well with cats and dogs. It kept my dog out of my vegetable garden and the stray cats from using my flower and vegetable garden as a litter box. Although after a heavy rainfall or a few rainy days, it will not last the 30 days as suggested and should be re-applied.”
Physical barriers to digging
To eliminate cat digging in your beds (which is usually paired with pooping), you can also try physical barriers. The Cat Scat is a plastic mat that gets pressed into the soil. Hard flexible spikes on its surface are harmless but will deter digging.
According to one reviewer, “No more cats using my plant for a litter box! Just a little pricey but well worth it! I just hope it wasn’t too late to save my plant.”
Another reviewer says: “Lots of feral cats love using the strawberries, kitchen herbs and veggie garden for their private bathroom. The spikes have deterred them (yea!) without causing any harm. Hilarious to watch them searching for their favorite spot and jumping away as they encounter the spikes. Very effective.”
Other methods that might work include surrounding your garden with chicken wire or lattice. Or, bury these types of products underneath the soil, as cats hate to step on the uneven ground and most plants can still grow through the holes. Deer fences work well in this capacity, too, and all three of these barriers are relatively inexpensive.
Make an outdoor litterbox
The invading cats might need need a more enticing outdoor bathroom. Since they instinctively dig and bury their waste, consider giving them a more attractive place to do so to keep them away from your vegetable garden.
Large plastic bins filled with sandbox sand work well. Only a few inches of sand is needed. Keep the container covered and cut a hole into the side for cats to enter. Alternatively, you can take an uncovered bin, turn it upside down, and put a commercial litterbox underneath. Cats also like to eliminate in peat moss piles.
The litterbox method does require regular maintenance, however: you will need to empty the waste and, occasionally, replace the entire contents of sand.