Written by Trista Barrantes, Education & Curriculum Intern

Cats are beautiful and intelligent little creatures. Many of us keep cats as companions, or there may be feral, outdoor cats being taken care of in your neighborhood. One thing that cats are notorious for is their reputation for doing what they want. Some of us adore them for it—For gardeners, chances are you might not be so fond of this trait of theirs because they’ve been using your garden space as their neighborhood toilet. Not only is it a nuisance to clean up after, but cat poop in food-growing garden beds poses a health hazard due to the various bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be transmitted to us and cause us to become sick.

(Photo Source: White Flower Farm)

Here are some simple ways that you can deter cats from encroaching in your garden space.

Cat-Deterring Plants or Materials…

Some plant species emit smells that cats don’t like, so planting them in or near your garden beds might create an atmosphere that cats might to avoid. While these plants don’t smell great to cats, they smell rather pleasant to the human nose (you can also create your own cat essential oil cat repellant sprays, if you are so inclined)

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Citronella
  • Geranium
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rue
  • Garlic

Alternatively, you can utilize dog fur or even hair clippings if it is feasible for you to collect these materials. The scent of dogs will make cats feel unsafe about entering your garden, and human hair may have the same effect as well. You might also do well to place a few rubber snakes around to scare cats from loitering around your garden bed!

Light, Motion, or Sound…

(Photo Source: JoyousCornerStudio on Etsy)

Keep cats on their toes in your garden by creating objects that make light, motion, or sound. Wind chimes, or even just bells on a string, may disrupt a cat’s sensitive hearing and make them less likely to hang out (and poop) in your garden. A purchased suncatcher or a DIY one with old CDs on a string will scatter light across the ground, which may also deter animals like cats and other pests too.

There are other more technologically advanced devices to deter cats from your garden which include motion-detected sprinklers or ultrasonic repellers that emit a high-frequency sound that is unpleasant to cats, though this may be costly especially if you have a lot of space that need protecting. 

(Picture Source: My Backyard Life)

Mulch and Ground Cover…

Cats will seek out softer substances to do their business in, so it makes sense that they often gravitate to garden beds for it; you’ll know they visited by their droppings as well as signs of digging in the soil. Make your garden unappealing for them to walk on by mulching your beds with the below substances:

  • Wood chips
  • Stone or Rock mulch
  • Pine Cones
  • Citrus peels
  • Coffee grounds (careful, this will make your soil acidic!)

Another method is laying chicken wire across the garden bed before planting. While your fruits and vegetables will grow just fine through the wire, cats will be less likely to take a restroom break over it.

(Photo Source: Hoosier Homemade)

Create a Barrier…

For raised garden beds, a garden bed cover is a multipurpose solution not only for keeping critters like cats and birds out of your garden, but depending on the material it can also protect your vegetables from cold weather and even extend your growing season into colder, off-season months.

While there are many garden bed covers readily available for purchase, one can also make their very own garden bed cover tailored specifically for the size of your garden bed with a cover material that best suits your needs like simple netting, breathable cloth fabric, semi-opaque plastic, etc. Two cover shapes I’ve noticed are 1) an all-in-one square frame that usually has the cover material attached; or 2) standalone arches that you can fasten and remove your cover material from, often made with PVC piping to make arched frame over a raised garden bed like this easy Garden Bed Cover tutorial on Hoosier Homemade’s blog. You can also view Hoosier Homemade’s Garden Bed Cover video tutorial on Youtube here.

If you are struggling with this issue, we hope that one of the above ways will help you in keeping these fluffy yet frustrating creatures from going Number Two in your garden beds.

References

Degnan, Sasha (2022 April 12). Is Cat Feces Dangerous in a Vegetable Garden? SF Gate, accessed April 30, 2022 from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/cat-feces-dangerous-vegetable-garden-85306.html 

Dore, Jeremy (2010 November 19). Keeping Cats off Vegeatable Beds. GrowVeg, accessed May 1, 2022 from https://www.growveg.com/guides/keeping-cats-off-vegetable-beds/ 

Esman, Ben (2022 April 13). How to Keep Cats From Pooping in Your Mulch (8 Easy Methods). My Backyard Life, accessed May 4 2022, from https://mybackyardlife.com/how-to-keep-cats-from-pooping-in-mulch/ 

Gilbert (2022). Will Rubber Snakes Keep Cats Away? Hyaenidae, accessed 2 May 2022, from https://www.hyaenidae.org/will-rubber-snakes-keep-cats-away/ 

Nielson, Lorin (2021 July 13). Keep Cats Out Of Garden Spaces With These Tips. Epic Gardening, accessed April 29, 2022 from https://www.epicgardening.com/keep-cats-out-of-garden/ 


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