How do I deter cats from my garden?

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by clients and prospective clients is this:

“Do you know any way of discouraging cats from doing their business in borders, digging holes in newly planted beds and veggie gardens, and peeing on prized shrubs?”


cat2The depressing answer is that there is no fail safe way of deterring our feline friends (or perhaps rather foes).  The garden centre shelves have plenty of chemical products designed to do the job, but our experience is that they only have very limited success.  The same applies to scented deterrents like citronella or cayenne pepper.

We have one or two clients who use sonic devices, but these can sometimes also deter the wildlife you want to attract to your garden.  Some people recommend using some form of automated system which sends out a jet of water at the offending animal, but these are not always practical (or indeed agreeable to your otherwise cordial neighbours!!).

Then what oh what to do?

cat3So there is no easy solution.  We do however have a list of tips which may be of some help:

  • Keep as much of the ground covered as possible, with little bare earth.  Where low ground cover is used, try to intersperse it with rougher textured plants.
  • Avoid fine pea shingle, and large expanses of bark mulch.
  • Also avoid plants which cats are known to love – Nepeta for example.
  • Coleus caninaThink about mulching areas where cats are particularly unwelcome (e.g. under / by bird feeders) with twigs, which rustle and move when walked on.  You might even consider a few spikey or thorny twigs (which cats will hate walking on), but do so with care – these may make garden weeding and plant tendering somewhat hazardous.  A few strategically located jagged rocks might work better, or some very large gauge coarse gravel.
  • In areas such as vegetable gardens, fencing off the area completely may be the best bet – perhaps with fencing that is set so that it leans outwards (thereby making it difficult to climb over).
  • Some methods for discouraging cats really do seem to work (sometimes at least):
    • Lion dung (most frequently purchased in pellet form (e.g. Silent Roar, which is widely available), unless of course, you happen to know a local friendly zoo keeper!).  We have several clients who have had success with this product.  But it doesn’t last very long, so has to be reapplied every few months, making it a pricey long term option.
    • Things which reflect light.  Perhaps the most common example cited is that of plastic bottles half filled with water; CDs tied on a piece of string or wire is another option.
    • There is a relatively new plant called Coleus canina (aka Scaredy Cat, shown above right), which is meant to have an odour which cats find disgusting.  It is becoming widely available as plugs, and is on my list of things to try this year.

Hope this helps – a bit at least.  Leave a comment below if you’ve discovered other ways to combat this problem!


Image credits: Benjamin Watson, Sandy Schultz, Adam Woodrow, aussiegall.

2 thoughts on “How do I deter cats from my garden?

  1. After trying all sorts of natural solutions to keeping cats out of my garden and poo-ing on my grass, I am on the verge of getting one of those ultrasonic cat repellents you can buy. Do you have any experience with those? Thanks.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. It’s difficult to say – some of our clients have found them useful and it seems they may work sometimes, but it’s definitely not a 100% proven solution. We came across this research study which may be of interest…

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