Garden Q&A: Tips to keep cats out of garden
Question: I'm looking for environmentally safe ways to keep cats from “doing their business” in my butterfly garden as well as in the mulch around my trees.
Answer: Cat urine is quite potent. Not only is the odor bothersome, but the salts and nitrogen contained in it can burn plant foliage and roots. Plus, feline fecal matter can contain a number of pathogens, including roundworms, parasitic nematodes and Toxoplasma gondii (a parasite which causes the disease Toxoplasmosis).
Doing your best to keep kitty from using your garden as a litter box is a good idea.
Here are a few possible solutions:
Let's start with two mechanical deterrents.
Motion-activated sprinklers, such as the Scarecrow by Contech (available through Amazon.com, Petco.com, and others), can be hooked up to the garden hose. They send a sharp burst of water whenever motion is sensed in the area, scaring away cats, dogs, deer and rowdy teenagers.
Another idea is a motion-activated ultrasonic device that emits a high-frequency sound whenever movement is sensed in the area, sending cats elsewhere. CatStop is one brand that's available from retailers.
Cats prefer to dig before they “go,” so a simple physical barrier of chicken wire or plastic bird netting laid down over the soil and pinned into place will keep them from digging up the garden. You can cut holes through the netting and plant right through it or just lay strips of chicken wire around the perimeter of the garden. Most cats don't like walking over it, either.
I've heard of people placing all manner of sharp-edged objects in their flower beds in an effort to keep cats from doing their business. I caution you against this, as you don't want to harm the cat or any other wildlife (or children) who might be exploring.
Another commonly touted solution is to spread citrus peels, black pepper powder or crushed cayenne in the area. I haven't had much success with these solutions, but I do know some gardeners who swear by them.
Be aware that you'll need to replace them regularly to aid in their effectiveness. Lastly, I offer what might possibly be the easiest, least-expensive and most effective way to keep cats out of your garden: build them one of their own. Cats love catnip (Nepeta cataria and several other Nepeta species).
Purchase a few plants and tuck them into an out-of-the-way area of your yard. Near the plants, dig a shallow pit and fill it with fine-grained sand. Cats will much prefer to use this new sandbox area instead of your garden.
You might even find them lounging in the catnip on sunny summer days.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to email@example.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers opt for youth, speed while revamping roster
- Steelers finalize 53-man roster
- Pirates’ Polanco runs into rookie wall
- TCS transcends small beginnings
- Versatile U-PARC houses productive assortment
- 3 wrecks Saturday keep emergency responders busy
- U-PARC gives NEP Broadcasting space to grow
- New Kensington-Arnold continues to shuffle security staff
- Saxonburg police to take citizens behind the scenes with citizens ‘academy’
- Biertempfel: First base becoming new hot corner for Pirates
- Starkey: Pitt does its duty