Not everybody wants to have a cat visit their garden or home. Feline visitors can fight with or disrupt cats who live on the property, kill native animals and go to the toilet in the garden, which can potentially transmit parasites such as toxoplasmosis, roundworm and hookworm. All cats are territorial, and a visiting cat can cause the resident cat stress, which can manifest as spraying in an attempt to define boundaries.
There are several solutions to deter cats from gardens which we will explore in this article. The number one priority is to deter cats without causing them harm.
Why do cats visit the garden?
There are many reasons, outdoor cats can travel some distance looking for food and when entire, another cat to mate with.
Entire males are known to have huge territories; one feral male had a home range of 1,300 acres. Well-fed, desexed domestic cats, have smaller territories, one research project found most domestic cats don’t roam further than 100 metres from their home.
Stray and feral cats may take up shelter under a deck or in a shed.
Territory issues can break out between resident cats and visiting cats. If the resident cat also goes outside, fights can develop, especially between males, which can lead to trauma and infection.
How to keep cats away
Prevention and deterrents are the preferred methods to keep cats away. Homeowners who go out and yell at the cat or spray with water only teach him to stay out of the garden when you around but return when the coast is clear. Nobody can sit in wait 24 hours a day, so any deterrents must work remotely, without direct action from you.
- Secure bins to prevent rodents and cats from scavenging food. The lid should fit snugly and if necessary, place a brick on top of the lid to stop animals from opening it.
- Commercial spray deterrents such as ScareCrow which is a motion-activated repellent that sprays a burst of water.
- Commercial ultrasonic products emit ultrasonic sound waves which are too high for humans to hear.
- Air sprays also have a motion sensor that delivers a blast of unscented air when an animal passes.
- Cat deterrent scents include blood and bone fertiliser, lavender, Coleus Canina (scardey cat plant), geranium, lemon thyme and pennyroyal, citrus peel, vinegar, and pepper.
- Commercial cat deterrent sprays and powders are available from most hardware stores. These products are designed to repel cats by utilising strong smells cats don’t like but are not toxic to cats or dogs.
- Coffee grounds spread over garden beds can deter some cats who don’t like the strong smell.
- Fix up any holes in fences and keep gates closed.
- Fencing with an L-shaped bracket covered with chicken wire at the top of the fence can keep intruding cats out.
- Oscillot is an Australian cat-proof solution that can keep resident cats inside the garden and intruding cats out. The product sits on top of the fence, which prevents the cat from getting a grip to pull himself over the fence.
- Deter rodents from the garden by securing compost bins. If you do have a rodent problem, speak to a pest controller about safe ways to eliminate rodents that won’t harm cats (i.e., traps).
- Chicken wire can be placed over garden beds to keep cats from digging. Cat Scat is a commercial product that can be placed on the soil in garden beds to deter cats.
- Desex all cats in the home which will reduce the chance of cats entering the garden looking for a mate.
Striking a compromise
If you don’t mind cats visiting the garden and just want to keep them out of certain spots such as the vegetable garden, then provide them with cat-friendly to use. A garden bed with cat-friendly plants, shade and a place to go to the toilet. Cats love the smell of catnip, which is a flowering perennial.
Provide a cat-friendly place to go to the toilet such as a sandpit (definitely not one that children use). The goal is to make off-limit areas unattractive and re-direct cats to a more appropriate part of the garden.
If you have cats who live inside the house, locate the cat-friendly area away from where resident cats can see the visitors.