Cats might be one of the nation’s favorite pets, but they can make themselves pretty unpopular when they’re digging in your garden, chasing away your songbirds, and peeing on your doors. If you’ve got neighborhood cats making a nuisance of themselves around your house, there are plenty of simple, humane ways to discourage them from coming around.
Simple Cat Repellents
One of the easiest ways to dissuade cats from entering your property is to spread around a substance they find distasteful. Most of the scents and tastes cats dislike won’t bother you and, in fact, many of them are things people find pleasant.
Citrus kitchen scraps – Many cats are put off by the scent of citrus. Take advantage of this by scattering chopped up peels of oranges, lemons or other citrus fruits around the area where you frequently see cats. Another option is to soak some tea bags in citronella oil and place them where the cats wander. The scent will last longer if you put the tea bags in closed containers with holes poked in the lids.
Natural cleaners – If cats are spraying your door or another feature of your home or garden, try cleaning it with natural oils cats dislike. These include orange, lemon grass, lavender, peppermint, cedar, and eucalyptus. All of these will lend a scent to the area that’s pleasant to people and disagreeable to cats.
Commercial cat repellents – A number of manufacturers produce cat repellent sprays based on natural ingredients such as capsaicin and mustard oil. Spray the product around your garden beds, doorway or anywhere else cats frequent, and the product’s smell and taste will keep the cats from coming back.
The first step in keeping cats off your property is to make sure you’re not leaving out something that attracts them. Keep you trash cans closed securely and check for signs of a mouse infestation, such as droppings and nests, that could tempt cats to come hunt. If you’ve noticed an increasing number of cats, ask around to find out if any of your neighbors have been leaving pet food out.
If cats are using your flowerbeds as a bathroom, it’s probably because the ground there is nothing but loose soil. This is exactly the kind of spot cats find easiest to dig in. The most effective way to cover this soil is to plant as much of your garden as possible, leaving little bare ground.
Alternatively, you can make the area less appealing by applying mulch. Choose a type that’s difficult to dig in, such as cedar chips, gravel, pumice stones, straw or cocoa bean hulls. Sprinkling fresh, unbrewed coffee grounds or cedar compost over the garden beds can also discourage cats.
Another approach is to make your garden beds a less pleasant place to walk by covering the bare areas in branches with a lot of twigs or cuttings from blackberry bushes. To ward off particularly persistent cats, lay bird netting or chicken wire over the ground, then apply mulch over it. You can also find cat repellent mats designed to be pushed into the soil. The mats are equipped with small, flexible plastic spikes that are harmless, but uncomfortable to walk on.
Plants Cats Can’t Stand
Certain plants produce a scent that’s inoffensive or even pleasant to people, but repulsive to cats. Planting these around your yard and garden will discourage kitties from coming near.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) – This hardy evergreen shrub produces bluish leaves, yellow summer flowers, and a powerful bitter odor many cats dislike. While the smell isn’t necessarily enjoyable for people, either, the plants grow low to the ground, so you’re unlikely to notice the odor.
Lavender (Lavandula) – Although long-beloved by humans, the fragrance of this flowering herb is something cats would rather avoid. To create a barrier against cats, plant a row of lavender at the edge of your yard.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) – Its citrus-floral fragrance is what earned this plant its name. In cooking, particularly East Asian cuisine, it’s used to add a lemon-lime flavor to chicken and fish. As useful as it is to humans, though, cats are put off by the lemony smell.
Coleus canina (Plectranthus caninus) – Known as the “scaredy cat plant” and “piss-off plant,” this lush herb with purple flowers is often marketed as a natural option for repelling cats. When brushed against, it releases a distinctive skunk odor. While you might think that should be enough to repel a cat, there’s little evidence it actually does. This plant might help in combination with other methods, but don’t rely on it.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – Needless to say, this herb attracts cats, but that’s exactly what makes it useful for keeping cats away from where they shouldn’t be. If there’s only a part of your landscape you want to keep cats out of, but you don’t mind them in other areas, plant catnip to encourage the cats to stay where they’re allowed.
Technology for a Cat-Free Yard
For the most persistent cats, a few lemon peels and smelly plants might not be enough of a deterrent. In this case, modern technology can help you make your yard and garden less inviting.
Ultrasonic cat repellents – These devices emit noise at a frequency that startles cats, but that’s too high for most people to hear. Most models are battery operated, motion activated, and cover an area of around 300 square feet, enough for a small to medium front yard. If the cats you’re trying to deter already have a long-established habit of visiting your property, you might need to give the device up for some time to change the cats’ patterns of behavior.
Motion-activated sprinklers – When they sense anyone walking past, motion activated sprinklers let out a powerful, pulsating jet of water as they rotate in a 110- to 120-degree arc. Even if the intruding cat manages to duck the water, the sudden movement and noise usually give them enough reason to avoid your lawn. Some sprinklers offer both day and night detection settings, so you can turn the device on or off as needed. You’ll probably need to change the positioning periodically, so the cats don’t merely learn how to skirt the sprinkler to avoid setting it off.
Getting the neighborhood cats to stop traipsing through your yard and garden takes some creativity and patience, but it is possible. Simple, affordable solutions such as laying mulch, planting cat-repellent flowers, and setting up motion-activated sprinklers will help you maintain a clean, cat-free landscape.