When cats use your garden as their personal outdoor toilet, these normally tidy pets become a major frustration. Not only do they make a mess, literally, but the smell can be dreadful! What's more, as you'll learn, exposure to cat feces can infect an unborn child.
Stacey Munch of Dumfries, Virginia wanted to start a vegetable garden, but was having second thoughts. "Marion, I want to start a vegetable garden this year," she said, "but I'm
concerned about our neighborhood cats who like to use our flowerbeds for
litter boxes. How can I keep the cats away from my vegetables?"
I can relate to Stacey's situation, because to a cat "in need," there's nothing more attractive than fluffy soil--in my garden, the freshly tilled carrot bed is a particularly strong attraction. For Stacey and everyone else who might have kitty concerns, here are several easy, safe, and effective ways to deter cats from using your garden as a litter box:
Remove the evidence
Yes, remove the cat poop. Sorry, but you've got to do it.
Now you're ready for action...
Water to the rescue!
Most cats hate to get wet, so squirt visitors with water from a high-powered squirt gun. You know, the kind your kids get at the street fairs. There is an automated option, the Scarecrow, which you attach to a hose. It delivers a water jet when activated by a motion detector. Available in many catalogs.
Dust with pepper
Every few days, sprinkle the feline's favorite digging spot with black pepper or the following powder mix (Warning: You wouldn't like to get hot cayenne pepper in your eyes, right? Neither does a cat. One gardener reported that it gets on the cat's paws. Then when they wash themselves and they get it in their eyes they have scratched and damaged their eyes):
2 parts cayenne pepper
3 parts dry yellow mustard
5 parts white flour
But wait, there's more!
Cat deterrents come in all shapes and sizes. I discovered quite a lits on GardenWeb forums. Here are a few:
Apply blood meal (a nitrogen-rich fertilizer)
Give them their own areas to dig in, such as loose soil and fine mulch
Provide your cat with his/her own plants. For example, pots of grass to chew on. Some chewables include barley grass, oat grass, wheat grass, catnip (a member of the mint family), valerian, and sweetgrass.
Important note for pregnant women
Cats can be more than a nuisance in the garden. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, about 85 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. are at risk of being infected with toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in raw and undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables, water, dust, soil, dirty cat-litter boxes and outdoor places where cat feces can be found.
In babies, T. gondii can cause hearing loss, mental retardation, and blindness. Some children can develop brain or eye problems years after birth. Learn how to prevent this condition from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Roadblocks to digging!
Try making the soil less diggable by laying flat stones, river rocks, chicken wire, fish net, or plastic webbing on top of the soil. (Some people who aren't as concerned about a cat's feelings, place carpet strips--which are wooden strips with short, very sharp and pointy nails poking through--nail side up. Not nice.)
Ideas sent in by readers:
1. Poke chopsticks in the soil to keep cats out of the garden.
2. Marion, did you and your readers know that cats do not like oranges? Just peel one near your cat and watch him/her disappear. Orange peels keep cats away.
Plants to the rescue!
As mentioned before, cats love catnip. Grow a garden of catnip to lure cats away. Or drive them away with plants. In Germany, a gardener created a hybrid plant called Coleus canin. It smells like peppermint schnapps, but it's reported to be repulsive to cats. Marketed under the names Pee-off and Scaredy Cat. This plant has a pungent odor that is said to repel cats and other mammals from the garden.
Turning to the law
Find out if there is a leash law in your community. If so, pay a visit to the cat's owners to tell them that you will notify animal control if their feline ventures over into your garden. The penalty charges to spring kitty out of jail might send a strong message.
As always, enjoy yourself in the garden. Thanks for visiting,