Posted on 21 May 2008 by

There Are Cats in My Garden!

By Michael Nolan

I was talking to Reggie a few weeks back and he shared one of his personal urban gardening dilemmas.

It made me laugh when I realized that it was one so many people have asked me about.

It is the old scourge of cats in the garden.

Now I know you’re probably laughing at this point, but our furry feline friends have a way of destroying weeks worth of gardening work when they get a bit… let’s say overzealous while they are using our carefully tended and well-dug gardens as their personal litter boxes.

It may just be the occasional gift or it could be much worse, such as when a rogue pussy from my neighborhood indiscriminately dug up six of my brand new heirloom tomato plants last week. It happens to a lot of urban gardeners, so when it does you should be prepared to dig in (so to speak) and go to war.

Here are a few tips to make your personal garden area much less susceptible to feline attacks:

1. When you find kitty gifts (that’s cat crap to most of you), you must remove them. Before I caught on to this, the cats in my garden routinely used my containers as their own personal toilets.

Now before I come across as a pussy hater, I should tell you that I have a cat and I love him dearly. That’s him in the photo — his name is Chance.

Chance lives inside. He eats aloe and poops on my kitchen rugs when he wants the litter box to be cleaned. Trust me, if you think cat crap in your petunias is bad, try squishing it between your toes as you reach for your first cup of coffee in the morning. Sometimes I want to love Chance to death.

2. If you keep the soil damp, they are less likely to mess with it. Cats hate water, see? I have had particular fun while using an inexpensive long range water pistol purchased at a toy store years ago and never given to the tot for whom it was intended. Did I mention that cats hate water? It’s true.

3. Cats also hate blood meal, and it is a great fertilizer. ‘nuff said.

4. Chicken wire or wire screening around the base of your plants will keep them at bay, at least in your plants immediate vicinity.

5. Plant a nice patch of catnip well away from your edible plants. The cats will love you for it and may even be nice enough to stop leaving you crappy gifts.

Anything you can do to cover bare soil — especially soil that is freshly dug, will keep them at bay. And by them I mean the cats in your garden, not the plants. You don’t want to keep the plants at bay.

What about you?

Do you have a favorite way to keep four-legged pests out of your garden?


29 Responses to “There Are Cats in My Garden!”

  1. Grandbaby Holiday This ‘n That at The Garden Granny Says:

    […] There Are Cats in My Garden! is a humorous exposition Michael Nolan at Urban Garden Casual about the issue of how to have both a garden and a cat or two (or more). Cats are excellent weapons against vermin like gophers, moles, voles and field mice, but they also do a lot of damage by using your well-tended beds as their own private toilet. He’s got some excellent and timely hints on how to protect your seedlings from the feline scourge. […]

  2. Dani in NC Says:

    It’s nice to know that I am not the only person having problems with cats in the garden. The strange thing is that the neighborhood cat seems to be attracted only to one variety of cucumber in my garden plot. It doesn’t bother the other variety of cucumber or any other plants. However, as soon as the Spacemaster gets to be about an inch tall, the cat nibbles the leaves or pulls it up all together. I’ve put a new seed in the same spot three times. The current one seems to be doing OK. Maybe the cat got bored :-).

  3. Michael Nolan Says:

    Either that or it is toying with you. I think it is a feline conspiracy. The Ancient Egyptians worshiped the cat, and the cats never forgot.

  4. John Says:

    I find a pellet gun works everytime

  5. Dani in NC Says:

    John, that might be an idea except I’ve never caught the cat in the act :-). I just know that there are cats in the neighborhood and I recognized the poop in my bed as belonging to a cat.

  6. Michael Nolan Says:

    I just had a serious teenage flashblack.

    “she said she recognized POOOOOP. In her BED. Whoah.”

  7. Dani in NC Says:

    If poop in the bed gives you a TEENAGE flashback, then either you are quoting a movie I’ve never seen or you had issues :-).

  8. Michael Nolan Says:


    It was just that ‘poop in your bed’ made me first think about the bed in my bedroom. Of course when I responded I was doing so on less than an hour of sleep for two days…

  9. JNP Says:

    Anyone who would even think of using a pellet (or any other) kind of gun or weapon on a cat should be shot.

  10. Maartje Says:

    Pellets can hurt the cat. I do not recommend that.

    Lemon geranium keeps cats and mosquitos away. They tend to overgrow though, so trim them regularly.

    Collect your coffee grounds and tea leafs ,use them for fertilizer. Cats absolutely hate it. This works well and is great for plants that require a more acidic soil.
    These two items were sufficient to clear my front yard from a hoard of transient cats that were using it for a cat box.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Chicken wire and some carefully placed sticks did the trick for me! It looked a bit scary, but the cats have left the bed alone now and my plants look lovely!
    Shooting a cat with a pellet gun is mean 🙁

  12. JodyM Says:

    We have a male yorkie. We give him a haircut 2-3 times per year and save the fur. During garden season we put his fur in mesh bags and place them around the garden, it even keeps the deer away.

  13. spokesdog Says:

    People and I use that term loosely rented the house next door and their cat either sits on my porch probably exhausted from all the poop (big poops) he deposits in my veggie garden.Did the chicken wire and it worked to a point but he kept finding teeny places I missed. This past winter added carpet backingthat is plastic on one side and sharp plastic spikey things on the other. So placed it tack side up along with the wire. Was good but now that I am composting the area and want it to breathe the cat is back.
    grrrrrrr. Another neighbor had the same problem and trapped the trespassing cat. Animal control said it is up to owners to deal with the cat issues. The cat is actually nice, the neighbors however, have cranky dogs on top of their roaming cat.

  14. Joe Bloggs Says:

    JNP said: Anyone who would even think of using a pellet (or any other) kind of gun or weapon on a cat should be shot.

    Oh Yeah?? Tough guy, huh?
    Well, you are free to keep and admire your pet in your own home and on your own property. But if you choose to let your cat stray around the neighborhood, killing songbirds and crapping in my herb garden because “That’s what cats do”, then I reserve the right to do whatever I deem appropriate to protect my property — and the law clearly gives me the right to remove stray animals either by trapping them, shooting them, or whatever is necessary.

    The attitude of cat owners toward the rest of us is incredibly arrogant — why should we have to constantly deal with the noise and dirt and ecological impact from your animals? Keep ’em at home, and we will get along just fine. Let ’em crap at my place and you just might get them back in a shoebox.

  15. Dave Says:

    grow cactus

  16. C.F. Says:

    Try using orange peel. I guess they don’t like the smell. The cat visits to our little garden have seemed to have been diminished. I think I will also try the blood meal.

  17. e wallace Says:

    love cats but i have blackbirds nestling in my garden and worried incase they eat the chicks

  18. jacbaye Says:

    I never had much luck with citrus – in the end I found spiked security strips on the fences, lion poo around the garden and an ultrasonic cat deterrent works fine.

  19. Cool Garden Things Says:

    You could release a python into your back yard. I hear that in the everglades people have to watch their pets now because of all the escaped contsrictors from pet stores…and up north you have to watch out for cougars getting your small pets…

  20. Zenka Says:

    Joe Blogg, not all problem cats have an owner, and if you honestly feel entitled to shoot pets and strays you probably don’t belong in an urban setting.
    You seem to have anger issues, as your pronouncements about cat owners are not even rational. It also seems likely using a pellet gun on a cat could be illegal.

  21. Judy S Says:

    An elderly woman (I’m 65) and I got to talking about the neighborhood feline problem. She told me her solution. When she was a girl in Armenia her family always had roses. If there was a problem with cats, they trimmed the roses and put the cuttings over the bare ground.

    We had been dealing with a huge, pesky tomcat who also sprayed everything he passed on his nightly walk through the neighborhood. I trimmed some roses and strategically placed the clippings in his favorite bare spots and around the shrubs. He has decided our yard is best avoided.

  22. SharleneT Says:

    I had the same problem and used chicken wire on my large container garden and the old water pistol for the ground-level gardens. Hadn’t thought of the blood meal but will jump right on that! Thanks for the tip.

    Congratulations on your Sunshing Blog Award from Terria at Daily Good. So glad she’s introduced me to your blog. Hope you’ll come visit me when you get a moment.

  23. Martha Says:

    I don’t have cat problems, but I HATE the squirrels! They dig up seedlings in my raised bed and even the flowers in the planters on my porch. Cayenne doesn’t work either. They love burying acorns in my soft ground. Suggestions?

    I did get a potato gun for a present and now I’m thinking I’ll try that, but they’ll probably just eat the potato pellets too!

  24. Nancy Says:

    My neighbor’s cat doesn’t bother my garden but does like to lay on top of my convertible. The cat is so big that it is causing a swag in the convertible top which makes the top not want to work when letting it down. He likes to lay on top of the car and jump my birds. Any suggestions?

  25. Ashley Craft Says:

    I read that covering soil with pine cones will deter cats. (Of course then you have pine cones everywhere!) But if all else fails… 🙂

  26. Dana Says:

    Hi there:

    I live in the Oranges, in NJ. Our property is the first house on the block, but not a corner lot. Our lot 35×100 is bordered on the left by the back yards of 3 houses, behind us is the back of one house, and on our right is a house.

    The biggest pest we get are rats!

    We built a deck garden in containers. My veges don’t show evidence of being tampered with, however the ice box watermelon I grew were totally eaten!! I do suspect the squirrels, though, but am not sure.

    I see several tunnels and am addressing those this season with crushed glass.

    We clean our area and the surrounding areas as much as we can, however, have managed to insult our neighbors by picking up their trash. . . but whatever.

    Any suggestions in controlling this issue!?? None of the gardening blogs seem to speak about it.


  27. Christianne Muusers Says:

    Love your blog!
    I live in the Netherlands, have three cats and a garden with a small garden pond with fish and frogs that attracts the attention of practically all neighbourhood cats. Although I have two litterboxes in the house, my cats hardly ever use them. But still I have no trouble with cats and their excrements in the garden. There are two spots they favour, and I leave those to them. My herbs and vegetables are more in danger of being devoured by snails. Pity that cats do not eat snails …

  28. Courtney Says:

    I have a cat, and she is an indoor/outdoor cat. She loves my garden. It used to bother me, but then I noticed that as long as she pees in the garden, the squirrels leave it alone. Now, I plant the catnip right in the garden to encourage her to go in. She somehow has taken ownership of it and sits in the garden all day. I have no other pests besides insects and she usually only messes up one or two spots, so to me it’s worth it to save the rest of the garden.

  29. Mary E S Says:

    NANCY If you will lay some duck tape sticky side up on the car top,that will stop the cat pronto.I had to do the top of mine twice because of more cats but have had no problem since.They really do not like having tape stuck to their fur.Don’t worry,it will come off eventually but they will remember it happened on the car and won’t go back for a long time.

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