Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
I’m sitting at my kitchen table; my garden looks lovely today; the blooms start to stretch open to catch some rays.
Wait! Did I see that shrub rustling? I get up to investigate further and see my neighbor’s cat bolt from my garden. I feel the frustration begin to build. I bet that cat left yet another deposit of his scat to mark his territory beside my sweet little petunias.
Stop cats fouling in your garden with one or a combination.
- Prevent access with plastic spikes or roller fence tops, stopping them from getting a grip.
- Grow herbs such as Thyme, Rosemary, Wintergreen, and Mint (Smells Cats Hate).
- Spray down areas cats have defecated with DIY sprays to prevent them from returning.
- Set up motion detection sprinklers (Cats hate water).
- Set up motion detection noisemakers
- Set up ultrasonic cat scarers
- Add netted balls of human hair around the garden.
- Protect growing areas with wire mesh to put cats off fouling.
- Use river rock as a mulch to prevent cats from burying their feces.
- Place citrus peel around your garden. Cats’ senses are many times that of ours. Citrus is overbearing.
This post’s suggestions are what I have found to be the most effective ways to deter and repel cats using our gardens as toilets. If you have struggled to find a successful way to deal with nuisance cats who treat your garden as their litter box, boy, do I have the answer for you?
Use a MULTI-PRONG approach to stop cats “Fouling” in your garden
When cats use your garden as a litter tray, you may find that one particular action you take may not prevent them.
A multi-prong approach is required to put off the cats once and for all. If cats get past the first defense, a second or third can help make it not worth their time to continue and look for a more accessible location to do their business.
Stop Cats Entering Your Garden To Use As A Toilet.
The first defense is to prevent cats from entering your garden in the first place. If we can make it difficult here, then they may go elsewhere.
Not everyone can do this, as it will depend on the size of your garden. How close trees are to the fence line, what type of boundaries you have, and many other factors. But if you have a normal-sized backyard, many tips here will be perfect.
- Plastic Spikes
- Wire lines
Plastic spikes placed along the top edge of fences and walls can prevent cats from being able to grip when they jump on the wall to enter your garden. Plastic is used not to damage the cat but rather to make it uncomfortable and unable to grasp, and this will prevent the cats from entering.
Use Vaseline To Stop Cats Entering Your Garden
You can use Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly to smear on the tops of fences and nearby poles or trees that the cats would use to access your garden. This causes the cats not only to get a grip but also to attach themselves to the fur. Cats hate this and will avoid it and choose another location.
Fence top rollers are a very effective means of stopping cats from entering your garden. As soon as the cat grabs the roller to jump the fence, this rolls, and the cat loses its grip falling back to the floor. Stubborn cats may repeat their attempts a few times but quickly learn they cannot get past and look elsewhere for a garden bed to use as a litter box.
Do Wire Lines Work At Preventing Cats Getting into Your Garden?
Although suitable for more extensive gardens, Wire lines have mixed results stopping cats from accessing your garden. However, if multiple lines are used, they become very effective, as cats do not like taking the risk of becoming tangled.
This method is highly cost-effective for large gardens as the homeowner can place a bracket at various points along the fence and run the wires through it.
Stopping cats from getting into the garden is more complicated than most think. They are proficient climbers and can leap from far away distances. So if your attempts to stop them from getting in fail, what other tactics could one use to prevent cats from using your garden as a litter tray? Next, we will look at deterrents to utilize once cats have gained access.
What deterrents will stop cats from fouling in your garden?
Many commercial deterrents are available on the market, and some I have found to be effective are below. They are all available on Amazon, so check out the links to see their current pricing.
- Solar-powered ultrasonic cat repeller These units scare away cats using ultrasonic sounds; the pitch is outside our hearing range but within the cat’s range. It is also at an angle that is uncomfortable for cats. They are solar-powered, so they do not need to connect to a power supply and have flashing lights when cats set off the motion detection. They are a great way to keep cats out of the garden and are very effective.
- Scat Mats digging prevention. These mats can be laid wherever cats try to bury their feces. They are ideal for placing garden beds; they can be cut around plants and clipped together for larger areas. If everything else fails, this will stop the cats from using your beds as a toilet, as cats like to bury their scat.
- Catmace repellent spray is ideal for preventing cats from urinating as it produces a scent that makes cats turn away from the area. The great thing with this spray over all others is that it’s organic, safe to use around your plants, and doesn’t wash off with rain.
Why Cats Poop In Your Garden
Cats pooping in our gardens could harm our plants, a dangerous health risk. Not only is the waste the cats leave behind revolting, but it also could cause the transmission of the hazardous toxoplasma Gondii parasite.
Cats like to bury their feces for protection as it removes the smell from larger, more aggressive cats. They look for a soft surface on which to bury them. Garden beds are ideally suited for this. It lets cats stay clean and mark their territory, informing other felines that the domain is taken.
To bury their waste in soft, diggable soil was a fundamental survival instinct for wild cats to avoid predators.
By ensuring their excrement is covered with dirt and soil, the feline species could move stealthily along their daily routes yet reduce their ability to be located by their olfactory predators.
Using a heightened sense of smell, the well-known predators of cats (eagles, owls, foxes, wolves, etc.) could follow the cat scent to track down a nest of young kittens to prey upon.
If the mature cats found a secluded location to use the “toilet” but buried their waste after, it resulted in a safer situation for all the feline family members.
Cats will always have the innate desire to move to a secure location away from their homestead to number two. Unfortunately, your garden combines seclusion and distance to ensure the feline feels safe burying their poo.
Along with gardeners having domesticated cats, many people also struggle with an increase in the feral cat population, wandering through their gardens and depositing their feces.
“One cat just leads to another.”Ernest Hemingway
The reason you should stop cats from fouling in your backyard
These fecal deposits, both in and on top of the soil, tend to overshadow the beautiful plants we have planted and the sweet aromas that we have worked tirelessly for hours trying to perfect in our gardens.
But not only is having a cat using our gardens as a toilet disgusting, but it could also be dangerous to our health.
Cat feces contain an organism that is called the toxoplasma Gondii parasite. This parasite causes a variety of profound health implications to the human body if ingested.
I know we all don’t walk around eating cat poo; however, if it is deposited in or on the soil in your garden, the parasite is spread through the soil once it rains or you water it.
Once the parasite moves through the soil, it could be ingested by other small animals like mice and birds. Once these critters have ingested the Toxoplasma Gondii parasite, they could have toxoplasmosis.
Unfortunately, many other animals that prey on these tiny creatures will also become infected with the parasite. And what do cats prey on?
You guessed it! The small infected birds and mice.
Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle of transmission – see Figure 1.
As you can see, the parasite can be passed quickly through the rodent/bird population into the cat population, which is a cycle. Then it quickly branches off into the garden and the human population.
Each cycle stage is attributed to the journey from animal to human. See Table 1 for an explanation of each step.
|Stage of Cycle
|Transmission of Parasite
|A cat infected with the toxoplasma gondii parasite poops in an area populated by rodents and small birds.
|The rodent and bird population contract the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis by ingesting water and soil infected by the cat feces.
|The parasite multiplies and grows within its hosts; therefore, the intensity of the infection increases.
|Healthy cats then prey on these sick rodents and become infected with the parasite.
|Infected cats will poop in the garden/soil, leaving oocytes that could release the parasite over the next two weeks. This is where the cycle branches off into the human world.
|Humans work in their gardens or harvest crops and become exposed to the toxoplasma gondii parasite.
As you can see, once the infected cat poop is deposited in the soil, the parasite can attach itself to the roots and plants in your garden or hang out in your soil.
If you don’t wash your infected food properly or accidentally get the parasite on your hands and ingest it, you could experience serious health consequences.
The Toxoplasma Gondii parasite could be very detrimental to the human body. The parasite often attacks the brain and eyes, and it could cause various symptoms, everything from blurred vision to brain damage. Even studies potentially link toxoplasmosis (the condition caused by this parasite) to Schizophrenia. See the list below for more symptoms of toxoplasmosis.
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis
- Aching Muscles
- Swollen Lymph nodes
- Blurred vision
- Redness and pain in the eyes
- Inflammation and damage to organs (including the brain and heart)
- Very dangerous to unborn babies
This parasite’s symptoms in humans could range from mild to life-threatening; thus, reducing transmission chances is imperative when you are a gardener. To lower the likelihood that your garden will make you ill, the best defense is to stop the host that infects the humans – the pooping cat!
A typical response from the gardener to stop cats pooping in the garden
I have been dealing with my neighbor’s cat for a while now. I thought I had tried it all. If you had walked through my garden a month ago, you would have had quite the experience.
You would have seen coffee grounds in the soil, eggshells crumpled, and citrus peels sprinkled around my plants. And the SMELL! It wasn’t perfect.
Between all the food products decomposing and the lavender essential oils I used (I read somewhere that cats hate the smell of lavender), the odor emanating from my garden was, I’m ashamed to say, disgusting.
And, in the middle of all those smells and food products, guess who was still using my garden as a litter box? You guessed it! I. WAS. SO. FRUSTRATED!
So, I did some more research at my wit’s end with this feline “poop” head. My research led me to an Edmonton, Alberta, Canada program.
Edmonton is experiencing a significant increase in the feral feline population, disturbing many gardens in that urban city. In response to this problem, Edmonton’s city has started providing its citizens with a cat deterrent kit.
In this kit, not only are scent repellents provided (like I was already using in my garden), but this kit also provides a motion-activated deterrent and a digging deterrent, just as I explained above.
It was a brilliant idea!
Instead of just using one method, like homemade cat repellents, Edmonton’s city researched and realized that a multilayered approach to stopping cats from pooping in your garden would be the most effective method.
So, I created a plan of action. Divide each cat repellent/deterrent type into categories and try one method from each. I believe that if one way is good, four must be better!
Through my research, I managed the methods into four categories: mechanical deterrents, digging deterrents, scent repellants, and home remedies.
Mechanical Deterrents to stop cats pooping in your garden
Mechanical deterrents are any system that uses motion sensor technology to sense when a cat is roaming for a place to poop in your garden. When it feels the cat’s motion, it will respond with an action that has been proven to be disturbing to a cat, and the animal will attempt to leave the area quickly.
Mechanical cat deterrents usually fall under two categories:
- Ultrasonic Devices
An ultrasonic cat deterrent emits a high-frequency sound wave that cats find repulsive. Studies have shown that a garden with an ultrasonic device will have cats who visit your garden less often and spend less time in a park with this type of deterrent. Fewer visits to your garden, with less time, reduces the chances of that cat pooping in your garden.
- Water Systems
We have all watched those videos where the owner struggles to bathe their disgruntled cat. It is a well-known fact that cats hate water. The motion-activated sprinklers that you can put into your garden use this principle. A cat is looking for a place to leave waste, which seems perfect in your garden. It slowly creeps in, ready to defecate; the motion triggers the sprinkler, sprays water towards the action, and the cat is successfully repelled.
Cats are creatures of luxury and comfort. They are like the fairy tale character Goldilocks. They will search for and try out every surface until they find the most comfortable bed or lap to curl upon. Using this instinct to our advantage, digging deterrents change the surface of the soft, diggable soil in your garden into a surface that cats will refuse to walk on.
Home Remedies to stop cats using your garden as a Toilet
Stop cats messing in your garden by using these organic options.
- Growing plants that cats will avoid, like lavender, rosemary, etc.
- Placing mulch or rocks (not fine sand) as roughage on the soil.
- Create a cat-friendly spot in your yard for them to use as a toilet (plant catnip and provide fine sand for pooping)
- Using food products as repellents (coffee grinds, citrus peels, etc.)
Conclusion on stopping cats using your garden as a toilet
As you can see, each category offers a variety of methods to keep a pooping cat from using your garden as a toilet.
However, if you are like me, you’ve probably only used a one (maybe a two) prong approach to stop this nuisance.
If you are still struggling with cats pooping in your garden, I suggest using a four-prong approach. Choose one item from each category and combine your efforts for maximum effect (see Figure 2).
The great thing about this method is the ability to try various approaches to find the right combination to suit your unique cat-repellant needs.
If you choose one method from each category but find that grouping is not as effective as you would like, you can always find a different item to try yet still keep the four-prong approach.
Now, as I sit with my coffee, basking in the beauty of my garden, I hear the motion-activated sprinkler switch on, and I watch my neighbor’s cat bolt from my garden, hobbling over the scat mat I’ve put down without leaving his poop behind.
I smile, knowing that I haven’t harmed a living creature, yet send my message in four different ways – “CAT, STOP POOPING IN MY GARDEN!”