Posted: 19/12/2014 at 02:13
OK, I am very lucky because I live in a remote area, and cats are the only way to stop lots of rodents pouring out of the barns and into my house. So I have 11 of the furry little darlings at the moment. I am a very keen gardener, and love having the cats around when I am digging, potting up, putting things in trays and so on. I have two solutions to the problem that you might be able to put into operation, but it all depends if you have access to the countryside.
Cats in towns are not so easy to deal with. First, they need a big area of rough soil that you regularly agitate. Under a shrubbery, a nearby hedge or a coppice is absolutely great. Under shrubs and hedges is the best if you lift the crown of the shrub or hedge - i.e. lift or prune off the lower branches so that the cats can get under them easily without having to crouch down at all. Then, each week you give the earth around the shrubs a good rummage with a long (as long as possible) handled hoe, or possibly a rake if that's what you have. Add leaf mould if you find the roots are too near the surface to get a good litter. The cats go "oh wow, a proper toilet" and compete with each other to use the designated area. This is the carrot method.Second (the stick) method is best used with the above carrot. You need plenty of old, rusty stock fencing, so you must were gloves when handling it. If you go out on forays into the country, especially rugged sheep country, you will find that shepherds and farmers regularly replace their fences. When they do this they often leave the rusty old rolls in ditches or on road sidings until they can get round to picking them up. Choose a sheep area if possible, because shepherds are very, very busy people, and it is a chore to collect and dispose of rusty fencing rolls. Stock fencing consists of wire rectangles, so you will think at first "well the cats will get through that". It's a bit more complicated than that. 1) they don't like the rusty texture at all, 2) it will be crinkly and not geometrician by the time you pick it up, so will have lots of raised and lowered areas, adding to the complexity with which a cat can find a good gap, while still being able to make a quick exit if anyone sees him/her. 3) rusty stock fencing is damn near invisible when it is put down on soil with plants dotted about in it. This is good for you (you won't notice the stuff once it has settled in) and it is great for confounding the cats. Cats have notoriously good eyesight, but only if the obstacle is over a foot from their faces. That means that if they are rummaging around, and there sensitive little whiskers keep brushing rough hard only slightly visible stuff, they won't want to be messing about in the area for too long.
Kittens are worst to deter, because everything is a big adventure, but they are easier to shoo off, don't make such big messes and soon grow up. Someone mentioned that only bold cats do it on the surface, this is true. Unfortunately you get the odd cat that seems to think that major earthworks are needed for each visit. This is worse for young plants, but once your stock fencing has buried bits, and protruding bits it will help stop even the most fastidious cat. If you are lucky, you may find enough rusty old fencing to put a double layer down, and that is a brilliant deterrent. The problem with chicken wire and similar is that if it is not suspended and crinkly above the ground it is quite comfortable and easy to walk on. A-symmetry and unpredictability, along with a rough texture is much better. You can put the same stuff over groups of pots, and seed trays - I have no problems with either now that I employ the carrot and the stick, and believe me - my garden is always full of cats who only poop in the proper places!
One very important warning! Because the stock fencing is so well camouflaged you may trip over it, so mark the edges and make sure they don't overhand paths.