We’re a nation of cat lovers. Many of us own and love cats, but can still be irritated when foul in our gardens and hunt birds. They also have a habit of sunbathing on top of prized plants, squashing them.
Because cats are carnivores, their faeces can contain parasites or pathogens not present in other types of manure, such as horse and cow. As such there can be risks associated with cats defecating in your vegetable patch, which is particularly attractive to cats as it often has freshly dug soil and bare earth.
There are various ways to discourage cats from visiting your garden and veg plot. It's a good idea to prioritise the areas of your garden that you don't want cats to visit, such as the veg plot, or areas near bird feeders or prized plants.
More on cats in the garden:
Cover your soil
Cats prefer to walk on soft soil and will avoid prickly surfaces. They’re also more likely to defecate in soft soil or compost. Make beds and borders less attractive to them by covering areas of bare soil with twigs, pine cones or holly leaves, or laying down chicken wire. Driving sticks or skewers into the ground will have a similar effect. Pots can be mulched with a thick layer of gravel. Throwing citrus peels and human hair directly on the garden is also said to deter them, as are coffee grounds, which are available in bags for free from many coffee shops. Protect newly planted veg by covering it with netting or fleece.
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Grow ground cover plants
Where possible, consider using ground cover plants to permanently cover areas of bare ground.
Create an outdoor litter box
You may not want to deter cats altogether but simply keep them off certain areas of your garden. If you want to train your cat to use some areas of the garden instead of others, you could try building your own outdoor litter tray. Fill a shallow box or leave an area of soft, sandy soil, and plant catnip (Nepeta or catmint) nearby. Your cat may choose to do their business here rather than other areas of your garden.
Ultrasonic cat deterrents
Cat repellent devices emit ultrasonic sounds audible to cats. They can be used to stop cats from coming into your garden in the first place, or placed in specific areas such as around your bird feeders.
Ultrasonic water devices can be used to spray a jet of water in the direction of anything that passes in front of it – including cats. Cats hate water, so this might encourage them to stay away from your garden, but you could unwittingly soak other animals, such as hedgehogs, too.
Plants to deter cats
Some strongly scented plants are said to repel cats. Dot as many of these throughout the garden as possible, particularly in areas that cats keep returning to, such as the veg patch. They are not guaranteed to repel all cats, however – some seem unaffected by the smells.
Scaredy cat plant, (Coleus caninus)
The foliage of this coleus (previously called Plectranthus caninus) is said to give off an unpleasant smell when touched and is said to deter cats, as well as dogs, foxes and rabbits. It's not hardy, so take cuttings to keep plants going from year to year, or buy young plugs in spring.