Deterring cats from your garden

I have had many questions from readers over the last few weeks. “How do I rid of cats from my gardens?” is the most commonly asked one of late.
Cats definitely are not the gardener’s best friend, but remember cats are pets and they are someone’s best friend.
First of all, there is a bylaw in almost every town in Northwestern Ontario stating that both dogs and cats must be confined within their own yard. Maybe the owner of your troublesome cat is unaware of this, so you may want to bring it to their attention.
With that failing, here are some additional tips for combating that neighbourhood cat from using your garden to do his business—and wrecking all of your hard work.
Cats, as a general rule, do not like water or like getting wet. A very effective way of deterring visits from a cat is to give it a blast of water from your hose or a water gun you have filled with cold water when you see him enter your yard.
Another method is to have some water balloons waiting and ready, and you throw them in front of the cat and they spray water it when they burst (it is very important that you do not hit the cat with the balloon, just with the water).
Also available at local garden centres or from seed catalogues is something called the “Scarecrow Sprinkler.” This sprinkler has a motion detector on it so you keep it installed in your garden with the water on, and when it senses motion of animal pests, it sprays water for a few minutes.
But be aware that the sprinkler cannot detect the difference between humans and animals, so turn off the water before you go near it.
This might work for your cat problem, but it may not be the best solution as the cat has to walk within the range of the sprinkler. As well, you may need more than one and they are more expensive than your basic sprinkler.
If you have a deer problem, these sprinklers are worth the investment.
If you are having problems with your own cat, you can modify this tip to train them that the garden is off limits. Fill a spray bottle or water gun with cold water and carry it with you while you are outside with your cat.
When it heads to the edge of the garden, spray it with the water. After a few unpleasant blasts of cold water, your cat will get the hint.
Cats tend to gravitate to freshly-dug soil, so they often show up on your property in the spring when you are getting the garden in shape or when you are installing new ones.
Once there, they like to make repeat visits to do their business.
Cats have tender paws and they like to keep them that way. As such, after you’re finished digging in your garden, lay down a layer of chicken wire on the surface of your garden soil and that should do the trick.
Cats do not like to walk on the wire and the wire has holes to allow most plants to grow through, so you can leave it in place all season.
If the wire does not have large enough holes for your plants to grow through, move the wire to the edge and to the open spaces of your garden bed before the seedlings get too big.
If you do not want to use wire in your garden, then use the trimmings from juniper bushes, spruce trees, raspberry canes, rose bushes, or other thorny plant trimmings. Scatter the trimmings around on top of the soil and see your cat problem disappear.
I also think that a thick mulch layer of rough cedar or redwood bark could also work. Keep it thick and fresh as it decays over time, and right up against your plants to reduce soil exposure.
Another method to try, although I am not sure if it works for cats, but it is one of the best methods for repelling squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks, is to buy red pepper flakes in bulk (the hot kind you get in pizza restaurants) and sprinkle them all over the surface of the bed.
Be generous as the flakes are cheap.
The hot flakes will provide an uncomfortable sensation on the paws of the critters. Make sure you replenish them often, especially after a rain or watering of the soil.
Cayenne pepper can be substituted instead of the flakes but I find the flakes work better.
There are some plants and smells that also deter cats. My favourite method for deterring cat visits works well because cats hate the smell of citrus. Save all of your rinds from any citrus fruits that you have and sprinkle good-sized pieces over the cat’s favourite spot.
Keep replenishing them as they will breakdown and add nutrients to the soil.
It is proven that the herb Rue, which is a delicately-foliaged blue-green plant, also will deter cats from the areas they are planted in.
Check your local nurseries or your favourite mail-order plant supplier for this herb.
A new hybrid of the coleus plant called “Scat” has been developed to repel many animal species along with cats. Some of our local nurseries are carrying it for us to try this year.
There also are some commercial repellents available in local stores that you apply to the affected areas in your yard. Ro-Pel, for instance, is one of the many brands available.
These products must be applied diligently and frequently to keep the active ingredient effective. Make sure you reapply after rain, heavy dew, or watering.
Consumers have had mixed results with all of these products. Some swear by these products while others say they only repel certain animals or do not work at all.
Treat their use as an experiment and keep an open mind. Read the labels of all of the formulas and make the decision of which brand based on the information that suits your needs and then give it a try.
All of these hints for deterring cats in your garden will keep you very busy and hopefully will solve your problem. If the problem persists and the cat owner is not co-operative you can contact your bylaw officer, but hopefully these hints will prevent that.
So cats beware—the gardeners are ready for you!

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