Remember that old folk song, The Cat Came Back? So many of us grew up listening to that song, or playing it for our kids, and wondering why old Mister Johnson was such a jerk to that poor cat. Then we became gardeners, and suddenly Mister Johnson comes off as the victim.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cat lover. They’re cute, soft, and cuddly. They keep mice and other rodents out of the house. They’re also hilarious— you can’t go wrong with a good funny cat video. However, even the biggest cat fans in Guelph have to admit they’re not the best match for our gardens.
What Are These Cats Doing in My Garden?
If you keep seeing cats showing up in your garden, you may be wondering what it is about your garden that attracts them. Turns out, there’s plenty of reasons for cats to haunt your yard, even if you aren’t growing any catnip.
Food! When you think about the ecosystem in the average Guelph garden, it’s a real smorgasbord for a cat. Birds, squirrels, bunnies— a bored cat will even go after a flying insect. If these are the kinds of creatures you hope to attract to your garden, cats are really not doing you any favours.
Fun! Cats enjoy destruction— I dare you to challenge me on that. Chewing on plant leaves, sharpening their claws on trees or wood arbors, mangling plants that dangle or climb…cats are resourceful when it comes to finding a pastime. They’ll also happily leave behind a veil of fur.
Feces! By far the most unpleasant side effect of cats in the garden is their tendency to use your garden bed as a litter box. Yuck!
Keeping Cats Out of the Garden
If your garden is starting to look like a scene from The Aristocats, fear not. There’s plenty you can do to tell those cats to scram.
Sprinklers – As you may know already, cats are not big on being wet. Sprinkler systems, especially the motion-activated kind, can do double-duty by keeping your plants watered and scaring away cats.
Ultrasonic Alarms – Cats hear a different range of frequencies than people do. Cat-repellent ultrasonic devices can sense a cat in the area and emit a pitch that startles cats but is imperceptible to humans. Be mindful if you use one that some systems may also affect the family dog.
Roll-Bars on Fencing – Cats are such impressive climbers, it would be a big task to build fencing they couldn’t scale. However, roll bars are a simple attachment you can install on top of existing fencing that cats cannot get a grip on, and therefore can’t climb over.
Cleaning – Once a cat has entered your garden and “made themselves comfortable” in your garden bed, they tend to return over and over again. Cats are very good at locating their own scent— and frankly, they don’t make it too difficult for us to smell it, either. Use an enzymatic cleaning spray anywhere you notice cat leavings and cover it up with fresh soil or mulch to obscure the scent. Make sure to also clean any trace of food— for humans or animals—from your yard if you or your pets eat outside.
Safe Cat Repellents for Gardens
Cats are scent-driven animals. Using scent is the easiest and most effective ways to prevent cats from visiting your garden in the first place. These repellents won’t hurt your plants or your neighbourhood kitties.
Cat-Repellent Plants are a subtle and all-natural way to keep cats away. Try growing pennyroyal, lavender, coleus canina, and lemon thyme. They all grow beautifully here in Guelph.
Citrus is despised by cats. Use a spray of citrus essential oil and water on your garden soil or scatter citrus peels around the garden. To release more of the aroma, mash them up slightly before scattering.
Commercial cat repellents are another option if the natural route doesn’t seem to be effective. We carry several at Royal City Nursery.
Cats are great pets, but they (literally) stink at gardening. With these tips, you can send a clear message to the neighbourhood felines to beeline out of your yard.