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Cat deterrents: how to keep cats out of your garden

23 April 2015 ( 08 January 2020 )

Wondering how to keep cats out of your garden? Are cat repellents always the best option? Read our tips for keeping cats out of your garden.

Hunting cat
Cats make wonderful pets but can be a nuisance for people trying to encourage birds and other wildlife into their garden

Cats are among our favourite pets, and are often welcome garden guests. But they are also incorrigible roamers - which can be a real headache for gardeners and garden wildlife, leading many gardeners to wonder how to deter cats from the garden.

If you want to keep cats out of your garden in a humane and safe way, here are some tips to help you deter wandering felines, including plants that keep cats away, ideas for homemade cat repellent and some tips for finding the best cat repellent for your garden.

Cat owners can read our guide to preventing cats killing garden birds

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Prevent cats from climbing your garden fence

Cats are world-class jumpers and climbers and make light work of springing over fences and walls. Try as you might to secure the perimeter of your garden, you could be facing an uphill struggle.

There is a solution, however, in the shape of flexible garden fence and wall strips which you can buy at garden centres, DIY superstores and online garden retailers.

These are made from a strong bendy rubber material, are easy to install and can be cut to size according to the size and shape of your garden.

The strips don't hurt animal intruders, but simply discourage them from climbing. You can get them in unobtrusive colours to blend in neatly in your garden. Fixing lines of string along the top of fences is a cheaper, if less effective deterrent. While it can’t stop a cat jumping over, it does make it harder for them to walk along the top.

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Keeping cats away from your vegetable plot

Freshly dug soil in a vegetable patch can be an irresistible lure to a cat. This can not only damage your vegetables, bulbs and seeds, but carries health risks.

Fencing off or placing netting over a vegetable garden isn't always possible or totally effective. Cats dislike obstacles, so planting sticks in the ground around the edge and the earth surrounding where your vegetables have been planted can discourage cats from entering and digging. You could also try scattering cuttings from thorny and prickly plants such as holly, although this could provide a place for slugs and snails to hide. 

Read our tips for controlling slugs and snails

Planting herbs to deter cats

From a cat's point of view, there's a rogue's gallery of certain herbs you can strategically plant in your garden to send many cats packing.

Lavender and rosemary are the best known of these. Those herbs may emit scents that appeal to us humans, but to the sensitive cat nose they are a huge no-no.

Other plants and herbs with a good track record for acting as cat deterrents in gardens include citronella, garlic, rue, chives and geraniums. Try planting these liberally among your vegetables to repel feline insurgents.

Read our guide to growing Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary and lavender

Homemade natural cat repellents

Oils such as lavender, citronella, lemongrass and peppermint have been known to work as non-toxic cat repellents. Mix these as one-part essential oil to three-parts water and shake up in a spray canister. Lightly spray the mix in parts of the garden which are out of bounds to cats, or soak cotton wool balls with the mix and place them in those areas.

However, in the same way not all cats love catnip, some cats will not be driven off by the smell of these herbs.

A lot of cats dislike the strong, sharp smells of citrus peels such as lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit. Sprinkling vinegar and rubbing raw onions in key parts of the garden have also been known to keep cats at bay.

Try grating and sprinkling citrus peels in areas you wish to keep cats away from, such as where seedlings may be growing or areas cats are using your garden as a toilet.

Cat deterrent sprays and powders

There are plenty of shop bought cat repellent products on the market, including pepper dust, garlic powder and various cat repellent sprays and gels. Always read the label before using and follow instructions carefully. Most use natural ingredients like the ones mentioned above - garlic or citrus smells, for example, but do check ingredients carefully for any product you intend on using in your garden.

Efficiency of cat repellants can depend on many factors, such as weather (particularly wet or windy weather which can wash or blow away your repellent) and of course the cats in question - some cats are going to be more put off than others by smells, it might just depend on how dedicated they are to using your flower border as a toilet.

Ultrasonic cat deterrents

Cat repellent devices which emit ultrasonic sounds audible to cats are readily available from garden centres and online retailers. These can deter cats from coming into your garden in the first place, and also help protect garden wildlife by keeping them away from bird tables.

The jury is out, however, on the long-term effectiveness of some ultrasonic devices on the market, so it's best only to choose devices recommended by animal welfare organisations such as the RSPB, such as the CatWatch Ultrasonic Deterrent.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.