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How to Stop Cats From Coming Into Your Garden

Dolores has recently moved to a new home with a large garden and lots of neighbourhood cats.

Keep those pesky felines out of your garden!

Keep those pesky felines out of your garden!

Cats in the Garden Can Be Problematic

Last year, we bought a house with a large back garden. We don't have any pets ourselves, but the previous owners had cats. I think every cat in the neighbourhood used to hang out in our garden—until we said enough was enough. We have a young daughter, and I don't want to stop her from playing in our garden as she gets older because of cat mess. Cat faeces can be highly toxic to children and pregnant women.

Another issue is that they scare and sometimes kill wildlife, especially birds. I decided to research ways in which other people stop cats from coming into their gardens. Gardening forums were very useful, but the best source of information by far was my father, who has grown flowers, fruit and vegetables for years.

He has tried many of these solutions because, in his opinion, all cats are different, and some methods work better on different cats than others. This article rounds up and explains the various methods people most often use.

Cat faeces can be highly toxic to children and pregnant women.

Cat faeces can be highly toxic to children and pregnant women.

What Are the Solutions?

Spray With Water

Cats don't like to get wet. Keep a water pistol filled with water nearby when you are in the garden or by your back door. When you see a cat come into your garden, aim and fire. Some people reckon that after experiencing this a few times, cats will think twice about trespassing. It’s harmless, but as we all know, a bit time-consuming. If a lot of cats visit your garden, then this solution might not be as effective as others.

If you live in a dry climate and use a sprinkler system, you will probably find that cats are not really a nuisance you have to deal with.

Citrus Peel, Coffee Grounds, and White Pepper

You will probably have these in your home. People have achieved a degree of success with these. Simply disperse them around the perimeter of your garden or where needed. If you require more coffee grounds, you can obtain more from local coffee shops for free. It is believed that cats don’t like the smell and will go elsewhere. Every few weeks or so, you should replace the peel, coffee grounds or white pepper to maintain the effect.

Deterrent Plants

There are many plants that can be used to deter cats. This is more of a long-term solution and will take a bit of effort. They are especially useful if you want to keep cats away from a vegetable patch. Planting citronella, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and chives among your vegetables will prevent cats from using your vegetable patch as a toilet.

These plants have the added bonus of other uses. Lavender is very attractive to bees, which we all know need all the help they can get. It also smells divine. Chives, peppermint and rosemary are of course edible, and citronella is also used as insect repellents. They are a good long-term solution.

I have also heard of a plant called scaredy cat, officially known as plectranthus caninus (Coleus canina). Its deterrent value lies in the fact that it smells of dog urine, but do you really want your garden to smell like that? From what I have read, it doesn't appear to work on all cats, either.

Lavender is useful as a cat deterrent.

Lavender is useful as a cat deterrent.

Physical Barriers

Cats hate having to weave through an obstacle course. Many people believe that placing objects in the garden will annoy them and prevent them from returning. Some suggestions include using plastic cutlery sticking up from the ground because they don’t like the sharpness.

However, they will make your garden look untidy. You can also use twigs, wooden cutlery or pine cones. Pine cones can change the acidity of the soil so take care not to use them around plants that require more alkaline soil.

If you grow fruit and vegetables or want to protect young plants, netting the area is a good idea

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Reflective Objects

Cats (and dogs) don’t like seeing their reflection, so some people use different items to scare them away. You can hang CDs around areas you don't want cats to trespass on; the reflective mirror is supposed to help send them on their way. Some people fill old plastic bottles with water and leave them around the garden. As with the plastic cutlery solution, however, this can make your garden look untidy.

Deterrent Sprays

It is easy to make your own nontoxic cat repellent spray from products widely available from garden centres and online. In a spray bottle, mix one part apple cider vinegar to one part water. Spray liberally around your garden. Respray every couple of weeks or after a rain shower.

This can become tedious if you live in a climate where rain is more usual than not. You can also use citronella essential oil instead of apple cider vinegar. Use three parts water to one part citronella for this recipe. You can also buy commercially produced cat deterrent sprays online or in garden centres.


A large dog, or even a small dog with a big bark, will send most cats running for the hills (though I must admit to meeting a few cats who can really hold their own against our canine friends). We always had dogs when I was growing up, and I don't remember many cats coming into our garden uninvited. Unfortunately, we don't have room in our lives for a dog at the moment, so I can't tell how effective they would be.

Use a spray bottle to make a nontoxic repellent spray.

Use a spray bottle to make a nontoxic repellent spray.

Good Luck!

I hope this article has been useful for those of you who have problems with cats urinating and defecating in your garden. If you have any other suggestions or comments, please feel free to let me know. Happy gardening!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 DoloresHerriot


Lana on July 24, 2020:

None of these things has ever worked on any cats anywhere for me. You say lavender - why is then lavender is added to some cat litters (which my cats love)? They poo on top of all the citrus peels and coffee grounds and vinegar the next morning while I am in the shower. I don’t know why these myths keep circulating repeating each other in the internet.

David on February 06, 2020:

I have a problem with 4 cats next door, they come on to my garden and have the ability to jump on my bird table and eat their food, I have tried coffee and citrus fruit on and around the table no effect, the fence they jump over is their fence so no to spikes, I have tried a water pistol, they see me coming through the window or hear me open the door, and run only to return later, I have spoken to the owner only to be told- well it’s what cats do, I work PT on a tight budget and begrudge paying for plants I am not bothered about to deter these vermin what can I do

Angela on August 21, 2018:

My new neighbours have got 2 cats and I have caught them on the fence . we have 2 bunnies and one keeps thumping she's scared. . My bunnies roam free while we are home but now I am worried. I have put pepper on the fence now but it will wash off.. I think I have to take drastic measures against these two cats thanks

Jill Spencer from United States on February 22, 2018:

A cat has been coming in our garden lately to stalk to birds at the feeders. I'll have to try some of your suggestions. Thanks!

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