How to Protect Your Garden From Being Destroyed by Cats

Updated on March 12, 2020
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Casey is an avid gardener and homesteader with years of experience managing Mother Nature.

Every time I go out to the garden and start planting vegetables, my cats usually come and watch. I know as I dig in the dirt my cats are wondering when I'll be done messing around with their new litter box and will head straight to do their business where I was working as soon as I leave. I have six cats and that is always the routine.

In the past, my cats have been the worst pests to destroy new seedlings by digging them up to use the bathroom or sleeping on them. Over time, I've learned to protect my garden from those pain in the butt cats who I love but are destroyers of fresh veggies.

This is my cat, Vicki, who loves destroying my plants when I start seedlings in the house.
This is my cat, Vicki, who loves destroying my plants when I start seedlings in the house.

Place Your Plants Up High and Move Away Furniture

My tuxedo cat, Vicki, is the biggest terror to my indoor garden. I started hundreds of seeds indoors while the weather was still cold. The biggest challenge to keeping my plants alive was keeping Vicki away from them. This cat is big, fat, and lazy. She loves to climb places she knows you don't want her and lie down. She also loves windows. Vicki and an indoor garden can be a recipe for disaster if she gets anywhere near it.

To protect my indoor seedlings I made sure they were all high up on a table that was too hard for any cat to jump on. I moved all furniture away from this table so they couldn't use chairs or other tables as a way to get up high and then onto the seedling table.

Of course, once I started moving seedlings outside, that opened up room on the table and Vicki promptly killed 40 of my pumpkin seedlings by sleeping on them in the middle of the night.

Vicki, looking happy with herself, lying on the dirt-covered table where she knocked over my pumpkin plants.
Vicki, looking happy with herself, lying on the dirt-covered table where she knocked over my pumpkin plants.

Fences Are the Best Deterrent for Preventing Cats From Digging

Once plants are out in the garden, it is easier to find ways to protect your hard work from cats. My go-to method for protecting newly planted seeds from my cats is to lay some kind of barrier down to prevent them digging in the dirt. Putting a fence standing around my plants never works, because my cats always jump over them, or they try to climb them and knock them over. I have to lay fencing down on the ground to ensure no digging will happen. So far, this is my best method of protecting my plants.

I have some small wire fences that work well in my radish/carrot patch and over new seedlings. I used the fencing to keep our free-ranging ducks in the backyard and took leftover pieces to put over my plants. The wire prevents digging and doesn't block the sun or water from reaching my plants.

Depending on the plant, sometimes I leave the fence there all growing season (carrots and radishes) and sometimes I pull it up once the plants are large enough that my cats will leave it alone (tomatoes, bush beans, and squash). The fencing is great protection for root-type crops that grow underground, because my cats target those patches all growing season. Other plants like tomatoes grow large enough that the cats don't bother them after the plants start growing tall and bushy.

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My carrot seedlings with a cheap small fence lying over the top. I lay my fencing for root crops flat on the ground.I protect my bush beans with cheap fencing lying over the top. With larger growing plants, I tent the fencing over top, giving the plants space to grow so I can remove the fencing once the plants are big enough to deter digging by cats.
My carrot seedlings with a cheap small fence lying over the top. I lay my fencing for root crops flat on the ground.
My carrot seedlings with a cheap small fence lying over the top. I lay my fencing for root crops flat on the ground.
I protect my bush beans with cheap fencing lying over the top. With larger growing plants, I tent the fencing over top, giving the plants space to grow so I can remove the fencing once the plants are big enough to deter digging by cats.
I protect my bush beans with cheap fencing lying over the top. With larger growing plants, I tent the fencing over top, giving the plants space to grow so I can remove the fencing once the plants are big enough to deter digging by cats.

Laying Fencing Down, But Not Flat, for Plants That Grow Big

You can see in the two above pictures different ways I lay down fencing. With root crops, I usually lay my fencing down flat on the ground and leave it there all growing season. My cats usually destroy root crop beds, because the plants don't get huge, with most growth underground out of sight—making their beds seem like litter boxes all growing season.

With plants like bush beans or squash, I lay my fencing down on the ground, but I do it in a way that the wire makes more of a tent over the plants. If these plants grow to be big before I remember to pull the fence off, then I might break the plants trying to remove the fence. I try to "tent" over these types of plants to give them space to grow underneath the fencing, while allowing me to remove the fencing easier later down the line once the plants are large enough my cats won't mess with them.

My decorative pots I planted wildflowers in.
My decorative pots I planted wildflowers in.

Loose Decorative Pots Sitting on a Rail Are a Disaster Waiting to Happen

One year, I had several decorative baskets and pots that I planted flowers in. I put them on the rails of our porch where they looked beautiful.

Of course, the cats didn't like obstacles on the rails when they walked, so they quickly pushed all my pots off the porch to the ground far below. They tried to sleep in the baskets, and those fell off to the ground as well. The cats completely destroyed my flowers that year, so I learned my lesson. So how have I remedied this problem?

My pot with one screw through the bottom.
My pot with one screw through the bottom.

Screw Loose Pots Into the Rail

It helps to secure my pots to the wooden rails with screws. These were small pots I got from Dollar Tree, and only one long screw was needed in the center of these pots to keep them from falling off the rails.

If you choose to screw in your pots, do it before you add any dirt to the pot. Also make sure you have a good drainage hole in the bottom. I've made the mistake of screwing my pots in only to realize I didn't put in drainage holes. Your plants could get flooded during a rainstorm if the water can't drain, and adding drainage holes to a filled pot screwed to the railing may be problematic. It's easier to poke holes in an empty pot than a filled one.

I put sticks in my garden patch to deter cats.
I put sticks in my garden patch to deter cats.

Sticks or Forks Prevent Digging and Lying Down

I don't always want to spend money for fences, so I try to use what is cheap or easy to find. Since I live out in the woods, sticks are plentiful. I push sticks in the dirt every 6 or so inches so the tops stick out.

My cats see them and are deterred from walking in those spots. If I put enough sticks around my plants, they are left alone. You can also use plastic forks instead of sticks. You can get plastic forks at dollar stores. Push the handle into the dirt so that the sharp end of the fork is pointing upwards. Cats don't want to deal with sharp objects, so forks are a good method to prevent cats from lying down or digging.

Putting a plank of wood over my container fig tree is enough to deter my cats from trying to lie down.
Putting a plank of wood over my container fig tree is enough to deter my cats from trying to lie down.

If Your Cats Are Lazy, a Plank of Wood Prevents Sleeping in Pots

In this picture above, you can see a pallet board in the back, propped on two pots. My cats are lazy. They won't move stuff to lie down. This simple piece of wood put over top of the empty space on my fig tree and raspberry container plants was enough to stop my cats from sleeping in their pots. Lazy cats are the best, because you don't have to work hard to deter them from your plants.

These were some of the ways I protect my garden from my cats. If anyone has their own ways of deterring cats from a garden, feel free to share in the comments.

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.

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