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David Beaulieu

How to Keep Cats Out of Planting Beds

By November 9, 2005

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One reader who came across my recent article dealing with the challenges posed by landscaping with dogs wrote to me with a problem. She owns a dog and, although she lets him outside, she relates that it is not the dog who gives her the problem. "My problem? We have 6 cats!!! Do you have any suggestions to offer?" she asks....

Hi David!

I am an avid reader of your landscaping articles and your About.com landscaping web site. When I have a question or need help with a particular plant or project, the first place I look to is your web site.

Recently I read your piece, "Coexisting With Dogs in Your Yard", and although I found it most interesting, I am lucky in the sense that I don't have issues with my dog. My dachshund does love to dig (hence, his name Digger), but I've learned to use this to my advantage in my landscaping projects. I tell him where to dig, and if I let him, he'd probably dig his way to China. He has a particular place that he likes to "do his business", which happens to be down by the septic tank at the edge of our 2 acre property. I couldn't ask for a better pet and gardening buddy.

My problem? We have 6 cats!!! Do you have any suggestions to offer? (Warning: My husband actually adores every one of these cats, so the first thought that comes to your mind would prove to be wasted written words, as they were wasted spoken words when I said them to him.) I tried the Scaredy Cat plant last year, but it didn't frighten the cats in the least. It merely took over the entire bed that I had it planted in, which probably wouldn't have bothered me had it been even slightly pleasing to look at. I've hosed the cats down when I've caught them in the beds more times than I would ever admit to my husband. We even put a sand pit out to entice them to use it as a litter box instead. They do use it, but they continue to use my beds also.

I really don't have a problem with them getting in the beds as they are not destructive... they simply lay under the taller plants for shade. What I'm most concerned with is their excretions and the damage it is doing to my plants and to the soil. Despite our constant attention to watering, feeding and debugging, my bedded flowers are just not as full and healthy looking as those outside of the beds. So, I guess what I'm asking is... What should I be looking or testing for in my soil? And how can I fix any problems I find?

Thank you in advance,
S Mace

My response:

While I'm aware that the experts discourage us from including cat feces in compost piles (because of the parasites they may harbor), I cannot find any reports of cat feces/urine degrading a patch of soil. But still, it wouldn't hurt to have your soil tested, and you can do so by sending a sample to your local county extension. To find your extension, do an Internet search for "county extension X," replacing X with the name of your state university. Your extension's Web site should list its offices' locations statewide.

Regardless of what a test of your soil reveals, you'll still want to take action to keep the cats away (for sanitary reasons). You've tried, without success, three of the tactics commonly used to repel cats (hosing, planting a repelling plant, and providing sand). Here are some other tactics commonly used for existing beds:

1. Use a commercial cat repellent, such as Shake-Away.

2. Sprinkle "stinky" substances like dried-blood fertilizer or ammonia around the problem area.

3. Purchase a product that is motion-activated and fires water at intruders, such as the Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler.

4. Plant a catnip bed in a separate part of the yard, to lure the cats away from the problem area.

5. Cats can be kept away by installing an electric fence.

6. In mulching the problem bed, include bristly material, such as sharp-edged pine cones.

7. Another mulch-related idea is to use stone mulch. It may not be the most attractive mulch for your particular bed, but cats prefer to poop in loose dirt. They're lazy diggers, so they usually won't bother with an area mulched in stone.

Good luck,
David Beaulieu
About Landscaping


April 4, 2008 at 9:54 pm
(1) Dawn says:

I would like to comment on the sentence ” I cannot find any reportsof cat feces/urine degrading a patch of soil” My neighbor has 3 cats he treats likes children, lets them out to roam the neighborhood, creating havoc where ever they go, be it teasing the dogs and using my flower bed right under our bedroom window. Everything that I planted there has died where as the same plants on the other side of the veranda are THRIVING! soil problems, doubt it. I am forced to keep my room window closed because of the slightest breeze will bring the foul orders in, hate to work in the yard on that side because of the over powering smell.I will try the shake away and pray that it works.

May 30, 2008 at 4:43 am
(2) Troubled says:

We have a similar problem. Our neighbor has over 20 cats that are allowed to roam the neighborhood freely. The city, county and even the health department fail to take action and uphold existing leash laws and laws that require pet owner to keep pets fenced or contained. The cats us the neighborhood mulched and sanded gardens an litter boxex, stench from the feces and urine have prevent us and other neighbors from designing certain landscape styles. This type of individual is not fully intouch with reality or socieity and cannot be approached about this issue. One neighbor and once close friend tried to explain the impact of the cats. This started an series of retaliation by the cat owner. A person that is so unresponsible and uncaring for their “friends” and the neighborhood cannot be talked to rationally. HOW CAN WE SAVE THE NEIGHBORHOOD??

May 30, 2008 at 7:51 am
(3) landscaping says:


The people we meet in our everyday lives can be pretty unbelievable sometimes, which is why I’m not surprised at all that we can’t “solve the problems of the world.” While I don’t have any answers pertaining to the people side of your question, I do offer the following article on cat repellents:


April 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm
(4) Donna says:

I, too, wish that others were responsible pet owners. I will try the “stinky” shake repellents in my yard and garden, but if we have problems with neighborhood cats, we will put out our have a hart trap and maybe the cat owners will sing a different song when they have to pay to bail their cat out of jail.

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