Last updated: December 10, 2016
Cats are beautiful and our world just wouldn’t be the same without them. Unfortunately, though you and I keep our cats inside our houses and gardens, neuter and spay them so the males don’t wander and the girls don’t become too fetching to neighborhood toms, lots of people don’t, which is a pity. There are also stray cats and feral cats who wander around in search of mates. Your average tomcat is very territorial, and if he decides that your garden and home are part of his “patch” he’s not going to ask your permission to claim both of them as his own. He does this by laying down his own particular brand of fragrance – I’m sure you’re familiar with it! So if you’d like to show him the door without hurting him – read on to find out how to keep stray cats away from the house.
Of course, the best way to dissuade wandering cats from frequenting the garden is simply not to let them in there in the first place. You can do this by using a cat-proof fence, which you can buy at pet supply stores or order online. Again, there are simple D.I.Y. fences you can make at home using materials easily available from the hardware depot.
Yes, you read that right. But it can’t be any old pee; it has to be male pee or it won’t work. (Sorry, girls!) Male cats mark their territory with their own pheromones, and if they detect that a bigger male is there they’ll give it a wide berth. Cats can tell a lot from pee! Another human-based product that costs nothing is hair. Apparently, if you take what’s left from your hairbrush in the morning, or beg some from your local hairdresser, and scatter it around the problem area, they’ll stay away. That’s the theory anyway, and lots of people swear by it.
Now, we all know how much cats LOVE water – not! So if you feel like being a ninja in your own garden, wait for one of the little blighters to jump over your wall and ambush him with your water pistol. He will not be charmed. Unfortunately, this usually happens around 3am, so if you don’t feel like getting up in the wee small hours to scare the fur off marauding toms, install a motion-sensitive sprinkler that will do the job for you. It doesn’t harm tom and it waters the garden all at once!
Oranges and Lemons
I personally don’t like the smell of fish, but cats love it. I love the smell of fresh orange peel but my cat runs a mile from it – absolutely can’t stand it – and most other cats feel the same, so if you love oranges and lemons as I do, scatter the peel liberally all over your garden, and spray citronella oil over garden fences, walls and anywhere else that is a tomcat highway. Eau de Citron smells a lot better than Eau de Tom!
Ever heard a dog whistle? No? Neither have I, and there’s a good reason for that. Cats and dogs can hear sounds that are much higher in frequency than we can, but because their hearing is so acute, there are certain ones that are actually painful to them. There are motion-sensitive ultrasonic repellents which emit a sound that is so unpleasant for poor tom that he’s gone in a flash!
Noxious Oils and Other Stuff
Certain lovely oils that you and I find irresistible are ever-so-resistible to cats. Try lavender, lemon grass, citronella, eucalyptus or mustard oil. Coffee grounds and pipe tobacco too, which are very pleasant for us but which cats hate, are both biodegradable so they’ll feed your plants too! Ruta Graveolens, commonly called rue is a herb cats detest, so plant it liberally! In fact, cats will “rue” the day they set paw in your yard! (Get it?) Use old mothballs too. They STINK!
Commercial cat repellent is available at any pet supply store. Spray it freely around the perimeter of your property, the top of walls, and anywhere else you can identify as a place where the cats dig or spray. Alternatively, you can make your own D.I.Y. mix at home, using the perfumed oils mentioned above and other ingredients like black pepper and jalapeno peppers. You can find many different ingredients on the internet. If you don’t want to go to all that bother (some of us would rather be out shopping and drinking cappuccino!) then try sprinkling white pepper in the affected areas. After he’s sneezed about a million times I think tom will get the message!
Make It Uncomfortable
Cats like soft smooth comfortable things. Think of cool tiles, soft carpets, your sofa, your pillow, and last but not least, your lap! So it stands to reason that they won’t tolerate walking or digging in places where there are pine cones, pebbles, or sharp stones. You can also use gravel or any material that just doesn’t feel comfortable to the highly sensitive and well-engineered biological machine that is a cat’s foot! None of these materials will hurt the cat, but if the house next door has a smooth lawn it’s as good as a handwritten invitation!
To get the job done, cats will use the path of least resistance. If you make it too hard for them they will give up and go away to bother someone else. If you stick things like plastic forks, chopsticks, and twigs which are approximately 10 inches (25 centimeters) long, at a distance of about 8 inches (20 centimeters)apart in the soil, it will just be too much trouble for tom to dig there. These things aren’t sharp enough to do kitty any harm, but he will find them to be an infernal nuisance!
Chicken Wire and Lattice Fencing
As we said before, cats don’t like hard work, so make it difficult for them and they’ll just give up. If you’re a feral cat you have to hunt for your food. But if somebody places a nice bowl of kibbles out for you, you’ll scoff it in no time flat. Similarly, if there is the feline equivalent of a red carpet laid out for you, you’ll sashay down it, but if you keep getting your feet caught in chicken wire or lattice fencing it really is no fun! So if you’d like your plants to stay pristine, put a layer of chicken wire or lattice fencing down underneath the top layer of soil. Your plants will do just fine – but tom will hate it!
Stray cats, feral cats, house cats – we love them all – but maybe not in our house! Eh, Rascal?