Ideas for Keeping Cats Out of Flower Beds


It’s not uncommon for people to come into the store looking for ways to keep cats out of their flower beds. I myself have had a nasty experience or two in my own gardens, digging away, enjoying the feel of dirt between my fingers, and then coming up with something soft and smelly. Cat feces can also carry toxoplasmosis, to add to the fun of the experience. Not only that, but people complain when the sun hits the flowerbed under their open window, that the stench rises up and makes them miserable. I cringe when customers say their indoor outdoor cat doesn’t use a litter box – “they just go outside”.  Meanwhile, their neighbors are cursing them and coming to our store looking for a magical spray that might repel cats from their nice garden filled with plants they might like to eat some day.
Trouble is, I’ve never really found a spray or powder that is all that effective at repelling cats, (or dogs that might want to dig in all that freshly turned soil). The worst part about those sprays (in the Northwest anyway) is that you have to reapply them after it rains – not too practical.  I’ve always thought that you would have to ruin the experience of the digging somehow to keep them out. I’ve always shared what ideas I could, but none of them seemed perfect. Mulching with pointy stones would work, but that could be a lot of rock for a big garden, and raking it out of the way when you want to plant something new might not be easy. Garden catalogs sell sections of plastic spikes that wouldn’t hurt them but would be uncomfortable to walk on – too expensive though, to buy all the sections you’d need, you have to put soil on them to make them stay, and you would have to take them out of the dirt any time you’d like to kneel somewhere to pull weeds, etc. Those spikes would be better for a flower pot. Lastly, I’ve heard about people burying hardware cloth or chicken wire a few inches down to create a barrier to digging, but I wouldn’t want to go to all that trouble myself, and you’d have to punch a hole in it to plant anything new.
Other ideas I’ve found as I’ve trolled the internet:
– citrus peels apparently are repellent to cats – I wonder if you could find them in larger quantities, or maybe dried shredded peels originally intended for potpourri?
– one person suggested burying plastic forks, tines up. Another said bamboo skewers inserted randomly around the garden keeps them out. At first I felt bad about that one, but cats have such fast reactions that as they started to step down on them they’d instantly hop back before they hurt themselves. I wouldn’t use this method in areas you don’t want your dog to dig in though – they might tromp right on one and hurt themselves.
– Holly leaves, bramble cuttings, pinecones, rose bush clippings,
– check out this clever device called the scarecrow – you hook it up to your hose and interlopers get a quick spray due to the electric eye. This might really work as well, if you only had one trouble spot. You’d just have to make sure it also wouldn’t get the mailman!
Do not use:
– mothballs – very toxic to you, the cats,  and the environment.
– cocoa mulch – can be toxic to dogs (they say they remove what’s toxic to dogs, but I’ve heard of anecdotal stories about dog sickness as a result of this mulch).
– cayenne or other powders, as it would be horrible if cats stepped in them and then rubbed it on their faces as they tried to clean it off.
Have any of you found ideas that you think work???