Thursday, April 5, 2012

I love Cats, Just Not in my Yard

cat2 Many  gardeners don’t like cats in their yards. I have to admit, it isn’t one of my favorite things to be digging through my soil and come up with a hand-full of cat poop.

But the main reason I don’t like cats in my yard is because of the wildlife. Since I garden to attract wildlife,  I take my responsibility to protect that wildlife pretty seriously. So I don’t use chemicals in my yard AND I don’t tolerate free-roaming felines.

According to the American Bird Conservancy website:
  • Scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks.
  • Life for outdoor cats is risky. They can get hit by cars; attacked by dogs, other cats, coyotes or wildlife; contract fatal diseases, such as rabies, feline distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus; get lost, stolen, or poisoned; or suffer during severe weather conditions.
  • Free-roaming and feral cats also pose a health hazard to humans from the spread of diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis.
If I see a cat in my yard and I know who owns it, I’ll talk to the owner first, before I take any other steps. After that, I feel okay doing whatever is necessary to keep the cats away. The problem, of course, is that once a cat decides it likes your yard, it is pretty difficult to deter them. 

Here are some of the methods I found online for keeping the cats away, so that the birds, and other little critters, can continue to play:
  • Let your neighbors know how you feel about their roaming cat. The American Birds Conservancy website has materials you can download and share.
  • Squirt them (the cats, not the neighbors) with a blast of water from a garden hose or spray bottle. 
  • Get a dog (not always a good option if you like to attract wildlife).
  • Scatter orange or lemon peels or spray with citrus-scented spray around the area; cats generally dislike citrus.
  • Coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, or oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus also deter cats.
  • Sprinkle bloodmeal in your garden. Not only will it repel wildlife, but it is also a natural fertilizer.
  • Mix water and vinegar and spray at the base of trees and plants around the house.
  • Spray cat repellent (available at pet supply stores) around the edges of the yard,  top of fences and on any favorite digging areas or plants
  • Try growing rue or scattering dry rue (an herb)- cats dislike the smell.
  • Soak strips of old towels or rags in perfume or cologne and keep near target plants.
  • *** It is NOT advised to Place moth balls around the garden. Please see comment from Alison for more info. 
  • Arrange branches in a lattice-type pattern or wooden or plastic lattice fencing material over soil. You can disguise these by planting flowers and seeds in the openings. You can also try embedding wooden chopsticks, pinecones, or sticks with dull points deep into the soil with the tops exposed eight inches apart.
  • Use plastic carpet runners spike-side up, covered lightly in soil.
  • Set chicken wire firmly into the dirt with sharp edges rolled under.
  • Keep garbage cans covered to control rodents that may be a food source for feral cats.
  • Cover your child's sandbox when it's not in use.
  • Try an ultrasonic animal repellent that are available in lawn and garden stores
  • Use a motion-activated sprinkler so that a cat will be sprayed, but unharmed (I don’t really recommend this, since it seems like it would waste a lot of water)
  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large, attractive river rocks to prevent cats from digging. (They have the added benefit of deterring weed growth.)
And here is one of the most ingenious solutions I found:
  • Put some boogie bass in your yard. Remember those old motion activated singing fish (Don’t worry, be happy). I read online where one gardener put a boogie bass in her yard and it scared the cats away!
What about you? Have you come up with any good solutions for keeping the cats away?

Related posts : Pets and Pesticides
10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Garden

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