/ Home & Energy

How can you keep your garden feline-free?

Cat in grass

More than half of the Which? members we surveyed said cats have been a problem in their garden in the past two years. There are many tips and products available to keep them out, but which actually work?

I know lots of people adore cats and even though I’m dreadfully allergic to them, I think they’re fluffy, loveable things too. Until they keep me awake with their interminable howling or are cr***ing in my garden; and then my thoughts turn murderous.

I’ve tried numerous ways of deterring cats. For the night-time howling there’s nothing more effective than nipping out and chucking a glass of water over them – they move along quite promptly.

Ways to keep cats away

But when they’re soiling in my flower beds, on my lawn and even in my containers I find it more difficult to catch them at it and stop them. I’ve tried various methods of putting them off, including half-filled bottles of water, plastic snakes and prickly berberis clippings. The prickly clippings worked reasonably well, but the others were completely ineffective. The only way I’ve found to deter them permanently is to plant so densely they can’t get to bare soil.

The lawn-cr***ing I just put up with – but what else can I do? In a recent survey of our members, quite a lot of people recommended a motion-activated water spray or an ultrasonic repellent. I’m sorely tempted. But I don’t want to chase wildlife out of my garden either.

Have you had cat problems? Have you tried out some home-remedies for repelling these furry fiends? Or do you think that getting a dog is the only way to finally be rid of feline problems forever?

Comments
Member

There is a cat in our neighbourhood that sprays our front door and letterbox so we have a permanent smelly entrance to our home. Very unpleasant for the postman if we haven’t cleaned it off before he arrives and it is impossible to get rid of the stink.

On top of that, numerous cats take it in turns marking out their territory, spraying and killing plants in the garden, leaving their stink behind. They use our garden and plant pots as their loo and kill our wildlife.

Cat owners say it is natural and that non cat owners don’t understand cats, but why should we have to spend our time cleaning up their smelly mess, spend money on deterrents, watch them murder our wildlife just for fun?

Cat owners could train their cats to use a litter tray but they don’t want the smell in their homes. They could also take steps to ensure cats cannot get out of their gardens. Animals that hunt to survive is natural, but cats get fed so do not need to hunt.

Just about everywhere I have ever lived cats have been a nuisance, and I quite understand Adelaide when she says her thoughts turn murderous.

Why do we have to put up with it? Why do we have to spend money on deterrents? Why can’t cat owners take responsibility for their pets and take steps to ensure they stay on their own properties and don’t annoy other people?

Member

With 6 cats next door who have 24/7 cat-flap access outdoors into their paved area, and my garden being the only lawned one nearby, my grass suffered from many cat droppings. I now have a dog which sorted out the cats’ daytime access but they still come in at night. Can’t win.

Member
Angela.H says:
4 September 2015

I have found that putting Orange peel down on the area that they visit seems to do the trick and also they don’t like vinegar.

Member
Mara Comitas says:
22 June 2016

I so agree. We have a neighbor with at least 5 cats. The urinate in everyone’s flower beds and defecate on our lawns. I have called the health department and have been advised to file a nuisance complaint. The problem is proving that it’s this person’s cats. I have photos of them in my yard, but none of them using my yard as a potty. He is the only one, on our street, with cats.

Member

Hi Adelaide

You wrote:

“More than half of Which? members say cats have been a problem in their garden in the past two years.”

Oh really? – I seem to have missed that survey – or did you really mean “more that half of the members who responded to a survey on this blog”?

Member

Apologies, I’ve tweaked to say it was of the Which? members we surveyed. We surveyed a representative sample – 6,323 Which? members through the Which? Connect survey panel: http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/who-we-are/which-research/which-connect/

Member

Nope I missed that survey too.

We have three cats traverse our garden plus foxes and huge number of birds alight.

At this stage I ask how many responded to the survey and ask how the question was phrased. This is particularly important if it does not make a distinction between a one off incident and 365 day nuisance levels.

It is on par with have you disturbed by your neighbours in the last two years. A sufficiently broad question I am sure to get a 50% yes response rate. I could say yes – but only a couple of times per year.

Member

Chilli powder.

Member

I expected that the tests (see Adelaide’s first link) would focus on a collection of commercial products to help us deal with cat problems.

There are some interesting suggestions including buying or borrowing a dog, using a water pistol, human male urine and chasing the cat away.

Member

Adopt your neighbour’s cat. Treat it as your own. Stroke it, cuddle it, feed it treats and luxury foodstuffs. Let it regard your garden as its own personal space. Provide a nice aromatic litter tray and keep it clean. It will soon stop plopping on your plot and start squirting up its owner’s doorframe. Can the owner complain? Hardly – their remedy is to keep their cat under their control.

Member

Apart from being allergic to them, there are at least 8 cats that come in our garden (hence the never-ending territory marking), so I might not be adopting your purrfect solution.

Member

You have my sympathies. You will have to try the water treatment although your neighbours might report you for an ASBO if you wet them too often. Be careful though: use the hot tap in cold weather.

Member

I think cats should have the ASBOs.

Been there, done that on the water treatment. Just wish the super soakers worked at the range advertised.

Member
cheeky cat says:
5 September 2015

My neighbour has around 2 dozens cats and they all relax in my lawned garden. Luxury treats for all? You must be joking!

Member
Mara Comitas says:
22 June 2016

I purchased a Havahart Motion Detector Sprinkler. It shoots a stream of water when it detects motion. Too bad it can’t differentiate between cats and my neighbor’s children!

Member
dieseltaylor says:
22 June 2016

Let us know how it lasts. I was looking at this one which is highly rated and has the facility to daisy chain to increase coverage by using an existing sprinkler.
irrigationhub.com/garden-watering/pest-control/orbit-yard-enforcer

Perhaps gardening Which? can carry out some testing this year as it seems they are efficient. Not so good when the weather turns freezing and of course never use one of those xhose type hoses.

Member

An obvious weakness in these designs is having the sensor and other electrical components below the source of water rather than above. Battery compartments and controls offer potential for water ingress and premature failure, especially since an outdoor product is subject to considerable variation in temperature.

Member

Cats are very pernickety creatures, preferring freshly dug dry soil to use for their toilet. I have tried numerous remedies which will work for a short period but they always return when conditions suit them. I have stopped digging up their excrement since the freshly dug soil you provide in doing this only invites a return visit. I now leave their droppings alone since my plants have not suffered at all and have a periodic clean up every spring and autumn when carrying out a routine garden tidy up, armed with a supply of `doggy doo` bags. Because of their penchant for long grass also I try to keep my grass as short as possible to deter them from dropping their faeces there.

Member

Was the survey just of Gardehing Which? subscribers ? Just curious.

I have now seen the survey results under the heading of a page the Best Cat repellents which does have numbers of members who have tried different methods and some percentages.

To add some science a first glance at the Web gives

” Abstract

Ultrasound deterrents for a variety of mammals, including cats, are widely available in the commercial market, but few have been independently tested for efficacy. This study tested the efficacy of an ultrasonic cat deterrent ‘Catwatch©’, using 63 and 96 volunteer observers in two long-running (18 and 33 weeks) blind experiments. Results indicated that the device did have a moderate deterrent effect, reducing the probability of a cat intrusion into a garden by approximately 32% in the first experiment, but not in the second. The average duration of intrusions was reduced by approximately 38 and 22% in the two experiments, respectively. The magnitude of the deterrent effect appeared to increase with time, since the device was deployed. It is likely that the size of the deterrent effect could be increased by positioning the device(s) more carefully with regard to entry points to the garden that are regularly used by cats.”

The efficacy of an ultrasonic cat deterrent
Sarah Helen Nelson, Andrew David Evans, Richard Brian Bradbury 2005

A summary of the $31.50 article by a readers is:
” A study into the efficacy of ultrasonic cat deterrents found that they do work, and that the effect can discourage cats from returning increases the longer the device is used. Unfortunately you have to pay to read the results of the testing, but I can summarize that in the 18 weeks test they involved well over 50 cats and concluded that ultrasonic device did reduce cat visits. They also advised that the effectiveness could be enhanced by carefully planning the location of the device to capture cat entry points.”

Water is reputed to be effective and you can actually buy a water jet and a ultrasonic sounder as an all in one.

Just to see what is available a quick scan gives:

“Many people find cat-fouling a nuisance and their hunting can cause distress. This device is proven to reduce the presence of cats in gardens and the deterrent effect increases over time. Put simply, Catwatch actually trains cats to stay away from your garden.

Catwatch does this by emitting a unique ultrasonic alarm, triggered by the cat’s movement and body heat as soon as it enters the protected area.

The only cat deterrent tested and recommended by the RSPB, and was awarded Product of the Month by Practical Fishkeeping for its outstanding success in pond protection. Only repellent approved by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the UK’s leading wildlife organisation.

Made in the UK
Two year warranty
125m2 (1,350ft2) coverage
Inaudible to humans
Does not affect other animals
Harmless to cats
Can be powered by a 9 volt battery or a mains adaptor with increased performance.
Mains adaptor sold separately – Click Here to view.
Works day and night, in all weather conditions ”

I doubt it is going to 100% effective unless it is used judiciously around the garden so that the cats are made to jump in different areas but for those people who suffer it would seem a cheapish
cure.

In the Which? test it ends up with an unexplained 32% score. I am not sure if this means 32% found it effective or it was only effective 32% of the time. If it was the former it might be helpful to know what brands of ultrasonic device they were using, whether they moved it about, or simply the garden was too large for a single device.

Perhaps Which? should carry out an ultrasound cat deterrent test and /or buy a copy of the 2005 report to precis the results in a useful way.

Member

We tried a Catwatch recommended by the RSPB. You either need a never-ending supply of batteries or a waterproof power supply.

It might work in a small garden but a single Catwatch is not suitable for a large garden with wood pigeons and crows that set it off every few minutes.

Member

Dieseltaylor – I have looked at the paper you mention and the conclusion by the authors is that there is some effect but more research is required:

“This study clearly demonstrates that the ultrasonic device tested did have a moderate deterrent effect and thus offers a partial solution to householders wishing to exclude cats from their garden. Further research could usefully investigate whether the magnitude of the deterrent effect could be increased by more careful positioning of a device or multiple devices.”

Member

Hi Diesel, it was a survey of more than 6000 Which? Connect members, so not just Gardening subscribers.

Member

There is no cat problem where we live [it’s all dogs in our district] but our front garden is frequently visited by deer that pooh on the lawn, eat the Irises, and have stripped the Magnolia. We are working our way through an American book on deer-resistant plants but nothing we have yet tried is distasteful enough to deter them. The trouble is, the things deer don’t like we don’t like the look of.

Member
Lee Kerry says:
30 August 2015

The Two best deterrent’s on the market without doubt is either a good Terrier dog who is trained to go bonkers at the merest mention of the Cats word or failing that is the wonderful ultrasonic water sprayer aka Scarecrows. I am now on my 2nd one and they are simply brilliant and within a week or two you will have a beautiful cat free garden, plus the added bonus of your garden being watered. Last year my 1st device seized up due I think to the salts in the water gradually fowling up the works, (its a good idea to try and soak/wash the device yearly in order to stop that salt buildup occurring), in the meantime the neighbouring & all other local cats all decided to play mark thy territory and despite the plethora of cat deterrent chemicals I used none worked effectively for more than a few days, the first rain showers negated the effects and so Mr / Mrs cat decided the area needed marking with crap bombs, just nicely buried below ground so you got a real nice pungent surprise when hoeing / weeding. Enough was enough and I invested in a water scarecrow again and within a fortnight all cats have decided the area no longer needed marking and all was well with the world. They are readily avalable and though expensive they are well proven and certainly solve the problem.

Member

Thanks for that great explanation Lee. Certainly seems to do the biz for you.

Banjo – must make growing your own chilis seem much more worthwhile.

Member

I use chopped chilli NOT chilli powder. It lasts longer than powder or pepper and clings to the animals fur much better. My local asian supermarket has a hot version. Very nice. I plan on adding a layer of chicken wire which will be raised a few inches above the soil level.

Member

alfa-

That is very interesting alfa as you might have thought the RSPB commissioned research would have sussed body mass/heat levels for triggering during their testing. Possibly worth raising with the manufacturers that it is over-sensitive however given that cats and bird temperatures are only a degree or two apart it is a problem.

However it did make me aware what a pest birds are for wrecking seeds and pinching fruit so overall it makes a cat seem quite useful. if you are a gardener who grows crops and from seed.

I did note that an external power module was sold and just thought it was a convenience thing but perhaps excessive battery usage is the real reason. This US version claims:
” It operates for up to nine months on one standard 9 volt battery. (Battery life estimate is based upon 4900 activations spread over 245 days at an average of 20 per day.)
Unit protects about 330 square feet (20 feet or 9m in front of the unit in an 80 degree arc). There are no controls or adjustments. Simply install the battery and position in your garden”

I did note that prickly strips are available to make cats wary about leaping onto fence panels or walls to get into gardens. The cheap solution presumably is berberis, pyracantha is too wicked, but holly etc is probably just right.. If one wished to be more decorative I wonder about teazels. And of course it better be your fence that you are attaching them to. However leaving them spread on the ground where cats land will eventually train them not to trespass as it is uncomfortable.

I have used branches to keep birds and I suppose incidentally cats of growing seeds. I have also used black plastic sheet underneath a thin layer of soil when growing potatoes [ to save on mounding-up] and I suspect cats would not like that.

wavechange –
Given the study was 2005 it would be nice if another survey was carried out.

Member

The 2005 paper states that the device works by detecting movement and body heat, which is a poor explanation since they detect reflection of infrared radiation as well as emitted infrared. The principle and limitations of PIR detectors (used in burglar alarms and other applications) are well documented.

This paper has had only six citations so far, so there is probably not a lot of academic interest in the subject. Search for “Cats about town: is predation by free-ranging pet cats Felis catus likely to affect urban bird populations?” for a higher impact paper that explores the impact of domestic cats on bird population. A pdf is available.

If the manufacturers of ultrasonic cat deterrents wanted to commission independent research into the efficacy of their devices they could do so, but the conclusions might not help promote sales.

Member

Our batteries only lasted a week or two !!!

We did get the long external power lead, but as we have no external power supplies, it had to be plugged into an internal socket and run under a door, then lying across the garden. We did use it for a short time, but didn’t like the idea of having it plugged in when it rained, and removed it when we saw a squirrel playing with it.

This was probably 10 years ago and there might now be an improved version.

But, bringing up the subject of the Catwatch has got me thinking of trying it beside our front door if I can find it. It is definitely worth a try. We don’t see so many big birds there so the batteries would last longer.

Member

The Catwatch website shows a power supply with 10 metres of thin two-core cable with a 9V battery connector at the other end. Hopefully it’s safe but it’s not a brilliant idea to have thin unprotected cable outdoors. Cats might chew it. 🙂

Member

Alfa – I forgot to say that I do not know of any outdoor power socket that could accommodate the chunky power supply.

The product should have a decent capacity rechargeable lithium battery, as commonly used in power tools. Recharging once a year would be sufficient.

Member

We didn’t like the unprotected cable either that was also easy to trip over. We could have got some cable protectors but they would have just been in the way.

We only used the Catwatch for a few weeks, firstly on the mains, unplugging it at night and in wet weather until a squirrel was interested in the cable, then gave up after the second battery.

Member

I have armoured cable that runs 80ft down the garden terminating in a waterproof socket that came from Aldi for about a £5 You can buy large plastic waterproof boxes designed for electric that you can run cable in and out of for I think around £20 which could home a transformer. It could also contain a further length of cable if you wanted to extend the range of places it could be used.

Member
Phil says:
31 August 2015

By the sound of it there wouldn’t be much left of the 9Volts by the time it got to the device.

Member

I’m guessing that Diesel is describing his outdoor mains power set-up hard-wired into a wall-mounted switch unit on the outside of the house. It sounds exactly like a system we had at our previous house with 25 mtrs of armoured cable terminating in a weatherproof double socket that we enclosed in a waterproof box from which two branches of similar length yellow ‘arctic’ flexible cable supplied a number of floodlights to illuminate the garden features, trees and shrubs plus the pond pump and lights. All perfectly safe and easy for DIY installation.

Member

I have tried putting holly sprigs on bare soil in the spring. Worked quite well. Nothing I can do about the lawn. Grrrrrrrr

Member

In Australia cats must be kept indoors at night. Presumably by law.
Don’t know what happens to those that aren’t.

Member
Karen says:
4 September 2015

Go to your local supermarket and buy up their own brand pepper. Sprinkle that over your garden and that keeps them away for sure. A cheap remedy for under £1.

Member
Pippa Richardson says:
5 September 2015

Cats keep killing birds in my garden, so that I am deprived of the pleasure of watching birds feeding – they no longer come to the bird-feeder. I am utterly disgusted that local cat owners let their animals roam free killing birds as they go.

Member
Tiffin says:
6 September 2015

My cat craps in my garden but gets routinely terrorised by other cats, one of which I got with the hosepipe while he was to busy staring at my cat to notice me….haven’t seen him since. The British Blue, nice looking, nasty attitude, even tries to share me out. Haven’t got rid of him yet!

Member

Just as a warning to feline sufferers:
http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/business/business-news/mog-tyne-cat-cafe-opens-9765711

and guess what this month there is a copy-cat one opening . : )

Regarding Australia there is no law regarding keeping cats indoors there is this:
http://abc13.com/pets/cats-in-australia-could-soon-be-banned-from-going-outdoors/893252/

Apparently 23% of households have a cat.!

Member
Helen says:
9 September 2015

I tried everything to stop the cats pooing in my veg patch at my old house. Tried the orange peel, the chilli powder and the ultrasonic scarer but they just stopped for a bit and then came back. I even went round to my neighbours and told them about the advice on the Cat Protection League website as to how to encourage their own cats to go in their own back garden. I was told, “they won’t do that” and that was it.

Contemplated smearing it all over their front windows or leaving it on their doorstep (this is when I had sunk my fingers into fresh poo, again).

But then I tried pelleted chicken manure, which is a good fertliser, lasts on the surface of the soil for longer than the orange peel/chilli and really, truely worked. I used to go round every month or so and scatter handfuls.

I’ve moved now and live near the farmers’ fields. In a semi-urban environment, pooing in gardens seems to be more trouble than it is worth, presume they go in the fileds and hedgreows. They come for my bird feeders but I run at them hissing like a mad lady.

Member

Catch the cat and put some Huggies on it. Easier said than done I expect.

Member

Cats wreck my seed beds, spray on plants and shit everywhere. Their shit puts us at risk of toxoplasmosis, particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Cats will even climb into prams. A car’s paintwork can be ruined by cats scratches.
I have no wish to harm cats but we simply should not have to put up with it. Cat owners should have the same responsibility for their cats as for dogs. Cats are either domestic pets, like dogs, or they are feral animals if allowed to behave as such.

Member

Very disappointed in the Which? article on “deterring cats” – “Cat repellents”! The article refers only to deterring cats from gardens without consideration of the much more costly problem of cats climbing on and scratching cars which of course spend the greater part of their lives parked in garden driveways.
Also disappointed that the article consists of a member survey only. Why didn’t Which test a few devices?
Searching online, I’m surprised to be unable to find a sonic cat repeller that runs off a car battery.

Member

S*** gets censored but “crap” is ok?

Member

I’ve added c*** to the profanity filter 🙂

Member

In these days of artificial intelligence could the profanity filter not include a thesaurus that substitutes a nicer version of the word rejected?
It is sad, though, that these days I cannot think of a profane word that is not used widely in print and the media. Once upon a time you reserved some words for private use that expressed an emotion in the strongest possible way. I now don’t know any such words that are left – they’ve all become devalued. I don’t suppose anyone can suggest any as the filter will just leave us guessing. Oh b*****!

Member

I’m actually regretting adding that c word to the profanity filter. Instead, I’m going to take both out of the profanity filter. Unless I hear otherwise, which will make me reassess. I remember the days when ‘reassess’ would be filtered due to the word ‘ass’ being in the middle.

Anyway, back to cats.

Member

I used to have cats defecating in my front garden. After being chased a few times they stopped visiting.

I never have a problem these days because I’m lucky enough to have neighbours without cats. 🐱

Member

What makes you think it’s your front garden? Cats are not just territorial but proprietorial.

Member

I will bear that in mind, John. I have realised that one of my neighbours does have a cat but it seems to stay in their back garden, as did their previous cats. Thinking back to the early eighties, I had to be careful to keep the doors shut or I would find a cat (belonging to the same neighbours) in my bungalow. Once I came home to find I had locked it in and on another occasion I found it on the worktop sampling my baking. 🙁

I must ask my neighbours how they have trained their cats to stay away from my home and garden.

Member

Cats are independent creatures with no concept of other people’s property, We had such an independent animal when I was small. It knew the time my father was walking home from work for lunch and in the evening. It would wait in someone’s garden down our road and then meet him and follow him home. As for property, neighbours about 6 houses away had laid out a (tinned) salmon salad tea for guests but left a window open in the dining room. The salmon largely disappeared, the culprit being our cat.
This is life, isn’t it? We need to share our world; we don’t own it.

Member

I would like to see evidence to support this, Malcolm. Cats can certainly be trained to avoid scratching furniture and to use litter trays. On the other hand, it seems difficult or impossible to persuade some cats not to attack birds. It would be interesting to know what can, cannot and might be achieved.

Member
Fran says:
1 December 2015

I used to find as many as ten foul offerings on my lawn if I hadn’t cleared them up for a week. My solution has been to erect cheap and simple fencing around the perimeters of my garden using 8 foot canes and plastic mesh netting. It’s ugly but effective. I tie white ribbons to deter birds from flying into it. Young cats still jump over my gates but the number of poos is much reduced. I wish someone would manufacture cheap, smart anti- cat fencing for the gaps at the bottom of hedges.
The Which survey raised the issue but no convincing solutions came out of it so it was frustrating.

Member

Hello everyone
I’ve joined Which and am very interested in your ideas on how to deter cats coming into your gardens.Im having the same problem with (thankfully)only 1 cat .They are a nuisance when they use your garden as a toilet and scare the wildlife.If I find and more suggestions I’ll post them on.Kaz B