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How to keep cats out of your yard

How to keep cats out of your yard
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re a cat lover or not, if you want to know how to keep cats out of your yard, this article has all the advice you need. If you’ve spent hours working on your flower beds or just want to keep your lawn tidy, you won’t be too happy about visiting cats wreaking havoc, but there are plenty of things you can do to remedy the situation. From understanding a cat’s likes and dislikes and the difference between catmint and catnip to why cats hate water, read on to find out how to use what you know to solve your problem. 

Why cats in the yard can be a problem

If you love cats, you may ask why the need to stop them coming into your garden? Visiting cats and even your own cat can be a real mischief outdoors. For starters, they have a tendency to ruin your lawn and flower beds. Cats not only love to eat grass but these curious critters will walk over, dig up and even eat your plants depending on what you’ve grown.

If you own your own cat, one of the problems of unwelcome visitors is that they may not get on with intruders. Cats like to mark their territory, which could lead to fighting and your pet getting injured. 

Another problem with cats marking their territory is that they’re doing their business in your yard. Cat urine is not generally a problem for your soil unless it is a large amount in one area. However, cat feces contains parasites and pathogens that are dangerous to humans, especially if you’re working with your hands in the garden, growing vegetables or have kids playing outside.

Cats are curious animals and they will come into your garden not only to explore, but to hunt and mate. They can be quite a nuisance, jumping and climbing over your garden furniture, knocking over pots and littering your back yard with whatever they choose to bring in with them.

Unfortunately, this often includes animals they’ve killed such as songbirds. Millions of birds are killed a year by garden cats and it’s not something you want in your outdoor haven. 

Luckily, there are many ways of deterring next door’s cats without causing them any harm.

cat on the grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ways to keep cats out of the yard

So how can you stop cats from coming into your garden? You want to try and make the prospect as unappealing to them as possible, whether that’s making it difficult for them to get in or using items in your garden that they will want to avoid. These are just some of the ways to keep your garden safe from roaming felines. 

1. Make surfaces uncomfortable to walk on

If you don’t want cats walking all over and digging up your plants, you’ll want to make surfaces harder or less appealing to walk on. Plant prickly or spiky plants, place shrubs close together or lay chicken wire under mulch to make it more difficult for cats to unbury. You can also lay pine cones, egg shells, pebbles or pieces of wood chippings in the soil or around your bedding to make it less comfortable for their paws. If you keep your flower beds wet, this might help too as cats are not fans of walking on wet ground. 

2. Use scents they don’t like

If you’re already spending time in the garden, why not try planting scents that cats do not like such as lavender, coleus canina, pennyroyal and rue plants. You can also scatter citrus peel such as the skin from oranges, lemon and grapefruit or mix a few drops of essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus or rosemary with a cup of water and spray the area you don’t want the cat to enter as the smell will repel them. 

3. Clean up

Keeping your garden tidy and clutter-free will make your garden less interesting to cats. Don’t leave items lying around that may pique a cat's curiosity, whether that’s your kids’ or your pets’ toys, or loose garden or laundry items like string. 

Make sure you don’t leave leftover food out either – and this means food left out for stray cats too. You might think you’re doing a good deed, but if you feed them, they’ll definitely be back for more. Plus, you could attract other unwanted animals such as racoons or make the cat sick as they’re not used to the food they’ve been given. Untidy bins and food waste could also attract mice, which again would entice a cat. 

4. Build a fence

The easiest way to stop a cat getting in is to build a high, close-boarded fence, but this involves a lot of planning and you’ll need building permission. To keep cats from jumping over, the fence will need to be at least 5.9ft (1.8m) high with an inward facing wire or netting overhang, but it also means ensuring there aren’t any overhanging trees or objects, which the cat can use to get over. You’ll also want to make sure any holes in fences or hedges are closed up. 

5. Use water

In general, cats do not like water. If you catch a friendly feline paying a visit, use a water pistol to squirt water near (not at) them to scare them away. For when you’re not home, you can also buy an automatic water spray that switches on when it detects motion in the garden.

Water can also be used to get rid of urine in your yard either from your cat or other cats to avoid territorial cats and fighting. 

6. Try using sound

If a cat does manage to get in to the yard and you see them, simply clap your hands together to scare them or shoo them away. If that doesn’t work, you can buy high frequency ultrasound devices, which give off a sound only cats can hear, which will put them off entering. For a less expensive fix, try bells or a can filled with stones that jingles when they land on the gate or fence to spook them. Or, if none of those sounds make them turn away and you love animals, try getting a dog. A bark is sure to keep them out. 

7. Create a cat corner

If you’ve tried all of these methods and failed, you could do the opposite. Instead of attempting to deter your neighboring cats, invite them in, but to only one section of your garden. By creating a cat corner with catnip, which they love, and a sandbox as a litter tray, hopefully they’ll stick to the area you’ve set up for them and leave the rest of your garden alone. 

cats fighting

(Image credit: Nicole Box/EyeEm)

What not to use to keep cats out of your yard

We wouldn’t recommend cat repellent products, but if you do choose to use these, make sure they are approved and licensed products and that you follow the instructions carefully. 

You should also be careful if making your own deterrents at home. Items such as coffee granules, which can be used as a deterrent, can actually be harmful to cats. 

What to do if your neighbor’s cat won’t leave your yard

If the problem is a neighbor’s cat and you also have a cat, there are a few other solutions. You could speak to your neighbor to check whether their cat is neutered and ask if they’ve created an area in their garden for the cat to use so it doesn’t do its business in yours. You could train your cat to use the indoor litter tray and have a cat-flap that only opens for your microchipped pet to avoid conflict. If you get on well you could even agree on set times to let your cats out. 

Conclusion

We hope one or more of these methods will help you keep your garden cat-free. If one stops working, just try change tactics as cats are clever so you’ll want to keep them on their paws. 

Zara Gaspar

Former editor of World of Animals magazine, Zara is a freelance writer with a passion for wildlife. Born in South Africa, she developed a love of animals from an early age. She is currently looking for a bigger house just so she can get a cat and a dog.