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Pesky Cats!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When cats use your garden as their personal outdoor toilet, these normally tidy pets become a major frustration. Not only do they make a mess, literally, but the smell can be dreadful! What's more, as you'll learn, exposure to cat feces can infect an unborn child.


So how can you keep the cats away from your vegetables?


To a cat "in need," there's nothing more attractive than fluffy soil--in my garden, the freshly tilled carrot bed is a particularly strong attraction. For everyone who might have kitty concerns, here are several easy, safe, and effective ways to deter cats from using your garden as a litter box:


Remove the evidence


Yes, remove the cat poop. Sorry, but you've got to do it. Leaving it there will signal it as being a cat-toilet.


Water to the rescue!


Most cats hate to get wet, so squirt visitors with water from a high-powered squirt gun. You know - a toy water-pistol. There is an automated option, which you attach to a hose. It delivers a water jet when activated by a motion detector. But this option requires you maintain a garden vigil – not always possible.


Dust with pepper


Every few days, sprinkle the feline's favorite digging spot with black pepper or the following powder mix (Warning: You wouldn't like to get hot cayenne pepper in your eyes, right? Neither does a cat. One gardener reported that it gets on the cat's paws. Then when they wash themselves and they get it in their eyes they have scratched and damaged their eyes):

2 parts cayenne pepper

3 parts dry yellow mustard

5 parts white flour


Note from Ed: personally I think this option is cruel, as how will the poor kitty know it got the pepper from your garden when it performs its personal hygiene at sometime after relieving itself in your garden – i'd hazard a guess that it just may not be able to make the link…


But wait, there's more!


Cat deterrents come in all shapes and sizes. I discovered quite a list on various forums. Here are a few:


        Apply blood meal (a nitrogen-rich fertilizer)

        Give them their own areas to dig in, such as loose soil and fine mulch

        Provide your cat with his/her own plants. For example, pots of grass to chew on.


Some chewables include barley grass, oat grass, wheat grass, catnip (a member of the mint family), valerian, and sweetgrass.


Important note for pregnant women


Cats can be more than a nuisance in the garden. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, about 85 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. are at risk of being infected with toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in raw and undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables, water, dust, soil, dirty cat-litter boxes and outdoor places where cat feces can be found.


In babies, T. gondii can cause hearing loss, mental retardation, and blindness. Some children can develop brain or eye problems years after birth.


Roadblocks to digging!


Try making the soil less dig-able by laying flat stones, river rocks, chicken wire, fish net, or plastic webbing on top of the soil. (Some people who aren't as concerned about a cat's feelings, place carpet strips--which are wooden strips with short, very sharp and pointy nails poking through--nail side up. Not nice. Another note from Ed: Evil!!)


Ideas sent in by readers:


1. Poke chopsticks in the soil to keep cats out of the garden.

2. Cats do not like oranges! Just peel one near your cat and watch him/her disappear. Orange peels keep cats away. Sprinkle them in your garden.


Plants to the rescue!


As mentioned before, cats love catnip. Grow a garden of catnip to lure cats away. Or drive them away with plants. In Germany, a gardener created a hybrid plant called Coleus canin. It smells like peppermint schnapps, but it's reported to be repulsive to cats. Marketed under the names Pee-off and Scaredy Cat. This plant has a pungent odor that is said to repel cats and other mammals from the garden.

Adapted from an article courtesy of Marion Owen

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