New ‘hack’ – used tea bags sprayed with Deep Heat to keep cats off your garden?

David Domoney, a British celebrity horticulturalist, has a ‘hack’ for keeping cats off your garden. He said: “One of the things that has worked effectively for me in the past is to save tea bags and spray them with a muscle heat spray, like Deep Heat.”

Cat deterrent: old tea bags sprayed with Body Heat.
Cat deterrent as suggested by David Domoney. Image: MikeB based on image of David on Wikipedia.

Right, that’s it. The hack of the century. Old tea bags soaked in a muscle heat spray called Body Heat. It has a strong smell which deters wandering cats.

I know I am being sarcastic but I can’t help it. How many super cat deterrent hacks have you seen on the internet? Perhaps not many but as I search the internet all the time for cat news and stories, I have seen a lot and I don’t believe them. I just don’t believe them.

Apparently, you sprinkle some earth over the tea bags which are placed around the section of garden that you want to protect. Yes, I can understand the need to disguise them as the cure is probably worse than the problem.

Think about it. You’ve got a perfect garden after years of meticulous planning and preparation. It is as pretty as it can be and you chuck old, smelly tea bags all over it to protect against the possibility of a wandering domestic cat peeing on it. It doesn’t really stack up. Neither does the fact that you have to sprinkle earth over the bags to hide them as this will suppress the smell and their effectiveness.

You’ll find countless smells that ‘cats hate’ which will deter them. They might to varying amounts for varying lengths of time but you’ll have to place these smelly objects all over your garden if you want to protect it all which is unviable. And the smells deteriorate quite quickly so you’ll have to top them up regularly. Once again it looks like the cure is worse than the ‘illness’.

It might be worth a try to use the tea bag hack to protect a particularly sensitive area of the garden. My preferred choice is more dramatic and expensive but also more functional: build a physical barrier.

Domoney, also mentions this method. For instance, you can install an overhanging fence to keep cats inside gardens. It is called ProtectaPet in the UK. There are other manufacturers. If you turn the overhanging section inside out it’ll stop cats climbing in over the fence. If you block up all other entrances, you’ll have an effective total barrier for peace of mind.

Cat containment fence
Cat containment fence. Turn it facing out to stop cats coming in. Picture: MikeB

It is expensive and troublesome so it depends how serious you are about protecting your garden. But it’ll be permanent. Or you might use a physical barrier to protect a small part of the garden to which you can add an ultrasonic deterrent as they have been found to work fairly well. To this combination of reasonably effective deterrents, you can add your presence and voice.

RELATED: Do ultrasonic cat deterrents work?

If you see the cat entering your backyard, go into it and confront the said trespassing cat and wave your arms around and make a lot of noise. That’s bound to shoo him/her away as they’ll regard you as a hostile and dangerous animal. But don’t harm them. That would be criminal behavior and cruel.

Do it a few times and they won’t come back for a long time if they are a cat with normal confidence levels. When they finally return – if they do – repeat the cycle. They’ll learn.

This ‘shouting and waving arms’ method is based on an advised method to protect yourself against a mountain lion that you might meet on a hike in the glorious American countryside. Make yourself big and dangerous-looking. Cats normally retire in response to that kind of human behavior.

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Should I allow my cat into the backyard if there are daffodils there?

Daffodils are toxic to cats
Daffodils are toxic to cats. Image: Mike B at PoC.

It is spring and synonymous with spring are daffodils. It’s great to see them and the smell of cut grass. It lifts the spirits and makes us feel better. But daffodils don’t make cats feel better especially if they chew them and you know what domestic cats are like. They like to put things in their mouth like babies and chew on it. And they like to eat grass and apparently the whole of the daffodil is toxic to cats including the green bits which look like grass.

So, in answer to the question in the title, it must be No. This is a great shame because daffodils look great in a garden.

Fortunately, daffodils are not fatal if eaten by your cat but the list of potential symptoms is copious:

  • Shivering
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Cat vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Tissue irritation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Stomach pain
  • Laboured breathing
  • Heart arrhythmia.

This danger is not theoretical because there is a story on a veterinary website (vets-now) about a female cat called Asha. She chewed on a daffodil, came back inside and went into her cat carrier to ask her owner to take her to the veterinarian. She was clearly ill and there were strange noises coming from her stomach.

She climbed into the carrier and I realised straight away that she was telling me I needed to take her to the vets. – Anna, Asha’s owner.

This vet website tells us that daffodils contain a poisonous alkaloid causing vomiting. The bulb is particularly toxic but I would doubt that a domestic cat would eat the bulb unless they are lying around. The toxicity of this part of the plant can cause abnormal heart rhythms or breathing problems in both cats and dogs.

Tulips

It isn’t just daffodils, the sign of spring and happy days ahead! Another spring plant, tulips, contain substances which are toxic to cats: Tulipalin A and Tulipalin B. They cause vomiting, drooling and diarrhoea. There may be tremors.

Tulipalin A, also known as α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone, is a naturally occurring compound found in certain flowers such as tulips and alstroemerias. – Wikipedia

Rhodos

And azaleas and rhododendrons also toxic as they, too, contain poisonous substances called grayanotoxins. A very small amount of this substance can poison a cat. Once again, the typical signs of poisoning will be present if a cat decides to eat a rhododendron namely vomiting, drooling, diarrhoea, weakness and possible tremors and seizures.

Grayanotoxins are highly toxic diterpenoids found in the leaves of several species of the genera Rhododendron, Kalmia, and Leucothoe in the large Ericaceae (heather) family. – American Chemical Society

Risk factor

I’ve mentioned three different spring plants which can bring us joy and a lot of pain and discomfort to a domestic cat. I don’t think you should have them in the garden or backyard if you have an indoor/outdoor cat. I don’t see any other really sensible solution.

On the upside, I don’t think a domestic cat would want to eat a daffodil so the risk is probably quite small but it is certainly present and the first duty of a cat caregiver is to keep them safe.

Why do cats eat plants and should I be worried?

Most popular houseplants are all poisonous to cats bar one

Top 10 most poisonous plants to cats

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