A lot has been written on the topic of deterring free-roaming domestic cats from neighbours’ gardens. I cover a recent discussion using plants in the EXPRESS newspaper below but first I would like to discuss this single effective way to deter cats from gardens.
I’m going to start with the underlying reason why this method should work effectively. It should be noted that you won’t get a 100% guaranteed effectiveness. However, I think most neighbours who want to keep cats out of the garden will be satisfied with about an 80% effectiveness.
What these people should be doing is making their garden an unpleasant place for a domestic cat to be in. I’m going to presume that they, themselves, do not own a domestic cat.
So how do you make a garden an unpleasant place for a cat to be in? Cats are very sensitive to noise. They are sensitive to what they consider to be hostile creatures. These are “creatures” which are predators larger than themselves.
Working on that principle, there are a couple of methods which can be used in unison to make a back garden unpleasant for wandering cats.
This argument applies to owners of homes who are not in the younger age bracket. I’ll explain why.
When a neighbour’s domestic cat comes into your garden you should go out into the garden and make a lot of noise, clap your hands and wave your arms and generally behave in an obnoxious way towards the cat but no physical contact while bearing in mind cat welfare. Cats must not be harmed in any way as it would be cruel and a crime under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in the UK. You should frighten the cat into believing that the space is unpleasant and dangerous. From the cat’s perspective this is not punishment by their caregiver but divine intervention. It will not affect the caregiver-to-cat relationship at all. The frightening method is employed by trekkers in the US when encountering a puma! It is the same principle.
I know that it is uncomfortable to frighten a neighbour’s cat, but you only need to do it once or twice to provide them with a very emphatic message: to stay out of this particular space. And I’m not talking about frightening the cat badly but just sufficiently to deter them. To send them a strong message that this is a hostile environment.
To this simple method you can add an ultrasonic sound deterrent. Science in surveys supports the argument that ultrasonic deterrence reduces the number of times that neighbouring cats wander into gardens by about 50%. And once they are in the garden they stay for a much shorter time. See link below.
The downside of ultrasonic deterrence is that some younger people can hear them, it has been reported. This should be borne in mind.
Another similar device would be a sprinkler driven by a motion sensor. This will startle a cat and make the place unpleasant.
That’s about it. It sounds quite simple, and it is because the underlying effectiveness comes from making a place unpleasant. Let’s remember that domestic cats have great senses such as olfactory and auditory.
What follows are afterthoughts.
Smell as a deterrent
I have mentioned the olfactory senses of domestic cats above. However, despite the fact that there is lots of advice about placing objects which produce smells that cats hate in the garden, I don’t think that these are very effective in deterring cats. They are certainly less effective than the methods I have mentioned above and, on that basis, I wouldn’t bother with them. Wrong? Disagree? Please tell me and why.
There is quite a nice article in the EXPRESS newspaper in that it tackles this problem from a different angle. It might be something that should be considered by a gardener provided they accept the fact that their garden will look a bit different. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) state that: “flower borders densely planted with perennials are less appealing as toilet areas”.
This is because there is no bare soil. What I am envisaging is plants that cover the ground densely which automatically protects the soil. Cats need soil in which to defecate and urinate if they are using a neighbour’s garden for that purpose. If they can’t get at the soil then they want defecate there.
That, I think, is a nice, elegant solution provided you can accept that kind of plant in your garden. And there are other plants that might help deter such as lavender because it is said that they hate the smell of lavender. However, I refer to my point above, I don’t think that smell is a great deterrent.
Another point that the RHS suggest is to keep “seed rows well-watered as cats dislike wet soil”. I agree with that. If the soil is wet, they are less likely to use it if there is drier soil nearby.
These are two points that I think are worth mentioning and which can be added to the other deterrents that I have mentioned above. Good luck.
Postscript: just as a quick afterthought, domestic cats are unusual in being given the right to roam freely in all countries across the planet to the best of my knowledge. Dogs of course do not have that right, but they are inherently more dangerous towards people. That’s the reason why.
But it is quite nice that in the sphere of cat ownership, the law does not impinge upon a cat and their owner’s freedoms. Cats cannot be prosecuted for trespass and neither can their owners if their cat ‘trespasses’.