How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard

How to keep cats out of your yard

10 Humane Methods and FAQs

It’s one thing when a cat chooses you as its favorite person, but it’s an entirely different matter when it chooses your flower bed as its favorite litter box. If you’re wondering how to keep cats out of your yard, don’t despair. With a little effort and the right products, your yard can be a cat-free zone in no time. 

Why do cats visit your yard?

Like all animals, cats are drawn to food, shelter, and water, but they will visit your yard for other reasons. Cats wander through neighborhoods out of curiosity when hunting and trying to find a mate.

The Importance of Humane Cat Deterrent Solutions

Whether you’re dealing with your cats or your neighbors’, there’s a laundry list of ways they can be problematic. If you have problem cats in your neighborhood, you might be experiencing problems like these:

  • Cats disturb your landscaping and flower beds.
  • Cats use your flower beds as litter boxes.
  • Cats hunt and kill birds and small animals in your yard.
  • Cats mark their territory by spraying.
  • Cats scratch your decks or outdoor furniture.
  • Cats fight at night, causing loud noise disturbances.

Besides being nuisances, cats carry fleas, ticks, parasites, and diseases, which can spread to you or your pets. Fortunately, there are a variety of effective and humane solutions to deter cats and keep them away without putting them in danger.

Don’t forget about insect pests. Learn how to get rid of ants.

10 Humane Ways to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard

feral cats
Wikimedia Commons

Humane methods for keeping cats out of your yard include physical barriers, sound barriers, odor barriers, and water repellents. You should use a combination of the following methods to get rid of cats.

Be persistent and keep trying until you find the right solution.

Method 1: Plant cat-repellent plants

lavender cat repellant
Lavender (Wikimedia Commons)

Cats have sensitive noses, and they don’t like strong-smelling plants. Plant repellent herbs and flowers in your garden to stop cats from digging. Use caution, as many of these plants are toxic to pets.

  • Lavender (Lavandula species )–Contains a small concentration of a compound called linalool, which is toxic to cats.
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium )–A member of the mint family, pennyroyal is a well-known mosquito repellant that also works to get rid of cats. 
  • Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus )–The strong herby smell of rosemary will deter cats, but you will enjoy the fragrant scent of this long-lived perennial.
  • Scaredy cat plant (Coleus caninus )–When you brush up against this plant, it emits a musky smell reminiscent of a skunk.
  • Common rue (Ruta graveolens )–A strong-smelling plant that causes skin irritations, rue is also called the herb-of-grace. 
  • Geranium (Pelargonium species )–Although many people love geraniums, cats dislike them because of their strong smell. 
  • Citronella plant (Pelargonium citrosum )–Not to be confused with citronella grass, this plant is a type of geranium with a citrus smell. 
  • Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus )–Cats avoid citrus smells, so whether you are planting the citronella plant or citronella grass, both will work. 

Method 2: Use natural cat deterrent sprays

citrus spray

Cats use their heightened sense of smell to learn about their world. Smells help them identify the presence of predators and communicate with other cats.

Scent repellents mask or overpower the scents cats use to communicate, making your yard less attractive and inviting.

Here are three homemade sprays you can make at home to deter cats:

  1. Vinegar and water solution–Use full-strength vinegar or dilute it with water and spray in areas where cats visit. Be aware that vinegar can harm plants, and because it is highly acidic, it can damage wood, stone, and glass. 
  2. Citrus rosemary spray–Combining lemon, orange, and cranberry juices with a few drops of rosemary extract will do the trick. Don’t use it on outdoor furniture or decks because cranberry juice permanently stains some materials.
  3. Garlic lemon pepper spray–This natural cat repellant spray might sound like a culinary delight, but cats won’t find it so delicious. Combine a teaspoon each of black pepper, dry mustard, and cinnamon with 3 cups of hot water and a crushed garlic clove. Let it cool, strain it into a spray bottle, and add 10 drops of lemon essential oil.

Method 3: Install motion-activated sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinklers have infrared sensors that detect the movement of cats and emit a sudden burst of water. They are one of the most effective methods to deter cats, and they will also work on raccoons, rabbits, and stray dogs. 

Set up motion-activated sprinklers wherever cats are a problem. It won’t be long before the cats in your neighborhood learn the boundaries of your sprinklers. If you use them around the perimeter of your yard, put them on a timer so they don’t catch visitors or delivery people off-guard.

Method 4: Apply citrus peels or essential oils

citrus peels
Wikimedia Commons

Scatter fresh citrus peels around your garden and flower beds to deter cats. Use the peels of oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or limes, and replace them every few days to keep them fresh.

You can use essential oils, especially citrus oils, in sprays or by applying a few drops in areas where cats are a problem. The essential oils are toxic to cats, but they won’t harm them in small doses.

Eucalyptus spray–Add three cups of water to a one-quart spray bottle. Place a few drops of dish soap and 10 drops each of eucalyptus and lemon oils into the bottle. Shake well and use wherever cats are a problem. 

Citronella spray–Even though citronella is best known for being a mosquito repellant, it can also be used to deter cats. Add 20 drops of citronella essential oil to a spray bottle of water. Citronella oil, made with Cymbopogon winterianus, is considered the most effective type.

Method 5: Create physical barriers

Physical barriers work well as outdoor cat control strategies. You can create physical barriers to keep cats out of your yard and flower beds with the right products. 

Fencing and netting

how to keep cats out of your yard
Chicken Wire (Wikimedia Commons)

Regular fencing isn’t effective at keeping cats out of your yard, but you can try a special type of fence that’s designed to deter even the most agile of cats. Cat owners who want to keep their kitties inside their yards often use cat-proof fencing, but it works just as well when you are trying to prevent stray cats from entering. 

Cat-proof fencing is slanted out at the top to keep cats from climbing over. If you already have a fence, you can purchase panels and install them on top. They are designed for easy installation, so even homeowners with minimal DIY skills can install them without difficulty.

Protect your flower and garden beds from digging cats by laying chicken wire or netting down on top of the soil. Cut holes in it for your plants, and then cover it with mulch. Cats don’t like the prickly wire and will find another place to do their business. Make sure to roll the sharp edges under to prevent the cats from being injured.

Spiky materials

If the neighborhood cats have been lounging in your yard, they probably have several spots where they get cozy. Use products that make cats uncomfortable so they find another place to bask in the sun.

  • Spiked mats have plastic spikes that keep cats away without hurting them. You can place them in flower beds and other places where cats hang out.
  • Chicken wire or cat mesh will keep cats from digging in your flower beds or lounging in your yard. 
  • Try a variety of mulches. Use a layer of inexpensive cedar mulch, and then top it off with something bristly or poky, like pine mulch or sharp rocks.

Method 6: Use ultrasonic devices

Cats are stealthy creatures that rely on their ability to be quiet to stalk their prey, so sound barriers like ultrasonic devices work well to deter them. Ultrasonic devices emit high-pitched sounds that are beyond the range of human hearing, but they work to annoy cats and wildlife. 

Use an ultrasonic device designed for large animals like cats, deer, and raccoons rather than the type made for rodents. Many of these run on solar power, making them easy to use around the perimeter of your yard.

The sound won’t go through walls, so it won’t bother your indoor pets.

There are dual-action ultrasonic devices that use sound and a sprayed repellent. They are motion-activated and work well indoors to keep cats off counters. 

Method 7: Provide alternative spaces for cats

It might seem counterintuitive to plant catnip to keep cats out of your yard, but if you provide a designated space for them away from your house, they won’t be as big a problem in your flower beds.

Make a sandbox for them to use as an outdoor kitty litter box and plant catnip around it. Use soft mulches for cats to lay on in the sun.

Method 8: Keep your yard clean and unappealing

Debris, tall grass, and wood piles attract rodents, which in turn draw cats to your yard. Keep your yard neatly mowed and ensure there aren’t any hidey-hole for cats and rodents to use as shelter.

Avoid feeding your pets outdoors because it will attract feral cats and other critters.

Make your yard as unappealing to cats as possible. Cats are attracted to bird feeders, and if you’re going to feed birds in your yard, make sure they are cat-proof. Cats will be attracted to bird feeders that are low to the ground or easy to access, so it’s best to place them on tall metal poles that cats can’t climb.

Method 9: Talk to the cat owners

Being a good neighbor is important to living a peaceful life, but it can be hard when your neighbor’s cat is a nuisance. If your best efforts to deter cats aren’t working, talk to the cat owners before you take any drastic measures.

When you talk to your neighbor, be friendly and keep the conversation positive. Avoid placing blame and try to find a solution that prioritizes your neighbor’s love for their cat.

Simply making them aware that their cat is a problem for you could be enough to encourage them to take steps to remedy the situation.

Method 10: Seek professional help if needed

If everything you’ve tried hasn’t worked to keep stray cats out of your yard, you should not hesitate to seek professional help. Contact your local animal shelter and ask them for assistance to stop cats from coming into your yard.

Sadly, most feral cats that are taken to shelters are euthanized, but if your local shelter has a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, they can be returned to their territory.

So if your neighborhood has a significant feral cat problem, it’s worth looking into a TNR program.

FAQ: Common Questions About Keeping Cats Out of Your Yard

Is it legal to trap and relocate cats?

In some states, it’s legal to trap cats and take them to a shelter. There are anti-cruelty laws in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, so it’s important to know the laws in your state before you start trapping cats.

Will getting a dog help keep cats away?

Getting a dog is not the most effective way to keep cats out of your yard because not all dogs dislike cats. Also, cats can escape from dogs pretty easily, so they won’t see dogs as a strong deterrent.

Are there any plants that attract cats that I should avoid planting?

Cats are carnivores, but they still enjoy nibbling on plants like edible flowers, grass, and catnip. It would be hard to eliminate all plants cats like from your yard, but it’s best to avoid plants like catnip and cat thyme, which are highly attractive to most cats.

Can I use mothballs to keep cats out of my yard?

Mothballs are not the best choice to keep cats out of your yard because they aren’t very effective and poisonous to pets and children. 

How can I prevent cats from using my garden as a litter box?

You can use various methods to keep cats from digging in your garden and using it as a litter box. Physical barriers, sound barriers, and motion-activated sprinklers are your best options, and you can also use natural cat spray repellents.

Will installing bird feeders attract cats to my yard?

Cats are avid hunters and will be drawn to birds at a feeder. If you install a bird feeder, ensure it is cat-proof by hanging it high on a metal pole. You can also use baffles to keep cats and other animals from reaching the feeder.

Can I use commercial cat repellents to keep cats away?

You can use commercial cat repellents or make your own to create an odor barrier that deters cats. Citronella spray is one of the most effective sprays you can make at home, and while cats dislike it, many people find the smell appealing.

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