August 11, 2010
Quest for the ultimate Cat Deterrent
Posted by: admin : Category: cat deterrent
My garden is a lovely sun trap. It’s sheltered from cold winds, catches the sun almost all day and is fairly private. It’s a shame I can’t spend as much time in it as I’d like to. The local cat population however don’t have the same concerns as I do, and whilst I’m out making a living, they enjoy a free reign of my garden – using the trees as scratching posts, digging up flowerbeds, killing local wildlife and worst of all, using every square inch of it as their own collective toilet.
Cats are quite territorial you see. They mark their territory by spraying and pooping. This is mine. So is this. This too. Mine. Missed a bit.
Until another cat comes along and decides that he too stakes his claim to the area, and sprays and poops over the top of the previous one. Sort of like graffiti artists only less colourful.
And so it continues, herds of cats competing with each other to see who can lay down the greatest layer of poop. Furry Pooping machines. All so that they can sunbathe in peace on the warm patch of grass beneath the conifers.
Cat poop is nasty. Of all the different poops in the animal kingdom, Cat poop is the worst. It’s like tar. If you step in it you have one hell of a job to get it off. When you smell it you want to retch. And it is everywhere. Heaven help you if you hit a patch whilst mowing your lawn.
Not only is it unpleasant it can be dangerous too. Cat’s and their poop contain parasites which can cause toxoplasmosis which is especially dangerous to those with weakened immune systems such as pregnant women and infants. If a woman receives her first exposure to toxoplasmosis while pregnant, the baby is at particular risk.
So what can be done about this? There are many different types of cat deterrent available on the market, ranging from physical security measures, sonic alarms, water guns, chemical and natural sprays, pellets, crystals and powders. Some cat deterrents work better than others.
Secure your perimeter. If you can make it difficult for them to get in they might just go someplace else.
Cats tend to have a favourite way in and out of your garden. If your grass is fairly long you can probably see the preferred route that they take as the grass will be depressed (not much unlike the gardens owner!).
Gaps in, under and around fences, routes across nearby buildings and sheds. If you can patch up holes, put heavy obstacles such as plant pots in the way or make it uncomfortable for them somehow they’ll choose someone elses garden as their favourite haunt. Hopefully their owners!
For areas which can’t easily be blocked off (cats are notorious for climbing and running along fences) you can purchase spiked polypropelene security strips. These are ideal for the tops of fences, and around your fish pond. Designed to cause discomfort and at the same time minimise harm to the unwanted visitors. Fortunately they come in a variety of colours so as to blend in and not ruin the look of your garden.
An alternative to security strips is to tightly tie a couple of pieces of string 3 to 6 inches above the top of the fence, again making it difficult for the cats to get up there in the first place. Spiky plants, pine cones and sharp twigs carefully placed can also act as barriers to known entrances.
Address their favourite spots.
Once you’ve made it trickier for them to get in you’ll want to turn your attention to their favourite lounging / pooping spots.
The favourite place the cats like in my garden is underneath the conifer trees. There is a nice patch of dry ground which gets sunshine all day and they absolutely love it there.
There are many types of cat deterrent to bring into play here, and you may have to use a couple of different methods as and when they get used to them.
The first cat deterrent to mention is the sonic cat repeller.
These devices use infra-red motion sensors to trigger a high frequency alarm (normally inaudible to humans) that scares the cat away.
The down side is that if you are running them off of batteries you’ll need to replace them regularly and they tend to only cover a small area.
Another issue is because the noise is inaudible to human ears, it can be difficult to know if the batteries need replacing.
Mains powered versions are available, at added cost, but this will require a plug socket to work from. Some people have reported being able to hear the noise produced, so be warned that these devices can sometimes cause friction with neighbours!
There are mixed reviews about sonic repellers, some people find they work great, others find that the effect wears off after a while once the cats get used to them. Moving the device around can help keep the surprise lasting longer, but not very useful if you are trying to protect a gate or a certain part of your garden. Bear in mind also that some older cats are deaf and as such are immune to these devices. These are a lot of money to spend to find out you are dealing with an audio challenged cat! If at all possible check first by sneaking up behind it and screaming “Gerrof my laaaand!!”
Water Cat Deterrents
Cats really hate water, and whilst throwing buckets and using super-soaker water pistols is fun the first few times it requires your involvement and is a lot of effort.
Fortunately technology comes to the rescue. As an alternative to the sonic repeller, is an automated jet sprayer which replaces the high pitched noise of the soinic repeller with jets of icy cold water. A jet spray cat deterrent costs a bit more than the sonic repeller, needs batteries and a hose to function. Don’t worry about knowing if the batteries need replacing – if you forget to switch it off you’ll know soon enough when you walk in front of it!
People have expressed mixed mileage with these devices – the motion sensors are notorious for being either too sensitive and spraying water at moving leaves, or not being sensitive enough and needing a cat to practically lick it for it to work. Problems can also be experienced if you forget to turn it off during icy weather as the frozen water expands it can damage the device. If you can get the placement right they can be brilliant, as you don’t need to score a direct hit – the sudden arc of water will be enough to scare them away. These are expensive remember, and similarly to the sonic repellers cats can learn just how close the can get without triggering the device.
Chemical and Natural Cat Deterrents
A less intrusive and altogether more inexpensive option are to deply one or two of the various natural and chemical options available in the forms of sprays and pellets. These rely on offending the cat’s delicate sense of taste and smell.
One of the principal ways people go wrong with these types of scented cat deterrent is by forgetting to remove any previous cat droppings and not spraying away the urine with water or a mild bleach solution. Failure to do this will result in the cat coming back to where it can smell it has been before and restaking it claim!
Here are a few methods that have been tried with varying measures of success, bear in mind that some cats have different tastes so it can be worth trying a few things to see which work.
Spread pepper dust or chilli pepper where they lie, apparantly it sticks to their fur and when they clean themselves they don’t like the taste and learn to stay away. This didn’t seem to have much effect when I tried it – maybe I have cats who don’t mind spicy food!
Citrus peel is another option that was recommended to me – however the cats weren’t put off and it makes the garden look a mess.
You can get Citrus sprays to spray around fences and flower beds but I didn’t have much luck with this either – hurts the eyes too, so wear goggles!
I gave up on the Citrus related cat deterrents as they didn’t do the trick for me. I hear you can buy citrus impregnated ‘cat sticks’ you stick in the garden if orange peel or sprays don’t take your fancy.
“Get Off” Crystals are foul smelling green blobs designed to confuse the senses of cats and dogs but some people report it having the disadvantage of repelling humans as well!
Other types of chemical cat deterrent can contain napthalene which smells nasty but has been found to cause cancer in rats and prolonged exposure can cause damage to red blood cells so you might want to check the ingredients and think twice about using it where your children play.
Mothballs have repeatedly been cited as something to try, but these are pretty much bags of napthalene so I can’t really recommend them.
Some report success using ground coffee as a cat repellent, as well as citronella and eucalyptus oils. These seem a bit safer than moth balls and are better scented too, if you like coffee that is, but will require quite frequent replacement to remain effective if it rains.
Coleus canina (aka the Scaredy Cat or Pee-Off Plant) has a scent that cats and dogs dislike, so it could be worth your while adding a couple to your flower beds.
Lion Dung is supposed to be one of the best cat deterrent there is, the thought being that a cat wouldn’t want to compete with a lion. I was a bit concerned replacing cat poop with bigger cat poop however! There is an alternative to real Lion dung, which is a cat deterrent product called “Silent Roar” which apparently came out top in tests on BBC’s Watchdog back in 2000. The product itself consists of m&m sized pellets which are soaked in lion dung, dried and sterilised. I put this stuff around the perimeter of the garden, as well as a little bit extra around the known entrances which I can’t block off. If you’re going to try this wear gloves when you put it down, as you don’t want to contaminate it with human scent or it won’t be as effective. It is classed as nitrogen fertiliser rather than cat repellent, and so far it has worked pretty well; I’ve only seen one cat in the garden since putting it down a couple of weeks ago and that was making a hasty retreat over the fence into the neighbours garden.
If this fails at some point I may consider upgrading to a real lion. It would certainly keep the burglars out!
Hopefully this post will give you a few ideas on what you can try to deter cats from your own garden.