Help, Cats are Pooping in my Backyard! 😼 What can I do About it?
Updated: Jun 13
Cats. Playful, purrfect, pawsome, poopers.
As much as we might love our furry feline companions (or not!), their penchant for using your mulch as their personal litter boxes can be a frustrating problem, especially when you have a brand-new small garden! We often get asked how to keep cats from doing this, so we’d like to offer our recommendations.
The good news is there are several methods to deter cats from using your garden as their restroom. The not-so-good news is, in our experience, the results of each method are varied and what has worked well for one cat hasn’t worked for another. Some cats are more sensitive to smell, while others might be more sensitive to sound.
To begin, we would suggest that the two most effective options are:
a) preventing visiting cats from accessing your garden by creating a physical barrier (more on this below), or,
b) ensuring there is no exposed dirt/mulch for the cat to toilet in.
When toileting, cats like somewhere dry to scratch and dig, so if you eliminate this option from your garden, you will eventually eliminate the problem. If your garden is new and you are waiting for groundcovers to grow, you’ll find that once the soil and mulch are completely covered with growth, the cat will eventually move on. Using fast-growing tight-knit ground cover like Ajuga Repens (below right) or Dichondra (below left) will form a mat over your mulch and soil, removing the ability for cats to dig.
If either of the above isn’t an option, as a starting point, we suggest you select the most suitable method for your situation and stick with it for a couple of weeks. It will take time for the cat to learn that a particular spot might yield an unpleasant consequence. If it hasn’t worked after a couple of weeks, move on to the next option.
For Cat Owners – Create a Dedicated Toileting Zone
If the cat belongs to you and you would prefer to keep their outdoor toileting contained, a good option is to create a designated area where they can satisfy their natural instincts. By providing alternative spots for them to eliminate, you can protect the rest of your garden:
a) Sand or Mulch Patches: Set up a small designated area filled with sand or mulch, which mimics the texture of a litter box. Cats are more likely to use these areas instead of your garden.
b) Catnip Plantings: Cats are naturally attracted to catnip. By planting it in specific areas of your garden, you can entice them to stay away from the rest of your plants.
The following is recommended from the SPCA website:
“If your property is already fenced, you can add simple and inexpensive cat rollers to the top of your fence. These devices are very effective and usually used by pet owners to contain their dog or cat in their backyard, but they can equally be used to keep them out. Several companies sell these products, but you can also make a DIY version from inexpensive materials. To see how these products work view https://catfence.nz/photos/videos/.
You can also modify your fence by attaching netting, plastic or metal sheeting, making them slope outwards so the cat can’t climb in or attaching a thin wire about 5cm above the fence along its entire length, so the cat can’t balance on it.”
Cat repellent sprays and pellets.
Repellent sprays and granules work by applying strong odours that are highly undesirable to cats. We recommend avoiding products containing Naphthalene (a common ingredient used to make mothballs) as this is known to be toxic to cats if ingested. The alternative to this are products that use Methyl Nonyl Ketone, a plant-based repellent found naturally in wild tomatoes, strawberries and bananas.
Biodegradable granulated repellents can be sprinkled onto exposed mulch and soil areas. After some time, cats associate the areas where the granules are used with something unpleasant and eventually avoid the area. The repellent is enveloped in natural biodegradable clay to allow for continuous action.
The downside of this option is that you must remember to apply the granules every three to four days for a few weeks until you see results. The chances are you will need to keep this up continually, as new animals may visit the area or return after some time. Customer reviews on these products are extremely varied; some have good results, others none.
Sound and Motion Devices:
Cats are wary of sudden movements and loud noises. By utilizing sound and motion devices, you can startle them and discourage their presence in your garden:
a) Ultrasonic Repellents: These devices emit high-frequency sounds that are inaudible to humans but irritating to cats. They can be placed strategically in your garden to deter cats from entering or digging. We have not tried a device personally. For further information, links to scientific studies and their effectiveness, view here: https://www.catrepellentexpert.com/do-ultrasonic-cat-deterrents-work/.
To find out more about the Catwatch device, view here: https://www.easytek.co.nz/catwatch .
b) Motion-Activated Sprinklers: These sprinklers activate when they detect movement, effectively startling and discouraging cats from entering or staying in your garden. Again, we have not tried the devices personally so we cannot give a recommendation. However, on research, these devices seem to have the most positive reviews out of all of the options (read them here https://www.bunnings.com.au/sureguard-scarecrow-motion-activated-water-spray-animal-repellent_p0276550 ). You can purchase a Scarecrow sprinkler online for approximately $150 NZD.
If you love to tinker, why not try making one for yourself? Check out a YouTube explainer video here: How to make a Cat Repellent for Under $15 in Parts! - YouTube
Another option is to plant plants such as lavender, rosemary (below left), lemon thyme (below middle) and rue (below right) that emit strong scents that cats find unpleasant. Planting these in your garden, or even placing dried sachets, can deter them.
While none of these options is 100% foolproof, we hope this has given you some options to consider and try if you haven't already.
We would also love to hear your stories! Have you tried any of these methods? What has worked and what hasn't? Share your stories in the comment section below!
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