Keeping Cats From Digging

Q. In response to the question about keeping cats out of their children’s sandbox and their horseshoe pits, ammonia was brought up as well as something with a citrus fragrance. I actually have a brood of cats and not only do the cats use our horseshoe pit for a literbox, they constantly tear up my flower beds, to which I have given up creating and tending. Thus, my yards, both front and back are an eyesore. Is there ANY thing I can use to keep them from digging where I want to plant? My brother suggested using chicken wire, laid out flat and covered with soil… says you can cut the chicken wire if need be to plant something and it works for him. When I was looking at rolls of chicken wire at my local Home Depot, I noticed this plastic mesh with holes about the same size as chicken wire. I liked the plastic idea better because knowing me, I would probably end up cutting myself on the chicken wire if I were to cut it to plant something. But the plastic mesh hasn’t worked… they dig all over it anyway. Since the cats dig everywhere and we’re having a drought season, I have let the grass die back and quit planting, but I am hoping to relandscape my yards this Fall and Winter with plants native to the area. But I would love it if I could find something that will keep the cats from digging everything up. – MH

A. I don’t think you would want to use this idea anywhere children were going to be playing such as sandboxes. My husband had several cats. One of them decided they would use my planters for a litter box. I had read somewhere to sprinkle black or cayenne pepper on the soil to repel the cats. I sprinkled cayenne pepper on the soil, the next day I heard a loud meow and looked onto the patio. There was one of the cats glaring at the planter. That was the last time any of the cats dug in the planters. Hope this might help somebody with their cat problems. Shirley

A. Try using mothballs or moth crystals. They hate the smell. My neighbor has done it for years and the cars stay away from her beds. Don’t do this if children are playing there though, because if they are eaten, they are poisonous. Cats won’t eat them though. Also, ask your hairdresser for hair cuttings that they sweep from the floor. Neither dogs or cats like the hair. Sprinkle it around the plants. Gretchen

A. We must remember that the cats have to eliminate somewhere! They are by nature a clean and fastidious animal. If you provide an area which they CAN use for their bathroom necessities and cover your other garden areas (where appropriate/ possible) with lava rock, this may help out. They don’t like to walk or dig on/in the lava rock. I realize if you have large areas, this may not be feasible, but lava rock can add a useful mulch and is aesthetically appealing. – Janine

A. Citrus is what I have heard of that works the best. Try to mix some orange peel rinds into the soil. My mother used to put plastic forks sticking up out of the soil. All else fails it’s an interestig topic of conversation. The cats did stay out of her planter box that summer, even after the flowers actually came up.

A. Have you tried pinecones. I don’t think the cats would like to walk on these and they also keep down the weeds. – SL

A. I don’t know if this would apply to an outdoor environment. But I’ve heard that cats hate vinegar, so if you spray vinegar in a place, they will stay away from it. Outside, since it rains, etc., regular sprayings would seem to be needed. I don’t know how vinegar would affect plants, but probably not much if the amount isn’t excessive. – Marianne

A. The only thing I’ve found that works is cayenne peppers, and cayenne powder. When I dug up some horrible landscaping and planted dozens of beautiful native flowers, the neighborhood cats loved to roll and lay in the loose warm dirt, and use a corner of the area for their catbox! I bought a HUGE bottle of cayenne powder at a warehouse near us, and sprinkled the area until it was rust colored! I also bought some cayenne peppers, and, with plastic gloves on, I sliced them open, scraped the seeds into a bowl, and julienned the peppers. Both the seeds and the strips of peppers were placed "strategically" around my flowers. The cats would come and use the "litterbox area", then go lay in the dirt to sun and wash themselves … the
cayenne powder stuck to their fur, not enough to hurt, but enough that they didn’t come back! I only had to do this twice (once after it rained), and haven’t had to do it for the last 2 years. Hope this might help – Lys

A. My dad told me this for large houseplants and it worked, so I would think it would work in a flowerbed as well. Randomly push sucker sticks or popsicle sticks into the earth. When the cats try to dig, they will run into the sticks and be deterred.

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