frugal ways to keep kitty out of the garden

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Beautiful Unusual White Grey Brown Tabby Cat Sitting in Yard I’m not against cats – we had our own feline fur-child until a local friendly animal-lover baited it – I just don’t like it when the neighbourhood moggies use our garden as their personal kitty litter.

All the seedlings I planted have been dug up.

And the spare bit of dirt I leave for the kids to dig in…

They’re not allowed to dig in it at the moment.

So I’ve been looking for frugal, natural and non-nasty ways to keep the cats out of the garden.

Here are some ideas that have worked for us as well as a few that have worked for others.


Cat’s like digging in clear soil: rough mulch will make them look elsewhere for their perfect potty place.

I’ve had great success with this method. Our lazy method of gardening means that old plants are pulled up and left as mulch. The twigs and branches lying in the garden look messy, but it’s good free mulch and it keeps kitty out of the dirt.

Other alternatives include using pebble mulch, using rough mulch like pine bark, using pinecones and twigs or placing twigs upright around seedlings so kitty doesn’t have room to get around the twigs.


Apparently cats hate citrus. So throwing your citrus peels in the the garden helps deter cats. I scattered our garden with lemon peel this week – so far so good.

As citrus in in season at the moment, it’s a great time to be putting your lemon and orange peels in the garden. And they will compost down and feed your plants at the same time – a double bonus.


Chicken wire stops kitty digging in the soft soil. Laying chicken wire just under the surface of the soil can keep cats out of the garden while still allowing your plants to grow through.

Chicken wire can also act as an effective grid for spacing plants when planting. In his brilliant book How to Grow More Vegetables, Jeavons describes a hexagonal grid system for planting rather than planting in rows. Chicken wire would help facilitate this grid planting.

A free alternative to chicken wire is to upcycle mesh onion and produce bags. Lay them just under the soil and cut a hole where you want to plant.


Cat repelling plants include:

  • rue (a favourite cat repellent among gardeners)
  • coleus canina
  • lavender
  • pennyroyal
  • geranium
  • lemon thyme

Plant these plants as companions to your vegetables or as a border to keep kitty away from the garden.


Essential oils that help ward off cats include citrus oils, lavender oil, lemon grass, citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus and mustard oils.

A few drops sprinkled around the garden will help keep kitty away. The downside is that this is something you’ll have to do repeatedly, especially after rain.


Sprinkling coffee grounds over the garden are another way to keep kitty out. Coffee grounds also act as a mulch and soil conditioner, deter slugs and snails, feed worms and help supress fungal diseases.


If all else fails or if the cat in question is your own, you can designate a spot in the garden especially for kitty and train it to go there just like you would with a kitty litter tray inside.

Plant catnip around the kitty’s spot to help attract it.

You can buy cat deterrent, but why spend money when you can use things for free or cheap that you already have around the home? And the great thing is that many of these solutions do double work – they help your garden as well as deter the neighbourhood cats.


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  1. Thanks for writing this. We have issues with a couple of neighbours cats, it seems they like to do their business in other people’s yards.
    We had a nice little herb garden that a cat on our street kept digging up in the middle of the night so my fiancé had to place a wire fence and cover over it. Now I’ve noticed the cat coming into our front garden bed after all the weeds had been pulled out. I will try the coffee grounds and citrus and hopefully the cats will keep their distance.

    1. The citrus seems to being doing well. My immediate neighbour has been putting coffee grounds on her garden to good effect also.