Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Do You Do About Cats In Gardens?

There are a lot of cats in the neighbourhood (two in my own home) and many of them are allowed outdoors. Not mine. Mine are exclusively indoor pets because the very thought of one of them hunting down one of my feathery or furry backyard visitors, killing it and then bringing it to me as some kind of gift stresses me. So, my cats don’t have a choice; they’ve been forced to live their feline little lives entirely inside the walls of our home. But don’t feel sorry for them. If you could see how pampered they are, you’d wonder just who is the master and who is the pet. I wonder about that myself, sometimes.

Anyway.

So my cats stay home but other cats don’t. And generally speaking, I don’t really care what other pet owners choose to do; whether they decide to give their pets free reign of the great outdoors or keep them inside at all times is entirely up to them. Many cat owners see cats as free, independent creatures that should not be confined. And I respect that. Even if I don’t practice it.

However, the conflict begins when said cats come into my garden and use the flower beds as litter boxes. PFFFFFFT...... That really upsets me. I keep finding cat feces in the flower bed in front of the house, and always in the same spot. I suspect that that particular area has been selected because one of my cats sits on the ledge of the window that is right over that flower bed to watch what’s going on outside. Perhaps there is a cat in the neighbourhood that purposefully poops right there to show my cat who’s boss. These animals can be quite territorial and quite aggressive as they try to establish their position in the social pecking order.

But.

I honestly don’t care which cat it is or why it’s doing it. I’m simply trying to resolve this problem because I am sick and tired of cleaning up poop from someone else’s pet. And the owners of these animals are fortunate that I am such a huge animal lover because someone else might not be as lenient. There are individuals who take drastic measures -- like sprinkling the area with cayenne pepper that leave the animal in agony after it licks its paws, or wipes its eyes with a pepper-laden foot. I suppose this is effective if you want to punish and torment the cat, but my guess is that it’s very unlikely that the poor creature will associate that pain with having pooped in a particular garden.

There are others who enforce bylaws, particularly when it comes to outdoor cats that roam onto someone else’s private property. Because although you do not have to keep your cat indoors or on a leash in Kingston, Ontario your pet is not allowed to trespass on another person’s property. My city receives “a number of complaints each year about cats doing damage to property and digging up and defecating in gardens and children's play areas. Under the bylaw, the property owner would have the right to take the trespassing cat to the Humane Society.” (Quote from the city’s website)

Now, cat owners may ask how on earth someone can keep their cat out of another garden when it’s roaming around out there. And...well...that’s their problem, isn’t it? I’m afraid that the cat owner will have to figure that out. Because their right to let their cat out ends where someone’s right to a cat-free property begins. And if someone’s cat is using another person’s property as a toilet, and the owner of the cat just doesn’t give a rat’s ass, that property owner has the right to trap the animal and take it to the pound.

But I don’t do that. Maybe I should since I am a firm believer that people with pets are responsible for what their pets do outside their own yards. But I don’t. I usually try to find solutions that aren’t overly aggressive. Most of the time.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

After the lengthy rant above, all I really want to do is ask you, dear readers, to suggest safe cat deterrents. Do any of you have this problem? And if so, how do you handle it? What can I do that will discourage these furballs from visiting my garden and using it as their personal toilet? What can I add/change in my garden that will keep the cats out, but not physically hurt them?

26 comments:

  1. I'm afraid I don't have any suggestions for you. I am one of 'those' pet owners who let their cats roam free. We had one cat Rosie, for 19 years and her routine spring, summer and fall was to go out early evening, till breakfast the next morning, sleep all day and do it all over again. I expect she got up to some mischief and we were gifted quite often with mice and small birds, but I figure that's just nature. No matter how docile your cat may seem snoozing on the couch - don't be fooled, they are ruthless, blood-thirsty killers when they walk out that door, lol!! I do suspect my last cat Betty, who disappeared one night a few summers ago, was the unwitting victim of one of my neighbors (he has made it very clear over the years that he dislikes cats) but I have no proof. Anyone who'd harm a pet (or any animal for that matter) is a worm, who I have zero respect for.

    I hope someone else has some ideas.

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    1. I know what you mean about being docile. My cats seem to sweet, but when a mouse got into our home and they caught it, they were so mean and ruthless. They tormented that poor thing...chasing it around the house, catching it, letting it go, catching it again and carrying it around in their mouth...it was horrible. I ran around behind them trying to stop it, and finally managed to trap that poor thing. I let it go outside. I don't want it in my house, but I couldn't stand to watch the 'cat and mouse' game that was going on.

      And I agree completely with you that anyone who would harm an animal is a worm. There's no need to be so cruel.

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  2. Well if you have the patience and the duty is done during the day a squirt or water hose works wonders and it is very safe for the cat. Just makes them very unhappy.

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    1. Yes, the water hose would definitely scare any cat considering how much they hate water. But it's rare I see a cat in the day time. I think the cats that drop by do it at night.

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  3. I'm not much help. My cats were originally farm cats and were needed to keep the mice and rats out of the barn. Now I'm a city urban dweller I still don't like rats being about so I don't mind seeing cats outside. Oddly only one of my cats will go outside now. I guess the others are retired. Anyway if it was me I guess I would put a litter box outside near the garden. They might be so conditioned to using one that when the urge arises they use the box. Good luck!

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    1. That's a good idea, Francie, but I don't think I want to encourage the cat to keep coming by. There are a lot of birds and chipmunks that come around and a cat dropping by regularly is too close for comfort. Last year I managed to save a chipmunk in front of my house that my neighbour's cat had cornered. I wouldn't want that cat coming back! But I thank you for your idea.

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  4. Dear Martha,
    I know just what you mean. We also have one cat and is an indoor cat only, since we do not want any of our precious birds killed!
    We just have started having problems with the two cats next door climbing over our six food fence in the back to get to our birds! Like you, we love animals so we don't know what to do. It is out of the question to talk to the people who own the cats, they are so irresponsible with their property, we can't expect anything with their pets. And cat litter in your flower beds is just no fun...it's awful to work so hard on beauty and have it spoiled by the smell of cat poop.

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    1. It's hard to decide how to handle this. I don't want to hurt any animal. I'd like to find a humane way of handling it. There isn't a lot of damage to our property, so there's no need to go to extremes about it; just a simple solution will do.

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  5. Oops, I meant six FOOT fence! I never notice these things until I send it through.

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    1. Ha ha...don't worry about it, Kay! I kind of figured that's what you meant.

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  6. This is difficult. I agree with you. Doing something that punishes the cat by hurting it in some way is not the right approach. It's not the cat's fault, it's the owner's fault. Not that you want to hurt the owner, either. ;-) (Well, not too much.) A hose in the rear end is a great way to make a cat skedaddle, but it takes time, patience, and accuracy, not to mention it may take several times before the cat gets it.

    If you want to drop some money down, you could put of a fence around the area and cover it with cat netting and put those slanted metal posts in at the top to make the netting hang outward from your yard. Those things freak cats out and they can't climb over the top of it because the slant downward makes them fall. This could be very costly though, depending on how large your backyard is. And really, you shouldn't have to do this, your neighbors should be taking care of their cats.

    Here's some things I found online for you to check them out if you'd like:
    http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Outdoor-Cat-Repellent-Improvements/dp/B005DYQV8I

    http://landscaping.about.com/od/pestcontrol/a/cat_repellents.htm

    This was interesting as well: http://www.ehow.com/how_4546406_make-homemade-cat-repellent.html

    Good luck. We have one neighbor cat who comes into our yard but our cats scare him so badly by screaming and hissing through the windows he just takes off like a bolt of lighting. It's the neighbors down the street who own the weimaraner that's the problem. We have to put up fencing to keep him out of the garden and from terrorizing our wildlife and leaving rather large presents for us around the yard. I've talked to his people about it but they are, well, I hate to say it, Dingbats. Vinny (the dog) is adorable and a big ole sweetheart. I just love him, but not the damage he does to the yard. People really need to be more responsible for their animals for two reasons. First of all, the animal's safety and secondly, for the sake of neighborly relations.

    All the best,
    Bird

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    1. Unfortunately, dropping a lot of money down is just not an option for us. And you're right, we shouldn't have to do this. But I found some very good ideas on the links you provided (thank you!). An automatic sprinkler that detects an intruder's presence and fires a blast of water at it would be a great thing to have! I'll have to look into this and find out about costs and stuff.

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  7. Our cat, Her Royal Highness, is strictly an indoor cat too. But we have plenty of neighbours who let their cats roam. It drives My Rare One nuts when they poop in our flowerbeds. Her solution is to gather those big pinecones every spring that are quite sharp and hard. Then she puts them all around the flowers -- as closely packed in a single layer as possible. This lets the rain through and the flowers can grow. But cats hate them because there's nowhere to put their feet and so they stay away. Very effective. I've heard of people doing something similar by putting plastic forks, tines up, in the dirt in sufficient quantities that the cat can't easily squat.

    Good luck!

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    1. This is a great idea, Debra! And we have a tree in front of our home that produces tons of pinecones. I will try this out and see what happens. I also have a box of plastic forks in my kitchen that I have no use for right now, so perhaps I'll try both methods out and hope for good results. Thank you!

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  8. Martha, I wish I had some ideas for you, but for 1. I am a dog owner and 2. my mom's cat is constantly bringing her "gifts", from cockroaches to lizards almost as big as him (he is only 5 months old). So, as you can see, we are novices in the cat world thing...

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    1. That's okay! I'm happy that you stopped by, anyway. Hope you are having a lovely weekend.

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  9. I would never hurt a stray animal either Martha. I have had experience with neighbors bad cats. Here is what I have tried: Screaming at cat, spraying cat with water from hose. Buying the Keep Off type repellent granules, this can be expensive! I used it on areas I saw the cats frequent and just on the perimeter around the fence, not inside our yard. Live trap and take to animal shelter. If it has a collar and you can touch it, write a note on some tape and attach it to the collar. If you know the neighbor talk to them and warn them that you will take their cat to the animal shelter next time.

    My cat Dot wears a harness when she is out with me in the garden. It's sold at Target and called Come With Me Kitty. I never leave her in the yard alone. She is on a long tether so she can move around pretty freely in the yard without getting in trouble. She was about 3 years old when we got her from the animal shelter. She was halter trained within a week. In the winter she doesn't like to go out anyway. My other kitty is so old she can barely walk, so she is no threat to anyone (unless a mouse jumped in her mouth, and even then...no).

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    1. Yes, hurting an animal is out of the question. And really, they are just acting on instincts, so it isn't malicious behaviour. Still. I just want them to move along and stay out of the flower beds. It makes me sick when I have to clean up their poop. Bleh! As for the trapping, I think my husband and I would reach that point if some cat was causing a lot of damage and we just couldn't take it anymore. But we're nowhere near that, so I don't want to take an aggressive approach yet. Plus, I haven't seen which cat it is, or if there is more than one, so I have no idea which neighbour is the owner. So right now, a humane approach is step one into handling this issue.

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  10. Quite the dilemma Martha. We used to have this problem a few years ago. Cats would do their doo-doo in our garden! What may have worked was the use of moth balls in and around the 'affected' areas. The cats do not ingest these, they simply smell something that will deter them.
    This was going on when we didn't have a dog for 4 years. I do believe the moth balls worked a bit.
    BUT, you know what keeps them away now? Sophie, our dog. She does not like cats and the couple of neighbourhood cats know this and do not dare to come around.
    So, maybe a cute little dog is in order for you!! One that will 'help' you in your garden when you are out. Never know.
    Good luck.

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    1. I haven't thought about moth balls for years! And I haven't seen them at the stores for years, either. Do they still sell them? Yes, you are right, cats don't like certain scents, and move on when they encounter an unpleasant one.

      As for a dog, I've been thinking for years about getting one, but I'm not quite ready for it yet. It would definitely solve the cat problem!

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  11. I am a huge cat/animal lover and would be devastated if I thought that I had caused an animal to suffer. My kitty is an indoor kitty, but there are many wandering cats in the neighbourhood. :-)
    I read years ago about using Dettol (a disinfectant) in a 10 part water to one part Dettol solution and putting it in a spray bottle. Spray the area that you want to deter the cats from and it should do the trick. I would be careful about getting it on any plants though) My daughter used it to spray her garbage cans, front porch steps and basement windows that the male cat next door was using as his personal potty. It worked until it rained, but then she re-applied. The Dettol has a smell that the cat really didn't like and it did the trick. She only had to spray the two times and the cat stopped coming back.
    Lois

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    1. Dettol sounds like a great idea. I've never heard of this product, but I'll look it up. Spraying regularly wouldn't be a problem as I tend to spend a lot of time in the garden. Thank you for this suggestion!

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  12. I should have mentioned that I usually buy it at the drug store or in the drug section of places like walmart. It doesn't come in big bottles as it is used diluted. A small bottle lasts quite a while. Hope it works for you.
    Lois

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    1. Thanks, Lois. I appreciate you coming back with this info. I'll try to locate this product and give it a try.

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  13. I am suffering from same problem. Did you tried this idea? Can you share your experience with us so that I can give it a try too.

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    1. I haven't tried anything store-bought yet. This summer was much better with cats. Not too many came around.

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