I’m not a cat person. I might have mentioned this before… the idea that you can buy and feed an animal then let it roam free without supervision through other people’s property has never made sense to me. Cats are extended liberties denied to other domesticated animals.
Dog fouling, for example, is subject to fines, unlike cat fouling, but cat poo isn’t obviously less offensive and poses its own health risks to humans (toxoplasmosis). Not good when a bed containing root vegetables is being used as a toilet. Especially not good when you have a young child in the garden and cats are by far the most common medium – large animal in the neighbourhood.
This has been an issue with the new rose beds next to our front door. Before the roses went in, after the soil was dug over, they were being used by at least one local feline on a daily basis. Even leaving aside the unpleasantness and health risks of finding a ew gift ever morning, I also don’t want my new bare-root plants being dug up in the process. Something had to be done.
There are a few things I’ve tried over the years to deter without harming the offending felines. The most common cat deterrents are:
1. Sonic devices
The high-tech solution. They emit high pitched noises that cats don’t like. I tried one years ago, and it did seem to deter cats.
The problem with these is (i) firstly that they only activate when a cat passes in front of them, meaning you need more than one to cover an area, (ii) they’re expensive, and (iii) children may be able to hear the noise and find it unpleasant too. They’re a bit like the Mosquito anti-loitering device.
On the plus side, they may be the only semi-effective solution for larger areas like raised beds where the forward / restricted activation angle isn’t so much of an issue.
2. Physical barriers
For very small areas, physical barriers or netting may be effective. The challenge here is that cats are very good at squeezing through small spaces, so if there are any gaps or obstacles preventing a tight barrier being made then they might not be effective. They’re also good at climbing and jumping. Just sticking a few bamboo canes in the ground and tying netting to them is probably not going to be effective on its own.
3. Bad odors
Pellets and powders for deterring cats from lingering are commonly sold. These normally have a strong odor (garlic is a favourite) which cats are supposed to dislike. In my experience these aren’t very effective.
Welcome to Al-cat-traz! Because the rose beds are relatively small, I decided that restricting movement should be enough. In order to do their business, cats need room to dig and squat, so filling the space is an effective deterrent. The plastic netting alone wouldn’t be effective, but I’ve dotted short (blunt) pea canes around in the middle so that any squatting cat will be poked in the behind. As a final deterrent I also used some of the garlic scented pellets. This is a temporary solution since once the roses are established, having a spiny shrub there should be deterrent enough.
Of course, this doesn’t solve the issue of cat poo buried in the middle of my potatoes, which will be an issue again in the Spring. The only solution there might be one of the sonic devices, since the area is too big to successfully make cat-proof with physical barriers.