Mat Bennion

Cat Scaring

Last updated 5th July 2009

Top google queries:

  • Carpet gripper rods - cats can easily walk straight over these; hard to see how, but I've seen it with my own eyes.
  • Water squirters - haven't tried with a mains-pressure device yet, but I have found that cats can easily move fast enough to dodge a Super Soaker from 5 meters.
  • Grease will not keep cats off your fence. I have tried with a thick layer of car grease. You just get a trail of greasy footprints.

First, I’d like to say that I love cats.  They’re fun, cuddly, cute and make fantastic pets (apart from the few that are smug, ingratiating, callous little hooligans).  This rant is about the problems cats cause, not the cats themselves.

For several years, I’ve had problems with cats urinating, fouling and digging up my garden.  This causes lots of problems:dead plant

  • Cat urine has killed loads of plants,

 

  • Cats dig up loose soil, spoiling my onion seeds,

 

  • Cats dig up wood chippings, making my front border look messy,

cat poo

  • Cats leave their disgusting, smelly, droppings either on the soil, just where I rest my hand to harvest my carrots, or in the middle of the lawn, where my children play.  The picture shows an example, after I had trodden in it,

 

  • Cats leave their mess where my children play.  The picture example above was about a yard from my son's play house (which, incidentally, I made from an old packing case used to ship an engine from the US to England)

So to get round this, I’ve tried several ideas with varying degrees of success.

 

Do-it-yourself Smelly Stuff

First I tried the old wives’ tales of lemon and garlic.  I scattered several chopped-up lemons around my front border.  This seemed to work for a couple of days, but then the lemon either rotted away or was eaten (probably by the cats themselves), and the cats came back with a vengeance.  Presumably they hadn’t been able to relieve themselves for several days, as they promptly drenched two “hebe” plants (now deceased, see above photo).

I planted a row of garlic bulbs in my back garden and also scattered some chopped garlic.  Again, this had no effect, but I do now have a decent garlic orchard, though I haven’t worked out when to harvest it yet.

 

Commercial Smelly Stuff

This is what I tried next.  There are a number of equally useless products on the market, made from pungent ingredients such as citronella.  I think they smell quite nice, and so do the cats!  The only difference between this and the lemons is the cost.  Plus I could sense the cats sniggering at me from their hiding places under parked cars, just waiting for me to go inside before coming over and rolling about in the stuff.

 

Netting

This is 100% effective, so I’ve left it in place while I work on other solutions.  However, it doesn’t look good and I’ve run into problems when plants try to grow through it or I needed to weed the area.

netting at front of my house netting at back of house

 

No Entry

Thinking about the problem in a little more detail, I’ve noticed that the local cats use my garden as their main entrance to a large area of adjoining back gardens.  This is because there are no obstacles between the road and the back of my house, and I don’t have any pets of my own to scare them off.  So they enter my garden, do their business, and jump over the neighbours' fences to carry on with their day.

Look at the picture below.  The red area shows where the cats are trying to get to.  The blue area is my house. The yellow line is the passage at the side of my house.

plan view of my house

So I’ve decided that what I really need to do is prevent cats from entering my back garden via the side passage (this won’t stop Thomas, who lives next door and uses a different access route, but he’s much too nice a cat to be guilty of murdering my sunflowers).  The cats would then simply choose a different route round the neighbourhood and do their business in a different garden.

I’ve tried the obvious approach of blocking the side gate with mesh.  This doesn’t work as the cats just climb over the fence.

So I’ve tried putting carpet gripper rods on the top of the fence.  I though that a cat would only need to jump onto the razor-sharp spikes once to be deterred forever, so even though it was cruel, it would be worth it (at this point I rubbed my hands together and gave an evil cackle).  Then, a few days later, I saw a cat running along the carpet gripper as if it wasn’t there.  Back to the drawing board!

I also tried putting a half-inch thick layer of grease on the top of the fence, thinking that even if it didn’t make them slip off, they’d hate having grease all over their feet.  The next day, a trail of greasy paw prints down the fence, across the wheelie bin and along the drive showed that they didn’t give a hoot.

 

Ultrasonic

You can buy commercial ultrasonic cat deterrents.  I haven’t tried these yet, basically because they cost money and they might not work.  (No amount of genuine customer feedback on a website, saying how fantastic a product is, can convince a sceptic like me.  I worry that the customer may have actually said “it’s amazing how it doesn’t deter cats all”, but that this was edited down to “it’s amazing!”.  Also their cats probably weren’t as committed to environmental vandalism as the ones that terrorise me).

 

Cat squirter

cat squirter

This is my latest idea, created using some plastic tubing from a home brewing kit, some hosepipe connectors from the pound shop, a washing machine valve from eBay and an old security light.  Total cost: £7 ($15) new materials, plus things I had lying around worth about £10 ($20).  Again, you can buy these commercially, but I like making things.  All the cat has to do is step in front of the sensor and it gets blasted in the face with a high pressure water jet, powerful enough to qualify as yet another means of proverbially skinning a cat.  (Note to cat lovers: it’s actually a gentle shower, but hopefully it’s enough to have the desired effect.  Cats hate water.  Did I tell you about the time a cat wandered into my house in search of roast chicken?  I poured an entire jug of water over it’s head; it was not a happy bunny.)

I haven't got round to trying this yet, but as soon as I get chance, I’ll rig up a video camera and let you know what happens.

Update... two years on

Well, two years have gone by since I wrote the tale of woe above. Things have now improved. It turns out that the root cause of the problem was certain neighbouring cats not having litter trays to use, forcing them to find a convenient alternative - my garden. But by making my garden just that little bit unpleasant, they've found somewhere else.

netting and ultrasonic buzzerThe solution I've settled on for the front strip of grass is a combination of two deterrents, neither of which work on their own. The first is green chicken wire, laid out on the grass, but bunched up a little so it's not totally flat. The cats are not able to scratch around in the soil through this, which puts them off. The grass soon grows through and hides it. The other is the gimmicky ultrasonic cat repellent.

As I said, it doesn't work on its own. The cats will happily sit within a metre of the screeching contraption and do their business. Yet the combination of chicken wire and buzzer makes an environment that's just a little bit too unpleasant. I've had to make an external rechargeable battery pack for the buzzer, as the standard PP3's only last a month. I can tell when they're going flat - the poo reappears! FYI, this was the £20 ($40) gadget from Wilkinsons - nothing fancy!

clean grassBizarrely, the cats have never disgraced themselves on the adjacent strip of grass (see right - it's the picture with the wrought iron gate). I don't know why - maybe it's just too narrow or exposed for them.

garlic orchardAnd they've given up on the back hedge too - maybe this is due to the garlic orchard I planted there (see left).

 

So my war appears to be over. The only problem now is that Thomas (the nice cat from next door who has never knowingly shat on my garden) has taken up residence by my frog pond. He can't reach into it, as it's covered in a strong, toddler-proof grille, but the frogs don't seem too happy. Someone suggested putting a length of hosepipe there... apparently, the cats think it's a snake and keep away. I'll keep you posted...

cat by pond

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