Keeping Cats Out of the Garden

When we first moved into our house, we discovered that one of our neighbors was keeping 25 outside cats and another was keeping about 10. If you drew a line between their two houses, you would find our backyard…

Consequently, when we put in our garden, we had quite the task trying to keep all the cats from using it as a litterbox. We did attempt talking to the neighbors, but, as you might guess, that did not solve the cat problem. There are a LOT of recommendations for keeping cats out of your garden beds. This article is geared towards folks in the city or suburbs with a larger than average garden for that environment – like me!

Best Solution: Quick Hoops & Bird Netting
What has worked best for us is keeping our quick hoop frames up, and when we no longer need the plastic covering for season extension we replace it with bird netting until the crops cover the soil. Once there is no more exposed soil, the cats stop seeing the garden as a giant litter box.

PVC frames support any configuration of bird netting needed
Also, Coffee Grounds
We also get used coffee grounds in bulk from a local coffee shop. When we dump a LOT of grounds onto our beds (think 30+ gallons per 12x3 bed), it keeps the cats away… but only for a few weeks. This obviously isn’t a feasible solution for year round or long term cat deterrence, but it helps when we are at the edges of the planting season and don’t want to have to cover the beds yet/anymore.

Taylor "mixing in" coffee grounds on a raised bed
The best part of both these solutions is that we would already be doing these things anyway – and they are cheap. We use the free used coffee grounds as a soil amendment/fertilizer (our soil is very alkaline clay, so it’s impossible to overdo the coffee grounds) and the quick hoops are already in place for season extension. The bird netting also helps keep out – ahem – birds.

Here are some other methods folks have recommended, but didn’t work for us. They are worth mentioning in case they would work better in your situation, or if it saves you time from trial and error.

Chicken Wire
You can place chicken wire on the soil of your garden bed. Many plants can grow through the holes, but the wire will keep the cats from digging their cat holes. While this method should work for small garden beds, it wasn’t cost effective for the scale of our garden, and it doesn’t work at all for root vegetables like beets or turnips.

Plastic Forks
For this method, you plant plastic forks in your garden beds, tines up. It works like the chicken wire concept and makes the bed too annoying for a cat to dig into. I didn’t even try this method as it would be too time consuming for the size of our garden, and just too ugly.

Orange Peels, Predator Urine, and other smelly things
The problem with these methods are their dubious effectiveness and the need to regularly reapply.

Someone suggested planting a lot of mint to deter cats and other pests. The cats I’ve seen just eat the mint. It’s related to Catnip, so it kinda makes sense that they would love it. Maybe try planting mint or catnip in a ‘sacrifice site’ for the cats and remember to not use any of it for culinary purposes.

Call Animal Control
Good luck. Our animal control supports feral cat colonies as they supposedly keep raccoons away. I say supposedly because that is a straight up myth. Cats do not keep raccoons away – I know because I also have traps for raccoons. I catch a raccoon every night I set out my trap, despite being in the middle of a 35+ cat colony. I think our neighbors setting out cat food for the strays just attracts the raccoons even more, and endangers the cats to raccoon attacks.  


If you have a feral cat problem, I hope my article helps you find a creative solution for your situation.

If you feed outdoor cats in an urban environment, please – show them the love they deserve. Bring them inside where they will be safe and not be considered a pest by others. Vaccinate & neuter/spay them. Don’t endanger them by leaving them (and their food) outside. They are at risk of being run over by a car, being attacked by a raccoon or other creature, dying a slow and painful death due to disease/illness, or being killed by a fed-up neighbor. Inside, their quality of life with drastically improve, and you will have a loving companion.