How do I keep my neighbor’s cat out of my garden?


I need help keeping cats out of my gardens. My neighbor’s cat uses my front door gardens as his litter-box. I want to plant herbs in these beds as the sun is right.  Help!


Katherine Garland, Horticulturist


I’m sorry to hear of your feline troubles. Keeping cats out of the garden is not easy, but here’s a terrific article by a colleague that offers some practical tips:

Keeping Cats Out of the Garden

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Cats whether they be domestic or feral (wild) can be a real problem for gardeners. Cats can destroy plants and mess up your seed bed. Cats defecate and urinate in the garden soil and make the place an unpleasant place. Cats can serve as a reservoir for diseases that include histoplasmosis, leptospirosis, mumps, plague, rabies, ringworm, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and distemper. Cat feces can contain parasites that can affect the health of people. It is in the interest of the gardener to keep cats out of the garden.

The following strategies are offered for those gardeners with a cat problem:


  • Chicken wire fencing can be laid on the ground in the garden to prevent digging by cats. The wire can be secured with extra large “hair pins” formed by cutting wire coat hangers in half. Most plants will grow through the wire easily. The wire can be covered with a thin layer of mulch if needed.
  • Single or double strands of electric fence at low voltage can be used to teach cats that the garden is not a place for them. Polywire strands or ribbons are attached to short fiberglass rods. The polywire is durable and will last several years with care. As a substitute for the polywire, one could also use 22 gauge galvanized utility wire. The wire should be placed at heights of four and nine inches. A single strand could be placed at a four-inch height. Fence chargers can be purchased from farm and feed stores or from farm supply catalogs. One style of electric fence charger is powered by flashlight batteries. The fence can be turned off after the cats have “learned” to avoid the area. This same barrier can help keep woodchucks out of the garden.


  • Rough textured mulch is uninviting for cats. Cats are attracted to garden soil with the same texture as kitty litter, so use mulches that are coarse.
  • Rue, a hardy blue-green herb, is said to repel cats.
  • Dog hair spread on the ground or hung in onion bags around the garden could work to keep cats away. Some cats won’t go near dog hair.
  • Live dogs can serve as garden guards against cats as well as other animal pests.
  • Anise Oil, methyl nonyl ketone, Ro-pel and Thymol as well as other repellents sold at pet stores and garden centers may be effective in repelling cats. Read and follow label directions of any product that you obtain. Some of these products may not be labeled for use around food crops. Some products may be irritating to people.

Other Techniques

  • Keep the cats indoors or negotiate with the cat owners to do so.
  • If the cats are stray, call your local animal control officer.
  • Avoid feeding pets outdoors. Food is an invitation for stray animals and neighborhood pets as well as wildlife.
  • Remove brush and other cover where animals are apt to hide or live. Keep the vegetation in the area clipped.
  • Some animals are attracted to compost piles. When composting, use a covered and walled compost bin. Bury fresh materials in the pile.
  • Try placing loaded mouse traps under a layer of newspaper in and around the garden to teach the cat(s) to stay out.

Practices to Avoid

  • Don’t grow catnip in your garden. This attracts cats.
  • Don’t use mothballs or moth flakes made from naphthalene to try to repel cats and other pests outside. When used outdoors the balls and flakes melt and may contaminate groundwater.

Final Thoughts

Cats are more active during twilight and night-time so freshen repellents and prepare barriers for higher use during those times. To avoid contamination by cats feces wear gloves when gardening. Wash your hands and under fingernails thoroughly after working in the garden when not using gloves.