There are lots of resources available to help you cat-proof your yard. Many people find citrus peels, black pepper, garlic, citronella oil and blood meal help repel cats, but they need to be re-applied on a regular basis. Make a simple herbal spray using a handful of rue, (Ruta graveolens) boiled in a liter of water for ten minutes and allowed to stand for 8 hours. Strain the mixture through a piece of muslin or stocking into a spray bottle and spray around the areas where the cat frequents your garden. This may need to be repeated twice daily for up to a week to ensure cats do not return. The smell of Rue is offensive to cats and it may give them the message that there is already a dominant cat on the premises. If you don’t have access to rue, you can make a mixture of 2 cups vinegar, two cups warm water, and 10 drops of one or more cat-repellent essential oils (lavender, citrus, citronella, cinnamon, eucalyptus and mustard). Pour into a spray bottle and spray the problem area thoroughly.
You can also plant rue, lavender, pennyroyal, Coleus canina and lemon thyme, all of which are unappealing to cats. If you find that a cat digs in a specific area of your garden at night, water this section just before dark. Cats don’t like to have wet, muddy feet.
Motion-activated sprinklers can also help to keep cats away, but watch for over-watering. Cat-proof fencing is an option too, since it serves to keep cats out as well as in. There are also a variety of ultrasonic cat deterrents available, which use a harmless burst of ultrasonic sound to keep cats out of the area. These deterrents also sometimes work on other mammals such as raccoons. We recommend the Catwatch ultrasonic cat deterrent, since it is proven to have no effect on birds.
If it’s not possible to keep cats from your yard, consider the following ways of improving birds’ chances:
• Keep bird feeders & baths at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) from shrubbery or foliage that can provide cover for a cat. Ideally feeders should be 3-4.5 meters (10-15 ft) away from cover to give birds enough time to react to the presence of a cat (or other predator).
• Choose landscaping, such as thorny bushes, that discourage cats, but have berries for birds. Sharp mulches can also discourage cats.
• If you can’t remove shrubs near the feeders, consider installing a decorative fence in front of the shrub or hedge to prevent predators from attacking birds from those places.
• Check your fences regularly and block any access points. Be sure to check under decks, behind sheds, or in other areas where cats can hide.
• Bird houses with steep roofs and no perches help deter predators.
• Keep any nesting boxes at least 2.5 meters (8 ft) off the round to minimize the chance of a cat reaching the box.
• Investigate yard fences regularly and repair or block gaps that may be access points for wild or feral cats. Similarly, be sure there are no access points beneath decks, behind sheds or in other areas where predators can hide.
• Avoid using low feeders or ground feeders that make it easier for cats to capture the birds. Clean up any spilled seeds regularly to minimize ground feeding.
• Use plastic or metal poles to hold feeders so cats can’t climb to the feeder. Baffles can also help deter predators.
While this can be a very frustrating scenario, whatever you do, it is never acceptable to take steps that might deliberately harm any animal, including a cat. Furthermore, it’s irresponsible – and often illegal – to use lethal traps, poisons or other tactics that could hurt not only the cats, but other animals, including birds.
Finally, we urge to contact your municipality and let them know that roaming cats are an issue for you. You can download a template letter here
To download a copy of this resource as a PDF, Cat_Proofing_Your_Garden.