Cats and Puppies in the Garden
By Brenda Hyde

I've been receiving a lot of emails asking for more tips on keeping cats, dogs and especially puppies out of the garden so I've been doing research. As far as personal experience we've had one cat who wouldn't stay inside and one who does. The only time I had problems in one of the beds I put in some short pieces of chicken wire and screen where he was using it as a litter box and he stopped. I've also read that you can put anything that is scratchy or pokey-broken sticks, plastic spikes etc. in the bothered beds and it will help. If you have any thorny stems of raspberry or other berry bushes these will work great too!

Another important, but certainly not easy, solution when they are your own pets and not strays is discipline. From the start you need to use a firm voice, shaking pennies in a can, using squirt guns or some other noisy alternative for you to show them they cannot go in the garden area. You can't let up at any point. Everyone in your household should help with this and be on the lookout for the times they do venture into the garden. Also, have some type of visible barriers where you have flower, herb or vegetable beds. Use landscape timbers, brick, fence etc. as long as it can be seen so it gives your pet something they can eventually understand as the "stay out" area. For easily damaged plants you may have to get creative until your pet learns and use fencing to keep them away.

Plastic or cardboard as a mulch will help some to keep cats away, plus you can lay twigs around the areas where they are digging. If they do leave waste pick it up and discard into the garbage as soon as possible. They also don't like wet soil, so water during dry spells. Though there really isn't any evidence of this working every time, many gardeners will plant alliums, chamomile, marigolds or rue in the beds where cat are digging.

I was in one of our local garden centers last week looking for a few bargains and I saw a plant called a Scardy Cat plant. Its proper name is Coleus canina and apparently it's been known also as "dog be gone", "bunny be gone" as well. Does it work? Well, I did some checking and it works for some people and not for others. Various sources say it is "scentless" to humans. Not true--it did have a scent a little bit like marigolds---in fact, some people insist they will do the same job and are easier to grow. I also saw a lot of descriptions bragging about the blooms and the foliage. It wasn't like your typical coleus in appearance. It reminded me a little of a mint plant. This coleus can withstand very high temperatures, over 100, and it can survive down to about 30 degrees. It spreads by runners and in warmer climates can be invasive if not watched. Plants can reach 12" - 18" in height, but they can be cut back shorter to form a border.

From what I read the smell only becomes strong enough when they are established, which explains why some people try them in pots and they don't repel any of the animals it claims to. But, I read of some really good success with the plants when they are located at the corners of a garden and planted in the ground. My opinion---if you can buy the plants at a good price and have room to add them to your landscape they would be a nice addition, and if they live up to their reputation, a great, all-natural deterrent.


I have one cat I've called "Moses" who loved " parting" my flower beds on his daily rounds until someone suggested diluting some "DETTOL" with water and spraying it where he loved to make his daily blessings. I can assure your readers, this is the best idea I've ever come across. No more problems. My flowers are great, but my carrots in the garden have a brown hue to them. LOL ~Walt, Canada (Note: Dettol is an antiseptic-disinfectant in concentrate form)

We have successfully managed to keep the cats away by scattering prickly Mahonia leaves around their digging areas. ~John

Where I work stray cats hide under our front porch/deck. They use it as a bathroom and a place to fight and spray. We toss moth balls under and around the edges. The mothballs smell too but the cats soon get the message and don't come back so we usually only have to do it once. ~Sandra

The vet suggested spraying the areas affected with vinegar about once a week or respray if it rains. ~Joyce

Keeping cats out of flower beds, the garden, etc. Poke plastic forks, tine side up, at various intervals throughout the flower bed. Works like a charm. ~Carol Fulton

For pests in the garden: spray coyote urine. Sounds disgusting, but if the pests smell evidence of a predator in the area, they won't stick around. It's available in garden stores and it WORKS!! ~Jennifer

About the author:
Brenda Hyde is a wife and mom to three living in the Midwest United States. She is also editor of

Perennial & Landscaping Resources
Spring Hill Nursery
Michigan Bulb
Henry Field's
Gurney's Seed & Nursery
Jackson & Perkins
Nature Hills Nursery

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