Cats are fantastic pets, are often much-loved members of the family and provide companionship to many people worldwide. However, many owners do not act responsibly and allow their pet to foul their neighbor’s property, and with an estimated 600 million cats worldwide (1), there is an awful lot of cat mess to clear up. Whether it is the smell of cat pee or having to clear up cat poop on a daily basis, or simply just concern about wider health risks, we offer 18 harmless remedies to get rid of cats from your property.
Cat feces health risks
Any property that is covered in animal waste will present a variety of health risks. However, cat poop presents its own particular health risk problems.
The risk associated with cats is a disease called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite (Toxoplasma gondii) that breeds in the gut of cats but can survive in all warm-blooded animals. It is contracted through contact with cat feces. Studies have shown that the parasite affects the brain chemistry of rodents such that rats and mice find the scent of cats urine sexually attractive rather than fearful. The rodent’s natural instinct to fear cats is diminished, allowing the cat to catch more prey, and the parasite to reach its preferred breeding ground (2).
The ability of the parasite to change rodent brain chemistry is also thought to have an effect on humans as toxoplasmosis has also been linked to a wide variety of psychiatric issues such as depression, schizophrenia, and other more subtle behavioral changes. (3).
Currently, around a quarter of the world’s human population are infected. It is thought that over 60million people in the US alone are carriers (4). Most people, however, exhibit no external symptoms, but some can exhibit flu or glandular fever like symptoms which passes in a few days. However, for pregnant women, severe problems such as stillbirth, miscarriage along with brain, hearing and vision defects in newborn children are known problems (5).
Given the very real health risk associated with cat feces, the best strategy is to the stop the cat from making its mess in the first place. In this regard, we’ve put together the best harmless remedies to get rid of cats from your property.
Remedies to get rid of cats
The focus of any cat deterrent strategy should be preventing cats from ever entering your property and this involves placing physical barriers to entry across your property. Trellising is an excellent way or preventing cats from ever entering your yard or garden. A young healthy cat can jump a height of up to eight feet in one bound but for a cat to do this maximum jump, it will need a secure landing area such as the ledge of a wall. Trellising around your garden fence or wall will not only increase the height of your property perimeter but also removes a secure area for the cat to safely land.
Bamboo trellising is especially good at keeping cats out as it provides no purchase for the cat to safely land as it is thin, flexible and unstable. Cats will not attempt this jump. Allowing climbing plants to grow through the trellis not only provides an attractive leafy screen for your property but further disincentives cats from making the jump.
2. Tin Foil
Cats can hear in ultrasonic frequencies that are inaudible to humans. The reason for this is that their natural prey such as rats and mice communicate in these frequencies and as such, the ability to hear in this range gave cats an evolutionary advantage for catching their prey. High pitched sounds such as jangling keys, keyboard tapping, banging of cutlery, crunching paper bags were all found to be irritable to cats (6).
While it has been shown that even deaf cats can often still hear in ultrasonic frequencies, older cats, like humans become less sensitive to these sounds as they age and as such the deterrent may not work on some cats. The rustling of tin foil is especially unpleasant to cats and by strategically covering walls and access points to your garden or yard, is a proven deterrent as cats will avoid walking on tin foil. Tin foil ‘flags’ can be made to protect vegetable gardens and flowers as the rustling from the wind provides the high-frequency noise deterrent.
Using the same principles from trellising, run a wire, raised up 4-6 inches (10-15cm) along the fence.This will be sufficient to deter the cat from jumping over. The combined height of the wire and fence should be over 5 foot. The wire makes it impossible for the cat to balance and while a cat can clear a 5-foot jump in one leap, not knowing what is on the other side will deter the animal. Wiring does not work as well for thick walls as the wall will still have sufficient surface area for the cat to find balance on top of the wall.
6. Axle Grease
Cats will avoid coming into contact with any sticky materials as they clean themselves by licking their fur. If your garden or yard has a fence or wall, a generous helping of axle grease along the entire perimeter, leaving no gaps will keep cats away for good. You can use other sticky materials, but axle grease has the benefit of being impervious to wind, sunshine, and rain and one layer of axle grease can last over a year.
7. Thorny bushes
Cats will avoid thorny bushes just as much humans will. Strategic positioning of selected bushes around one’s property can help keep cats away. Suitable tree and shrubs include, but are not limited to holly, hawthorn, blackthorn and roses. Cuttings from these bushes when pruned should also be mixed with any fertilizer and mulch laid down in flower beds to give a thorny and uncomfortable base for the cat.
8. Cat spikes
Cat spikes are designed to be nonharmful to cats with intention of laying down a surface along one’s property perimeter that cats will avoid walking on. The spikes need to be small and closely positioned to be effective. A good home remedy for DIY cat spikes is carpet grips which are particularly useful for protecting wooden fences.
9. Smooth pebbles
If you’re unable to deploy the perimeter protection methods outlined above, then the next best solution is to deter cats from fouling your garden or yard once they are on your property. Cats will instinctively try to bury their waste after relieving themselves as it helps disguise their scent and protect them from predators in the days when cats had natural predators. This explains why cats are happy to use cat litter trays if provided by their responsible owners.
To protect flower beds and borders from cat mess, a base of pebbles covering all the bare earth is an attractive way of making a garden’s flower beds unappealing to cats. The pebbles need to be quite large (hand sized) and spread around, completely covering the flower bed. The cat will instinctively feel that it can’t bury its waste and choose somewhere else more suitable.
Don’t use gravel as it is too fine and cats will use it as a litter tray.
10. Chicken wire
Chicken wire follows the same principle of pebbles in that it creates a surface that is unpleasant for the cat to try to bury its mess. Cover the entire flower bed with chicken wire (40mm is a good size gauge) cutting small caps for larger plants to grow through. When the chicken wire is in place, a light sprinkling of earth or mulch can be spread over the wire to conceal it. This creates an unpleasant surface that cats cannot dig as their claws catch on the wire, but is still aesthetically pleasing to the gardener.
11. Cayenne Pepper
Using physical obstacles to deter cats from pooping should be the first line of defense. After that, there are several natural remedies that deter cats through their sense of smell.
Cayenne pepper is irritable to cats just as it is to humans. Cats have a much more heightened sense of smell, possessing about twice as many olfactory sensitive cells than humans. As such, irritable smells such as chile or pepper are also unpleasant to cats and are avoided. (7). Sprinkling Cayenne pepper around effective areas certainly works. However, as with all smell deterrents, the remedy must be reapplied to maintain the effect, especially if there has been rain.
12. Citrus fruit peel
Citrus fruits contain Limonene and Linalool oils which if ingested, can be toxic to cats (8). These oils are metabolized by the liver and can cause liver damage if ingested in large quantities. However, cats will naturally avoid citrus fruits so cats are never exposed to the oils in sufficient quantity for the fruits to be dangerous. Place the peel of citrus fruit in affected areas to deter the cat from making a mess.
Note: If you own a cat, avoid using citrus based products in the house as they can make your cat nauseous.
13. Coleus Canina or Scaredy Cat Plant
The scaredy cat plant is a medium-sized shrub and a member of the mint family. The flowers of the mint family tend to all be strongly scented and have cat deterrent properties.
The scaredy cat plant is no different and has a strong aroma that is somewhere between marijuana and dogs pee. Its similarity with dogs pee is probably why it has acquired its reputation as a natural cat repellent. The plant is very attractive to bees and butterflies, but does not like too much shade and is not particularly hardy so will die in a hard frost. Given the plant’s unpleasant aroma, especially if it is cut or brushed, cats (and humans) will give the plant a wide berth. Unless it is planted across your garden (which given its smell is not recommended), its best use is to grow the shrub in pots and strategically place the plant in affected areas.
Lavender is also a member of the mint family but unlike the Scaredy cat plant, smells delightful to humans while still retaining an irritable smell for cats. The Lavender smell is also a very effective home remedy to mask the smell of cat’s pee. Lavender will grow in almost any part of the garden allowing you to strategically place the shrub in hidden problem areas. When trimming the plant in winter, be sure to add the cuttings to any fertilizer or mulch that is laid down.
15. Homemade cat repellent sprays
Homemade sprays are probably the most convenient way of reapplying a cat-deterring smell to an affected area. The three main categories of organic deterrents are citrus fruits, peppers and aromatic members of the mint family. These organics can be infused in water and delivered via a handheld sprayer bottle. There are many recipes available to try but our preferred recipe is to combine all three deterrents. While it is quite likely that a particular cat may be indifferent to one of the three aromatic deterrents, it is unlikely that none of them will have an effect.
Add the following ingredients to half a liter of boiling water:
The peel of three citrus fruits or 15 drops of essential orange oil
Three spoons of hot pepper sauce
A handful of leaves or several drops of essence of the mint family (Lavender, Mint or Rosemary)
Half a cup of vinegar
Liquidize the solution in a blender and leave overnight to infuse.
Strain through cheesecloth or muslin.
Add to bottle sprayer and spray over affected areas.
16. Lion dung
If physical barriers and irritable smells don’t deter the cats, using the scent of other animals to ward off the pests is another range of options. Strange as this may seem, lion dung is a very effective repellent in this regard. Commercially available products are available where fertilizer pellets are soaked in the essence of actual lion dung and then sterilized. The pellets are odorless to humans and a totally natural cat repellent remedy. Given a cat’s territorial instincts, the scent of a cat as big as a lion is a major warning and deterrent. The pellets last up to three months depending on how much rain there has been and they also act as a fertilizer. While not recommended by the manufacturers, these lion pellets have also been effective for repelling foxes and deer
17. Own a Dog
Owning a dog is an obvious cat repellent but an effective one. While cats and dogs can live harmoniously together in a home, cats will avoid gardens and yards where a neighbor’s dog is allowed to roam. The dog does not need to be even interested in cats as the dog’s scent alone will deter the cats from your property.
Note: if your dog mauls your neighbor’s cat, even if the attack occurs on your property, you are liable for the damage of personal property.
18. Own a Cat
Cats are territorial and will tend to provide a wide berth around the territory of other cats. While it may seem paradoxical, owning a cat (especially a tomcat) can reduce the fouling on your property. What this does mean, though, is that any neighbor who does not own a cat, will soon find that his property has become the ‘neutral’ territory for the neighborhood’s cats to do their business in. Therefore, if you do decide to own a cat, you should take responsibility for it. Use a cat litter tray otherwise you will simply be passing on your cat poop problem onto your neighbor.
- Concentrate your efforts on securing your properties perimeter
- Remove food sources
- Remove source of shelter
- Think about how cats enter your property and strategically place suitable deterrents
- Experiment with several deterrents as all cats will respond differently to each deterrent
- Keep your lawn cut – cats prefer longer soft grass to poop
- Keep flower beds watered and damp – cats prefer dry earth to poop
- Use a cat litter tray if you own a cat
- Don’t trap cats in any way. They are considered private property and trapping is illegal and cruel.
- Don’t use Eucalyptus oil as it is toxic to cats and other animals. (10)
- Don’t use mothballs as they smell as bad as cat pee and are toxic to other animals.(11)
- Do not harm cats.
- Avoid all contact with cat litter or cat poop if pregnant