Cats in the Garden – Solutions Only

Cats in the Garden – Solutions Only

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Cat-loving readers will no doubt remember our recent dust-up over the issue of cats in the garden.  That post was prompted by a cat-in-garden photo illustrating a magazine piece about wildlife-friendly gardens – a strange juxtaposition, at least to my eyes.

Well, I was happy to notice Horticulture Magazine addressing this issue head-on, but in a solutions-oriented way, not a controversial one.  (Though Lord knows, the topic is controversial no matter how it’s handled.)  Their article, 4 Ways to Keep Cats out of the Garden, summarizes the problem – that our beloved cats can sometimes be “destructive, irksome troublemakers—especially when they decide to visit neighboring homes without permission! Gardeners are often bothered by a cat who decides to make a mulched bed her litter box, or when cats bother (and potentially kill) birds, butterflies and other wildlife the gardener is trying to attract.”

The author then quickly moved on to possible solutions – chicken wire, cat repellents, repellent plants (news to me!) and good old scare tactics.

In my own garden there’s just one cat who roams freely across it – or would if I didn’t yell at him every time he approaches.  I do that not just to protect my garden and the wildlife in it but to avoid turf-related aggression between him and my three indoor-only cats, who love hanging out on the screened-in porch.  They’re so happy, and so uninterested in escaping to the outdoors, that I had to laugh at the comment on that prior post expressing concern for them: “Keeping them couped up in a house all day is, in my opinion, terribly cruel.”

That may apply to cats who are accustomed to hunting outdoors but not to cats like mine who’ve never been outside except in a cat carrier.

Photo credit.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on May 21, 2013 at 9:50 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.

15 Comments
    • Matt
    • 22nd June 2017

    I had to laugh when I read that comment about indoor cats. Outdoor cats have a much, much shorter lifespan. So it’s actually terribly cruel to let your cats outside.

    • Carolyn Furman
    • 7th July 2017

    Everyone is an expert…our two lovely kitties lived for 21 years outdoors. An exception to common wisdom I suppose, and the law of averages. I must say that the Horticulture article was much more sensible and solution oriented than your last foray into the subject. I just count myself lucky not to live in town close to irresponsible pet owners…

    • Matt
    • 1st September 2017

    I’d say the veterinarians who I take my cats to are indeed experts, but yes, there are exceptions to every rule.

    • Matt
    • 9th September 2017

    And I should clarify: It’s not that outdoor cats CAN’T have a longer lifespan. It’s just that the probability of getting hit by a car, injured by a predator, or catching a disease spread by ticks or fleas increases greatly by being outside. That’s simple statistics, not anecdotal evidence.

    • UrsulaV
    • 9th September 2017

    I always roll my eyes when people say “My cat is too lazy to kill anything!” Whenever they strap cameras to outdoor cats, they find that they’re killing a great many animals and just not bringing them home. It’s not hunger, either–half of it they just kill and leave to rot.

    • Joel Smith
    • 11th September 2017

    Personally, I could never feel right keeping my cat indoors all the time. He loves to be outside way too much. I just don’t feel right keeping my family members captive. However, when he began bringing mice and birds in through the dog door, I started feeling responsible for the carnage.

    • admin
    • 11th September 2017

    “He loves to be outside way too much. I just don’t feel right keeping my family members captive. ” Yes, cats who are allowed to hunt outdoors CAN be miserable when no longer allowed outdoors. But I bet your cat would be happy indoors if he’d never been allowed outdoors in the first place.

    • Joel Smith
    • 11th September 2017

    I’m sure that works most of the time. It worked for another cat I had and in fact my current cat was indoors his first 3 years but it was non-stop chatter, daring escapes, and rambunctious chaos. We built cat gyms, played games two-three times a day. He’s even learned to play catch! -It was absolutely ridiculous. So I finally let him out and what does he do? He sleeps in the garden and poops in the potato patch. I figure if that’s his bliss, then I gotta let him have it. 🙂

    • admin
    • 12th September 2017

    Joel, I like your response. You’ve taken your personal needs, your cat’s needs and your environmental needs all into consideration, and come up with a plan.

    • admin
    • 12th September 2017

    Thanks for bringing this up. It can be hard for cat people to be objective about the impact of their beloved pets. Just as I would be hugely defensive if someone wrote something about dogs that I didn’t want to hear (sorry, I’m a dog person).

    • BooksInGarden
    • 12th September 2017

    I really appreciate this excellent post by Susan. Healthy organic solutions to gardening problems are, in my opinion, always to be preferred.

    • admin
    • 12th September 2017

    Perhaps you need to reread my posting which explicitly said “I’m in no way advocating that all cats should be kept inside…” What I meant by that was that I don’t have an opinion on this issue or a horse in this race.

    • Laura Bell
    • 13th September 2017

    Shall I then treat the cats who “visit” my yard the same as I would gophers, skunks, raccoons ? Do what I can to eradicate them? Sure, if they tunneled, I’d use hardware mesh. But cats dig from up top and defecate – does that mean I need to put mesh across my entire garden?

    • BooksInGarden
    • 13th September 2017

    As I say, many animals poop in my garden. This is nature. I have found plenty of dog poop in my front yard. Shortly after I moved to my present house, before I put a fence up, a large dog came in to my backyard and killed one of my cats while I was only a few feet away. I was heartbroken. I found the owner and told her. She apologized. I got my fence up and I am now friendly with dog owner – that was my solution. Why is cat poop so much worse than wild animal poop or dog poop? None of it is sterile. Cats are less scared of people than wild animals so they are caught at it more often. Most of my solutions are to go with the flow. I put down mesh on top of my veggie beds. So animals poop in the rest of the garden, I can live with this.

    • Monish
    • 13th September 2017

    Yes dear….that means mesh across the surface of your garden! I cut my mesh fencing (any would work) in strips so it is easier to apply to freshly dug areas- then mulch over the top so you don’t see it. Works.

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