Cats always know who has the best-kept garden with the softest soil and nothing will beat a well-tended vegetable patch as a perfect latrine.
This can be very irritating and somewhat off-putting when you want fresh vegetables, but the cats aren’t doing it to annoy you. They’re doing it because you’ve made that particular patch of soil very attractive to them. Cats naturally dig a hole in soil in which to deposit their urine or faeces and then cover it up. So if its own patch of ground is frozen, rock hard, impacted or paved then the cat has to go elsewhere to find a substrate which will allow it to fulfil its natural needs.
People try lots of things to keep cats off gardens and although there is no guaranteed way to achieve success, any of these may be worth trying:
- Putting pruned branches from spiky plants around and over the patch, especially as seedlings come through
- Leaving empty plastic fizzy-drink bottles around (not much science to this one but worth a try!)
- Planting Coleous canina around the patch (this is the so-called ‘Scaredy-cat’ plant, which is said to be offensive to cats and is available from garden centres)
- Sprinkling commercially available cat deterrents (though these can get washed away when it rains)
- Having a cat or dog of their own which keeps other cats out of the garden (rather excessive perhaps, but it works well)
- Putting chicken wire over the soil once you’ve planted seeds; this prevents the cat from digging up the soil and the seedlings can grow through it very successfully
- Use ultrasonic cat deterrents (see www.conceptresearch.co.uk) – there is evidence that these may have some limited effect by emitting a high pitched sound (at a frequency above that we can hear) which may deter the cat so it goes elsewhere
- Providing cats with an area of light, raked soil or sand away from the main vegetable plot to use as a latrine
Always remember to cover children’s sandpits or boxes when they are not being used. For a cat, these are the most tempting of all as they have nice soft sand, which is easy to dig in and cover over. You can’t blame cats for taking this option if it is available to them!