Cats like raised beds because the soil is usually looser and warmer than the soil in the rest of the yard or even the rest of the garden. We keep our beds relatively bare with just the soil, so cats find this to their liking, using it as litter. They’ll also chew on fresh leaves and take naps on our plants. So, how do we keep this from happening?
There are many deterrents that discourage cats from getting into and digging in your raised garden beds and more are being made, but they all fit into 5 categories: Technological Deterrents, Scent Deterrents, Plant Deterrents, Physical Deterrents, and Diversions.
These are just categories. If you keep reading, I’ll cover much more than that!
Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
These handy dandy devices have been on the market for years but were geared toward rodents and insects. I honestly had never heard of one that worked for cats and dogs until now. They come in a variety of waterproof creations that you can use anywhere in your garden that collects good sunlight, because most are solar (though many are also chargeable via USB or battery).
Most of them have a motion sensor on them, so you’ll want to aim them at the paths you know the unwanted animals use. Once the sensor picks up movement, the device emits an ultrasonic frequency wave that annoys the cat or dog and sends them away. Some even come with strobing LED lights to further confuse and bother pesky animals.
Some of these motion sensors are set up to defend viewing points that are up to 120° angles and can cover 2000sqft. The sound emission on one of these devices can reach as far as 5,000sqft. The good news is, the sensitivity can usually be adjusted, I would suggest that, especially if you have pets that will still be using nearby spaces.
Our recommendation would be the Defendy Ultrasonic Animal Repeller on Amazon.
Motion Activated Sprinkler
Using motion activation technology on a sprinkler system might sound ingenious. Especially since you’re not just getting rid of pesky animals, you’re also watering your plants in the process. However, plants don’t always need that extra water. And let’s not forget…
Seriously. You better not forget! Because motion sensors will react to human movement, too. Unless you want to be soaked by your own trap, you’ll need to remember to cut the system off before going out into your own garden.
Go Away! Cat/Dog repellent, Hot Pepper Spray, or Bitter Apple
You would think that scent deterrents like these would be a sure thing, especially for animals with very sensitive olfactory senses and those that often will chew on plants when they are meandering the backyard. But I have to admit that these don’t always work.
I have used Bitter Apple, which smells bad even to me, and it didn’t deter either cats or my dogs. Hot Pepper Spray has been used by a friend of mine against cats and squirrels. She said they simply scratch around these and don’t seem to be affected much at all.
My suggestion would be to look over the reviews before you spend your money on any of these. Because, I guarantee that if someone gets it to work, they have really inundated their entire garden with it. Every rain, sprinkling, or morning fog will wear it away.
Because cats are so sensitive to smell, some people have told me they use citrus fruit and their peels to ward off the feline pests. I’ve not actually tried this, however, I do have a 65lb furry trash disposal unit that won’t let this happen. My dog will find that yummy citrus smell and she will eat it or take it to bury somewhere else.
Citrus definitely does not work on my dog, unless it’s lemon. And that she will pounce on as if it has offended her. So this may not be the best method, especially if you have a doggo in the family. But if you don’t have a dog to worry about, it just might work. There is a lot of evidence that cats despise citrus scents. I have seen one gag when they sniffed a peeled lemon.
Lemons are mildly toxic to cats – but I have never seen one ingest a lemon, so unless you’re spraying them with something that has lemon in it – I believe you are good.
Essential Oil and White Vinegar
Now, having the actual fruit out in your garden might help ward off cats, but what about oils? Oils can have just as much scent power as the real thing, maybe more. If you use cotton dipped in the oils placed strategically around the garden, this just might work.
Obviously, any citrus scent is a go, but you can also try: lavender, white vinegar, rosemary, peppermint, balsam, or pine.
And a lot of these also repel insects. So it’s a double whammy – especially in the case of white vinegar (do not use apple cider vinegar – it is sweet and cats don’t mind it). You can use the cotton ball method or use a spray bottle with the correctly diluted amount of oil or vinegar.
Just keep in mind that whenever it rains or the sprinklers are used, you may have to reapply. The good news is – unlike those expensive scent products listed above, white vinegar is cheap.
Citrus, pine, and lavender is toxic to cats, so be aware of that. Rosemary, thyme, mint, and vinegar are not toxic to cats.
Oils are not only a deterrent to cats, but they often help plants and repel insects. The following oils are actually safe to use on plants – and I’m listing them in case someone has indoor cats and indoor plants who want to keep the cats from those plants.
Oils that help plants, repel pests and cats – Neem, pine, any mint, neroli, lemongrass, citronella, patchouli, cedar, any citrus, lavender, eucalyptus, clove, thyme, and rosemary.
If you use mint, do not plant it in your raised bed gardens! Mint spreads like you wouldn’t believe! Keep mint in pots around your garden instead.
Cats are very sensitive to smells. Therefore, planting very aromatic plants strategically around the garden can help deter the little intruders. Not only will these plants repel cats, but they usually also repel insects, so you are getting two benefits by using these plants around your garden: Coleus Canina, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, clove, fennel, yarrow, marjoram, basil, citronella, geranium, and even lavender.
Physical Barriers & Deterrents
Rose Branches, Pine Cones, and Floral Wire
Some gardeners use rose branches or floral wire around the base of their plants to keep cats from getting into them. The problem isn’t that this won’t work. It’s that if the cat gets pricked by the obstacles, they might actually cause damage trying to get away. Now, if they are smart creatures, maybe this would not deter them in the future?
It might work. This concept is exactly what has precipitated the invention of spiked deterrent mats that I describe below. But let me take a moment to mention pine cones. With pine cones, not only are you providing a minefield of discomfort for anything trying to get in the raised garden bed, but they smell like pine, which cats hate. Bonus – they decompose to help with mulching your beds.
Sometimes referred to as Cat Scat Mats – these plastic mats are usually covered in spikes. The idea is to lay them around the beds to keep animals out of them. When any medium-sized animal (these work on squirrels and even pigeons) tries to get close to the plant, they will step on these uncomfortable spikes and be driven off to rethink their life’s decisions. These are non-toxic and flexible, so they can be placed easily. These things come in squares or in rolls.
If you are looking to get some then our recommendation is the Homarden Cat Scat Mat Set on Amazon.
Bird Netting or Plastic Garden Fencing
It may be a little extra work, but laying thin wire or bird netting over the ground around your crops can at least keep cats from scratching and using your raised bed garden like a little box. Without the ability to scratch, what’s the point? The cat will probably lose interest. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t just stick around, roll around and still chew and play on your plants.
If you use plastic garden fencing or chick wire around your beds, that can be a deterrent if it’s high enough. However, it’s also an annoyance for most gardeners. I know. I’ve used this method before.
Setting up Diversions
The main reason a cat wants to be in a garden, other than getting scritches from the humans, is to use the raised bed gardens as their personal litter box. So, the idea is to give them something more appealing to use. If you give them a wonderful litter box, they…will…come?
I just dated myself with that reference. Sorry. Let’s move on.
I have not ever tried this. However, I’ve seen this suggestion mentioned by people on a local gardening group’s website, and then, I also saw it on The Old Farmer’s Almanac site. So, I’m thinking that maybe it would work.
The question is, how far are you willing to go to make peace with the felines in your neighborhood? This is going to cost money and take some work. But if it works, maybe it’s a good idea.
First, find some land in your yard that is far away from your garden area. Next, you dig out an area or use a kiddie pool and fill it with sand. Around this “outdoor litter box” plant catnip and valerian plants. Keep the thing from being overgrown. Theoretically, this will make it a more appealing outdoor litter tray than your garden.
Don’t forget to do what works.
It’s relatively cut and dry, there are a LOT of methods for keeping cats out of your raised garden beds. You just need to choose which ones work for you. Some people swear by using specific plants to ward off cats, while other people say that never works.
A lot of people don’t want to get involved in anything that might injure an animal, and some of the barriers can injure, though I imagine it would be a minor wound at most from thorns. Other people may question the use of certain oils or chemicals around their gardens.
Remember that devices are hardly ever 100% effective. Again, this is all up to the person trying to wrangle cats out of their raised garden beds. So far, our old-fashioned cat-chaser has worked wonders. She’s 9 years old and rather spoilt and sheds, but one good WOOF! From a German Shepherd/Akita mix and most cats take off running.
If you have more suggestions for this article, feel free to get in touch with us so we can add them and give you credit for the suggestion!