Not Martha

bring it, cats

This weekend we tackled the case of The State Of Our Planting Beds vs. The Neighborhood Cats. In my previous post seeking advice to keep cats from pooping in my garden it seemed that the winner was to lay down chicken wire which the cats cannot dig through, and therefore they will go elsewhere to do their kitty business. This creates a hassle for people who like to plant a bunch of stuff in their garden, as you have to cut a hole in the chicken wire to plant anything, but we are not big on lawn care and I figure we’ll plant some lavender and a few more shrubs and call it landscaping*.

At first I was not so big on the chicken wire because it sounded like a difficult, scratchy job, so I looked into getting cocoa shell mulch. We took a trip up to Sky Nursery in north Seattle, which had been recommended by a few people. They carry Blommer cocoa mulch, which they told us was washed several times to remove the theobromine (the part that is bad for dogs). (Looking online right now, I’m not finding much saying that Blommer cocoa mulch is safe for dogs.) We priced out cocoa mulch and hazelnut shells for the nearly 200 square feet we need, and at a depth of 3 inches, which is what we’d need to discourage weeds from growing, the price was way more than the value we place on having a nice front garden. So, we went back to chicken wire.

We needed to fight weeds as well as cats but enough mulch to fight weeds would only give cats something to dig into, so we decided to use landscaping fabric as well. We did three layers: landscaping fabric, then chicken wire held down by garden staples, then a single layer of medium bark chips (which look too big to be fun digging material). Right now you can see glints of chicken wire through the bark chips, but from the sidewalk it doesn’t look too bad. For now that will do, I’ve had enough of yard work.

Our very cool neighbors are also battling the cats, and they are saving up for hazelnut shell mulch (they have two dogs, and are understandably unwilling to take chances on cocoa shell mulch). I’ll report back on what works.

* You might ask: If I’m not going to be planting much why should I care if cats poop in my planting bed? Two reasons: there are lots of the damn cats, and the front yard is a Southern exposure. Cat poop + sunshiny heat = stench that makes you feel really sorry for the poor mailman who comes by just around 1 p.m.

· comments [25] · 07-9-2007 · categories:the home ·

25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jjzach // Jul 9, 2007 at 5:41 am

    You can always put containers on top of the mulch if you are looking for some quick and easy color for the season.

  • 2 Amanda // Jul 9, 2007 at 5:55 am

    We thankfully don’t have a poo problem from cats in our neighborhood… but i secretly wish I could train the bunnies and deer to go someplace else. Our pups find their droppings to be a delicious treat! BLECH! Not only is it gross, but it really distracts them from doing their own business. Crazy pups.

  • 3 Mefuza // Jul 9, 2007 at 6:32 am

    I am so with you on the dilemma of cats. I too ‘suffer’ from the stench. I will have to try the chicken wire idea.

  • 4 Pam // Jul 9, 2007 at 6:43 am

    We used chicken wire for our entire vegetable garden this year and it is working wonderfully. Our seedlings fit perfecting through the holes in the wire. In only a few cases did we need to cut the wire — to accomodate our tomato plants.

  • 5 brad // Jul 9, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Contact your local Humane Society – they will give you traps for free to catch the cats and then will take them in and find homes for them. Stray cats carry diseases, destroy local bird populations, are a nuisance (as you’re finding out), and create a burden on rescue organizations by uncontrolled breeding. Just tell your neighbors first so you don’t accidentally catch someone’s free-roaming pet.

  • 6 megan // Jul 9, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Brad – Thanks, they aren’t strays really, just live in the neighborhood. If we were to catch them the neighbors would be really angry. They have been fixed though, so no more kittens. Besides which, we’ve never seen a rodent in our yard so we don’t dislike the cats, just the way they use our garden.

    Pam – Good to know!

  • 7 Nana // Jul 9, 2007 at 8:18 am

    Or just do what J Edgar Hoover did at his house in DC…cover the front yard in concrete and paint it green.

  • 8 Patti // Jul 9, 2007 at 9:37 am

    We have one particular neighbor cat that likes to go right in front of our main breeze-catching window. Yeah. If he doesn’t cover it up, it grows bizarre crops of 4 inch tall mold or fungus or something. I have no idea what he eats to cause this stuff. I’m disgusted right now just writing about it.

  • 9 nazila // Jul 9, 2007 at 9:44 am

    We use both cocoa mulch and hazelnut shells for different parts of the garden. I love the hazelnut shells as halves, not the crunched up stuff molbaks sold us by mistake. You can go to holmquist at the u district or west seattle markets and they can bring you a few bags and it will be cheaper than sky (I believe they still sell shells).

    Cocoa bean hulls are great, but they do blow around in the wind. We’re about to put down another huge bag in our asparagus and strawberry beds.

    Good luck with the cats.

  • 10 megan // Jul 9, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Thanks Nazila!

  • 11 Tina // Jul 9, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Our neighbor’s cats like to pee behind our trash cans on our cement patio. I have used lemon juice and vinegar to try to get rid of this bad habit. Even washing the area with bleach doesn’t seem to help. I never knew cats would go on cement. So far, nothing’s working…

  • 12 Katrina // Jul 9, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Cats don’t care for RUE (a striking perennial that Monarch caterpillars seem to like) or CITRUS smells of any kind. (Believe it or not, one type of kitty litter is made from dried orange peels – my cats all hate it).

    Also, cats love to PEE on brush, dead plants, or any little pile of trash. POOPwise, they like to get their dig on in dry, sandy dirt or loose, loamy earth. With all options equal, they still don’t like doing both in the same spot. One cat sets a precedent, and the others follow.

    Cats are such creatures of habit that it’s sometimes easier to redirect their interest toward one or two small, specific areas instead of trying to discourage them from a larger area.

    The two products that we find most effective at removing urine odors: Zero Odor ( for indoors, and CB-Pet ( for outdoors.

    PS Regarding Brad’s comment: most cats that end up at humane societies are euthanized. TNR (trap-neuter-return) – like what’s been done in the original poster’s neighborhood – is more humane, more effective, and cheaper.

  • 13 Larry // Jul 9, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    It’s good to see so many creative and humane ideas to address the issue. I have friends who talk about using less humane methods to deter cats, so now I can give them some alternatives.

  • 14 Stephanie // Jul 9, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Yes on the rue suggestion. Try it mixed with ginger and lavender (equal parts), then sprinkle it around the front planting bed.

  • 15 Myam // Jul 9, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    i will definitely try this. our “stench-provider” is a wee little kitty that has taken to harassing/analyzing our house cat. thanks for the idea! :)

  • 16 pulltaffy // Jul 9, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Is it legal for people to let their cats roam around? Not only is it super dangerous, but in my area, it’s illegal. You can get a hefty fine if your cat is left loose. I’m surprised it’s not the case where you live, too!

  • 17 Jess // Jul 10, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Hopefully the chicken wire will work for you. If you find they’re still coming back, you can try getting an “economy pack” of disposable plastic forks and sticking them into the ground, tines up and out of the dirt, in the problem area. You have to pack them tightly, but the cats won’t dig if they get poked all the time.

    I have two indoor kitties who really love to dig in my houseplants. The forks were the only thing that worked for us. (We tried lemon peels, cinnamon sticks, aluminum foil, rocks, pepper-sprayed lava rock, commercial cat sprays, etc.) It also brings some funny looks from first-time guests.

    I guess you could paint the tines green and have a cat-proof “lawn”.

  • 18 Amy in Cambridge // Jul 10, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Pulltaffy~ Where does one live that a cat can not roam freely? I have an equal amount of surprise that one could be fined for allowing a cat outside…..unless I’m not understanding something. Just curious, cuz I’ve never heard of this.

    Megan, I have really enjoyed your exploration of this issue. Someday I hope to have a yard and will remember all of this stuff.

  • 19 Melissa // Jul 10, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Above comments from Katrina are true—cats DO NOT like citrus smells. We have plenty of strays here—I have had good luck with some of the ornamental basils that have a lemony scent—they look pretty, are low maintenance, and seem to do the trick with the kitties.

  • 20 pulltaffy // Jul 12, 2007 at 5:40 am

    Amy- I live in PA. It’s actually a good thing where I am, for the reasons discussed in the post- stray/unsupervised cats are a nuisance to neighbors, and a danger to pets that are in their own yards. Most importantly, it’s not safe to let a cat roam the streets. They could be hit by a car, hurt by another animal, or mistreated by cruel people.

    One of my cats was rescued from people who let their cats loose. He was very young and was in a neighbor’s yard, and the man who lived there came and found him and kicked him in the face. He very nearly died, and he has permanent disfigurement as a result. It’s simply not safe to let pets run around loose, so I think the law is a good thing. It’s meant to protect animals and encourage responisble pet ownership.

    (Sorry if I sound preachy, that’s not how I mean to come across, but I can’t help but feel strongly about this- you might call it a “pet peeve”!)

  • 21 Lolamako // Jul 14, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    I buy cheap bamboo stakes, cut them into 6-9 inch pieces, and stick them, straight up, in my garden at random intervals. Works just fine, costs next to nothing, and are easy to move. In fact it could cost nothing, if you have some straight sticks or even driftwood you could collect and use.

  • 22 Lolamako // Jul 14, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    BTW Brad, humane society’s do NOT socialize trapped feral cats. They are euthanized. If you have feral cats that are sterilized they will keep other feral cats from colonizing that area, by removing them you are opening the door to increased cat population from un-sterilized cats.

  • 23 m // Jul 19, 2007 at 9:51 am


  • 24 Beth Ann // Jul 23, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    My mom always put moth balls down in the flower beds to keep the kitties away. I guess they don’t like that smell (neither do I!).

  • 25 Melissa Bear // Sep 24, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I put orange peels in my front garden which was a bathroom for the cats and suprisingly no more cat poops! Cats do not like the smell of citrus. It worked for me so you might want to give it a try.

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