Humane Ways to Cat-Proof Your Garden on the Cheap

by Reader Contributors

Humane Ways to Cat-Proof Garden photo

Need some cheap tips for cat-proofing your garden? Here are several proven suggestions from our frugal readers on how to humanely keep cats out of your garden and planters.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I am wondering if anyone has an inexpensive way to keep cats out of our garden.

Many of our neighbors own cats. I don’t want to hurt the animals, but I would like to discourage them from using my flower beds as their litter box.

Any humane ideas for cat-proofing my garden would be greatly appreciated!
Janet A.

“Mark” the Garden

My hint contains no DEET. However, you will need to keep an eye on your kids even though it is pretty well disguised.

  1. Take a selection of smallish containers (empty glass baby food containers are fantastic).
  2. Fill them up with Cloudy Ammonia.
  3. Bury the containers up to the rim in your flower bed so the top of the container is level with the soil.
  4. Make sure you spread these sporadically throughout your garden bed.

Cats and dogs absolutely loathe the scent of ammonia (smells like other animals urine) and will stay away. Try spacing them out a little bit at first, perhaps only where you find the animals have been. Only experimenting with this will you be able to judge how many you need, etc. It also depends on the animals sense and tolerance of smell.

Also, just go around and refill the containers as they deplete. It’s cheap and easy!
Ashley K., Sydney, Australia

Hidden Fencing

To keep cats out of flowerbeds, put a section of wooden lattice under the soil and plant flowers, etc. in the holes of the lattice. Cats won’t dig because they will be unable to do so!

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Give Them a Shower

The one thing that I’m aware of that is a really good cat repellent (for about 99% of cats, not quite 100%) is a shower of water.

If I had your problem, I would rig up a motion sensor aimed at the garden that set off a sprinkler. Should work rather well, but there are rare cats that love water!
Jonathan B.

Natural Repellent

Adopt a Dog!
Bob S. in Richmond, VA

Prettier, Too!

I have this same problem so I went to a second hand store and bought as many stoneware plates, saucers, cups, and bowls as they had. Because I bought so much, they were willing to give me quite a price break.

The trick is to break them into medium-size pieces and spread them around your beds. Be sure to wear safety glasses. So far the cats have not been back. It looks really cool with all the colors.
Merri L. in Alaska


We have also had problems with cats in our gardens. My husband, an avid organic gardener, has managed to keep them out by sprinkling the garden with ground black pepper. When they step on the pepper, it “burns” their sensitive pads. The pepper is unnoticeable as it blends in with the dirt.

We purchase pepper from Costco in bulk to make this cost-effective cat deterrent.
Lisa D. I.


This works against snails, too. Try marigolds! They smell funny and our cats have always studiously avoided the areas where they are planted. A frugal and pretty way to cat-proof a garden or flower bed.

Try This Combo!

I have had good luck keeping cats away from the trees and bushes in which birds are nesting by spreading a mixture of citrus peel, used coffee grounds, and egg shells. As this mixture composts in place, it also provides nutrients for the plants.

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Remove Strays

I may have an unpopular suggestion, but it is illegal to allow cats or dogs to run loose in the city. I believe most cities have this ordinance. I have had this problem with my neighbor and I simply call the Humane Society and they bring out a humane trap (free), they bait it (free), and you watch it to see what you catch. They will then take the offending animal or animals out to the Humane Society and hold them the required 5-7 days in the stray ward.

I figure if someone has a pet that they allow to run loose, they are being negligent and irresponsible. If they truly care about their pet, they will check at the Humane Society to see if their pet is there (5-7 days is a long time to NOT notice a pet missing).

By the way, so that you don’t think I’m some unfeeling person, I am a dog trainer and I participate in dog rescue (taking and placing unwanted dogs). I volunteer periodically for my local Humane Society as well. Someday I will have a cat (my son is a cat person), but that animal will never set foot outdoors.
Priscilla B

Coffee Grounds Do the Trick

Save your used coffee grounds and sprinkle them everywhere. They are safe for plants. Ask your friends at a favorite eatery to save them for you as well. The more you use the better.

We have used this as a deterrent and it works.

They’ll Leave If They Can’t Scratch

I put some pieces of screen in between the rows. If a cat can’t scratch up the dirt to make a place for its “stuff,” then it will go elsewhere.

I do this in vegetable gardens all the time. I use chicken wire fencing that I have left over or you could go to Home Depot or Lowes to buy some. This works great!

Cats Hate Citrus Scent

I have used ground up orange peels in my garden to keep cats out, but it takes a lot of peels!

Last year, I tried spraying used dryer sheets with a strong orange cleaner (dollar store brand) and hung them on the tomato cages and other stakes throughout the garden. I sprayed the liquid directly on the wooden garden edges, too. This seemed to work quite well, as the neighbor’s cat didn’t come over to dig to China last year.

To keep the chipmunks out, I bought two solar powered butterflies and stuck them into my strawberry patch. Only one berry showed any sign of chewing. The year before, the entire crop was ruined by the sneaky little buggers!

I had hoped the cats would work with me to keep the chipmunks at bay, but they were too lazy to chase them away.

Reviewed June 2021

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