Nuisance from free-roaming cats

Cats can be a real nuisance in the garden!

Visiting cats from the neighbourhood are attracted to newly-cultivated areas of soil, often raking up newly-sown lawns and seedbeds before leaving their unwanted deposit.

Cats naturally have an instinct to chase birds and some garden owners find this distressing, especially gardeners who consciously set out to attract birds into their gardens.

Cat owners do not have a legal responsibility for the consequences of the animals' natural behaviour such as the instinct to chase birds in the garden.

However, they are responsible for any damage the animal causes under trespass laws but in reality, this would be difficult to prove.

Garden owners are within their rights to take action to remove or scare away trespassing cats but they have no right to kill or injure the animal in the process.

Various actions which garden owners can take to try to deter cats:

None of these are guaranteed to work but each is worth a try.

Blocking off gaps in boundary hedges and fences may prove successful.

The all-important formative pruning of hedging plants to produce a thick base certainly pays dividends here.

Cats of course, are quite capable of scaling great heights to overcome obstacles such as hedges or walls.

It might be worth considering some form of obstruction on a wall top or point of access to discourage the animal.

Only by completely sealing off an area with a physical barrier, can there be any hope of keeping cats out.

Covering an area of crops with netting is effective only when the edges are securely fixed in the ground to prevent entry.

It is important that all edges are sealed, otherwise the cat can find its way inside to sleep in a sheltered den! Young plants can be protected from cats and encouraged to grow by covering them with cloches.

As cats prefer dry, soft, cultivated ground, they will be discouraged from trespassing on damp, uncultivated soil.

Mulching plants with organic matter has an added benefit of deterring cats - probably the combination of smell, rough surface and dampness is enough to keep them away.

Some gardeners find success by incorporating holly leaves or some other prickly foliage into their seedbeds.

Others keep cats off seedbeds by crossing the area with strands of cotton - it may just prove successful as cats find the strands an irritant to the fur.

One successful method of deterring cats, which defies all logic, is to use clear plastic bottles half full of water.

These are laid flat on the ground amongst the garden plants.

Cats seem to take fright at the multi-reflections of themselves in the bottle and do not quickly become used to the device.

There are various odours which can be used to deter cats from the garden, including a number of proprietary compounds based on pepper or napthalene.

A solution of garlic sprayed over an area works for a limited time but, like all odorous deterrents, must be renewed frequently.

The much-publicised lion dung has little effect on deterring cats.