how to keep cats out of flower beds

Neighborhood cats, feral cats, and stray felines can wreak havoc with your perfectly manicured flower beds.

You know how much care and time and expense you have invested in creating a beautiful flower-filled paradise. But a passing cat just sees a convenient and private cat toilet!

Is there anything you can do to discourage local cats to find someplace else to do their business? As a matter of fact, there is!

Read on to learn about simple and cheap remedies that are as effective as hanging an “out of order” sign on your garden cat toilet.

How to Keep Cats Out of Flower Beds

Cats have a natural aversion to the smell of many plants, including herbs and some flowering plants and shrubs.

By adding plants like lavender, peppermint, lemon balm, and coleus canina to your flower bed, you can encourage local cats to give your garden a wide berth.

Learn How to Repel Garden Cats from a Gardener

This YouTube video shares simple and quick tips from a professional gardener to convince the neighborhood cats – or even your own – to choose somebody else’s flower bed for their toilet.

So now let’s talk more specifically about why cats are attracted to flower beds and how to keep them out!

Why Cats Like to Go In Your Flower Beds

Cats are naturally attracted to garden beds for a variety of reasons.

Flower beds make great cat bathrooms

As Mike’s Backyard Nursery points out, flower beds offer everything cats like in a bathroom.

The plants in your flower bed offer a nice amount of privacy while a cat uses the bathroom. The soil is soft and comfortable on a cat’s paws and offers a handy way to bury their waste.

Flower beds attract tasty prey animals

Feral and stray cats that are actively hunting for their next meal will find a ready supply of small rodents, birds, and meaty insects in the typical backyard flower bed.

Flower beds are lovely napping sites

Because flower beds can offer some camouflage as well as soft soil to lay on, flower beds can readily double as a great napping area for local cats.

As a ready site for a quick meal, bathroom break, and rest stop, it is no wonder you are having so much trouble keeping cats out of your flower beds!

However, cat waste is unsanitary and potentially dangerous. And once a male cat claims your flower bed as their own, you can expect to be woken up nightly with feline territory battles.

Plus, cats are dangerous to local songbird populations and can destroy the lovely oasis you have created for yourself and your family. What can you do to persuade cats to go someplace else?

Remedies to Keep Cats Out of Flower Beds That Actually Work

The key to keeping cats out of your lovely and fragrant flower beds is to understand what cats dislike and use that in your favor.

In this section, we will go over some ways to create a flower bed you can still enjoy that cats will not find attractive at all.

Add rough, prickly, or jagged bedding

The bottoms of cat paws are sensitive. As the David Suzuki Foundation highlights, cats are naturally drawn to soft surfaces that will not scratch, scrape or abrade their sensitive paw pads.

You can use this to your advantage. Start laying down items like these:

  • Small sharp rocks.
  • Crushed shells.
  • Rough bark mulch (bonus points if you choose pine mulch that also gives off a scent cats hate!).
  • Bundles of twigs.
  • Recycled wooden chopsticks.
  • Pine cones.
  • Eggshells.
  • Clippings from prickly or spiky plants like holly or roses.
  • Mesh bags that were used to store onions, garlic, peppers, or citrus.

Choose plants with strong odors

You might find the scent of lemon, lavender, or peppermint heavenly. But cats are quite literally repelled by these scents, as Alley Cat Allies explains.

These plants are on every feline’s “to avoid” list:

  • Rue.
  • Pennyroyal.
  • Coleus Canina.
  • Lavender.
  • Spearmint.
  • Peppermint (and all other mint varietals).
  • Geranium.
  • Lemon thyme.
  • All citrus.
  • Eucalyptus.
  • Menthol.
  • Onions.
  • Chives, scallions, garlic family.
  • Tobacco.
  • Peppers (especially cayenne).
  • Cedar.
  • Pine.
  • Mustard.
  • Anise.
  • Tea tree.

Fertilize your garden with things cats hate

Even if your flower beds are already complete and you can’t see adding more plants in just to keep cats away, you can still use scents to ward off local cats.

Try fertilizing your flower beds and vegetable gardens with these items:

  • Coffee grounds.
  • Tea grounds (especially lavender, citrus, or mint tea).
  • Lemon or citrus peels.

Use motion-activated or ultrasonic cat repellers

Feral and stray cats are participating members of the local food chain. As such, they are both predators and prey.

You can use this to your advantage by installing motion-activated devices that shine bright lights, spray water or play music. Wind chimes can work well too. Cats that encounter these devices once will give them a wide berth in the future.

Ultrasonic cat repellers are set up to make noise at a frequency the human ear cannot detect but cats can hear quite well. The noises the devices make are unpleasant to the feline ear.

Commercial cat repellants

If nothing else you have tried is working, it is time to break out the big guns with commerce cat repellants.

Predator urine products can convince a cat that your flower bed is a dangerous place to stop, hunt, rest or use the restroom.

There are also commercial cat sprays and granules that use a lot of the unpleasant scents you just read about, just in a ready-to-use formula you can apply in your garden.

The only catch here is that you will need to keep reapplying the product to make sure rain or sprinkler systems do not wash it away.

Give your flower beds a thorough shower

As Multnomah Animal Services explains, territorial disputes commonly erupt over a particularly desirable garden or flower beds.

Male cats will mark their territory with strong-smelling pheromone-laced cat urine. They do this to send a message to other local cats that this flower bed is taken. Not surprisingly, this then makes your flower bed even more desirable to other cats!

While citrus peels or lavender spray may temporarily mask the scent of cat urine, you can be sure the cat will be back to spray over your remedy again.

This is when it is helpful to start by using your garden hose to wash down everything in and around your garden and flower beds.

Pay particular attention to garden stakes, fence posts, the sides of buildings, gates, and anywhere else that a male cat might easily spray to mark the area as theirs.

Then you can use the other deterrents you just read about here to reclaim your flower bed for yourself.

When to Call in the Cat Control Professionals

Cat colonies can become a problem when you have fighting or mating cats that are keeping you up at night, destroying your garden, and polluting your flower beds.

In some cases, it can make sense to call in animal control professionals to install cat fencing or implement TNR (trap neuter release) programs.