Here are six practical tips for keeping cats out of freshly worked beds, and in favour with you! Being equally passionate about gardening and animals can be a recipe for conflict. Picture this: A constructive morning spent in the garden, digging lovely, crumbly home-made compost into the soil, planting seedlings or sowing seed. Despite the aching back I look at the patch and already see it filled with flowers.
My cat companions on the other hand see a different picture; lovely crumbly soil that is perfect for digging, the equivalent of 2-ply toilet paper. As they position themselves there is a scream, ‘Getttt outer there’ followed by a shoe or any other missile to hand.
The result is hurt feelings and anger all round.
But, as the animal behaviourists say, one must always see it from the animal’s perspective. It is natural for cats to toilet by digging. They don’t know why we get angry, and we actually have no right to get angry. If we don’t want them to dig in our precious beds then we have to encourage them to dig elsewhere. And we have to make sure that there is plenty of elsewhere for them.
Over the years of gritting my teeth I have found the following, humane, strategies to protect my newly planted beds and still be on good terms with the cats. I would be grateful to know of any other strategies that work:
1. Protect seed beds with plastic or steel mesh
After sowing the seed, lay plastic mesh over the soil. Secure it in place with stones, bricks or pegs. Once the seeds germinate, lift the mesh. For the first two or three weeks I keep it just above the beds by supporting it with twigs pushed into the ground. As you can see from the pictures I have also used plastic coated steel. Both are very effective.
2. Surround plants with twigs/sticks
When pruning or trimming shrubs don’t throw away any twigs. I place mine around the seedlings in such a way that it forms a ‘laager’ around the plants. In other words, the sticks encircle the plants, forming a barrier. Because there is no space to walk or dig, the cats don’t go there.
This is the best protection of all and it’s actually quite funky. I am building up a collection of old, bottom-less bird cages that just go over the plants. I also have a wire sculpture that acts like a cage. It doubles as garden decoration.
4. Citrus peel scattered in the bed
A friend told me that she scattered orange or naartjies peels in the bed and it kept the cats away. I tried it in the beds and it worked, but only for a limited time. I think it is the smell that repels them, so the peels need to be regularly replaced.
5. Plastic snakes
I have not tried this and I know that it works on monkeys but that you have to keep moving the snake around. My former-ferals would probably try and kill it. But it is worth a try.
This is more effective for keeping small dogs out but it does help as an extra barrier especially when the plants have grown and filled out the space.
None of this looks very pretty but it works. You also have to keep an eye on it and make sure everything is in place. But it doesn’t take much time and I’ve really found that cabbages and cats can co-exist.