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Depending on your point of view, cats are either adorable, loving, furry animals – or a complete nuisance. For most keen gardeners it's the latter. Their scratchings in the soil disturb seeds, seedlings and young plants – not to mention what they leave behind afterwards! And they are seen as being a major reason for the decline in the numbers of many garden birds, and other animals.
How to keep cats out of the garden - or not!
There are a number of cat deterrents available, but they usually have limited success. These include scattering pieces of orange peel, used tea bags soaked in Olbas oil, lion dung(!) or proprietary liquids, gels or granules around the area where cats are prevalent. Sadly, all these scented options have to be replaced regularly. You also have to clear away any faeces first to remove any residual presence &/or smell.
Other suggested methods include putting down rose and other prickly cuttings to stop them digging, plastic bottles half filled with water laid on their sides (the magnified reflection is meant to scare the cat, as it thinks a bigger cat is in front of it), or S-shaped pieces of hosepipe (which are meant to represent snakes that scare them).
I've tested all these methods and none of them worked successfully.
Electronic ultrasonic deterrents
When I did a test on all the cat deterrents available a few years ago, the ultrasonic one I tested gave the best results at keeping the protected area cat free. There are a number of electronic deterrents on the market, but the one I tested, and the one recommended by the RSPB, is called CATWatch, which is available from Concept Research.
Most other models are always on (so the cat gets used to them and ignores them) and emitting a wide wavelength range of their ultrasonic "white noise". CATWatch, on the other hand, has a passive infra-red detector that detects movement and then sends out a burst of ultrasound that has been specifically tuned to the cats' hearing range. This "trains" the cat that IT is responsible for this horrendous noise (which does no harm to the cat), so it quickly moves away.
In smaller gardens, there is also the CATFree, which isn't as powerful - so won't protect as large an area - but is less expensive.
Both are battery operated, but using the main electricity adaptor makes them more powerful, amplifies the sound, so gives better protection over a wider area.
Get a scarecrow
Another useful tool is PestBye (sometimes sold as the ScareCrow), which is attached to an outdoor tap. It detects movement and then sends out a spray of water and a hissing noise, which also scares away cats. It is available from Primrose.co.uk
Another option, which some people swear by (rather than sweat at the cat), is a plant that is commonly called the scaredy cat plant. It is Coleus canina, a half-hardy bedding plant that produces a scent detested by cats. Being half-hardy, you either have to buy new plants each year, or take cuttings in late summer/early autumn and overwinter as cuttings/small plants in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory.
If you want to know more, or if you've got a gardening problem you need help with, then send an e-mail to: email@example.com