Stray cats aren’t really classified as “wildlife” but they can be a problem for the homeowner when they hang around the yard and get into trouble. They aren’t quite as destructive as deer or raccoons, thankfully. Cats can, however, have their own brand of damage once they start spending time in your yard. Male cats can spray and leave their scent markers on trees, your home, or fence posts, cats of any gender will dig around in the loose soil of your planting beds to use as their litter box, and they can kill local birds by the dozen.
Like with most wild animals, fences aren’t going to help. You’ll need a few other techniques to keep stray cats out of your yard.
Cover the Soil
To keep stray cats from digging up your flower or vegetable gardens, you have to prevent them access to the loose soil. If they can’t dig, they usually find someplace else to do their business. Mulch can sometimes help if the pieces are large enough, though a layer of pebbles or big chunks of bark would be a better cover. Wire mesh can be laid flat on the ground before planting, letting your plants grow up through the holes. It doesn’t block water or light but will keep a cat from pawing at the soil.
Use Natural Cat Repellent
A scented product can trick visiting cats into thinking that larger predators are nearby, and can be an excellent deterrent. Other homemade options for repellents are garlic, lemon or grapefruit peels or even hot pepper sauce. Place these items in areas where the cats are spending time, particularly flower beds or on fence posts where cats may sniff to check for their own scent markers.
The plants themselves can be repellents if you plan ahead in the spring. Strongly scented plants and herbs (onion, lavender, rue, garlic) will make a cat think twice about getting into the garden. You can also use the opposite approach, and plant something like catnip at the far end of your property, to lure them away from the areas you want to keep cat-free.
Try a Quick Spray of Water
Cats aren’t going to stick around for long if you give them a spray of water from the hose. It’s not the most convenient approach unless you spend a lot of time outdoors and often see the problem cats yourself. Then just grab the hose and spritz them. Otherwise, you might want to invest in a motion sensor device that works with a sprinkler. Any large animal (cats or not) can trigger this, and the hose will automatically be sprayed. A similar technique can be used with high-pitched noise devices that can scare off an animal that trips the motion sensor.
Give Cats No Shelter
Strays are likely to hang around if they are able to find a safe place to call home nearby. Make sure that cats aren’t able to get into garages, sheds or other quiet places to bed down. Once they’ve established a somewhat permanent home, it will be a lot harder to keep them out of the yard.