Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client's Request: Hi, I've created a new garden area this year. I've put down new dirt and compost but haven't had time this year to plant anything other than my green onions. I've recently noticed cat poop in the new garden from a neighbor's cat that roams at night.
1st question: is there something to deter the cat from coming in our yard or at least the garden area?
2nd question: Nw that there's poop and pee all in the garden, I'd hate to waste $ on all that dirt. I keep extracting the poop but is the dirt now contaminated to where i shouldn't use that dirt anymore???
Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk with your questions about cats in your garden. Your neighbor's house cat really doesn't belong in your garden. As you are finding, there is a lot of the "ick" factor about their feces.
Below are some ideas for keeping cats out of your garden. There are many levels of deterrent you can use, and it may take some experimenting to figure out what works best for you and the neighbor's cat.
- The most effective method is to block access. Use a chicken wire fence or wire cage around your bed, or use floating row covers. If you don't have children, a low voltage electrical wire can be effective. You can find these online or at some home improvement stores.
- Another idea for blocking access is to erect a flimsy chicken wire fence attached to the top of your fence to block access. Cats don't like to climb things that won't support their weight, so this may keep it out of your yard completely.
- Since cats like the garden's soft soil, you can make it less attractive by placing chopsticks or bamboo skewers every 8" or so, making it uncomfortable for a cat to do its business.
- Motion-activated sprinklers are another good way to deter visitors to the garden. Just make sure you turn it off when you want into the garden. You can find these online.
- Cat (and dog) repellents are available, but in my experience, they don't smell very good to humans either. You could try spraying along the top of the neighbor's fence or other access point. I wouldn't spray this in any planted areas, though.
Cat feces can carry diseases such as toxoplasmosis, salmonella, and intestinal parasites. You don't, however, need to replace all your soil. When you notice feces, remove it and the soil it's touching. It's a good idea to put it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in your garbage can. Cat urine should not pose a problem for your soil, unless there is a large quantity in a small area. Then, use plenty of water to dilute it in the soil. Cats return to an area to defecate because they can smell where they went before, so removing the soil around the feces should reduce the repeet visits.
Food safety with plants grown in your garden is important. I would avoid planting root crops (carrots, beets, etc.) or leafy greens that are eaten raw (lettuce) in areas heavily used by a cat. Other crops should be fine. This link is to information about food safety in the home vegetable garden. https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8366.pdf
I hope some of these ideas will help keep the neighbor's cat out and give you a cleaner garden experience. And we can always hope cat owners learn that it's better and safer for their cats to be indoor cats.
Good luck with your new garden. Please let us know if you have further questions.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SEH)
Mark your calendars now! Our popular Fall for Plants gardening workshop will be returning to Walnut Creek on Saturday, September 8. For more information, visit the event main page and the workshop program page.
Note: UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available almost year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays (e.g., last 2 weeks December), we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 2380 Bisso Lane, Concord, CA 94520. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 608-6683, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/. MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (//ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)