Paws Off! 7 Safe Ways to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard


The goal of this article is to provide humane solutions for homeowners who want to deter outdoor cats from entering their yards. It’s understandable that some homeowners find cats digging in gardens, using yard areas as litterboxes, or hunting birds frustrating. However, there are effective ways to keep cats out of yards that are safe for both cats and people.

Understand Why Cats Enter Yards

Cats are naturally inclined to roam and explore territory beyond their home. Their sense of smell and hunting instincts draw them to other yards in search of birds, rodents and other small animals to chase. According to one source, cats are also attracted to soft, warm spots in sunny areas of a yard to rest and nap during the day. Their curiosity and need for mental stimulation can motivate them to frequently visit yards that seem interesting [1].

Yards provide appealing spaces for cats to satisfy natural behaviors. Shelter, potential food sources, opportunities to hunt, and quiet sun-filled napping spots can all motivate cats to spend time there. Understanding these natural inclinations provides insight into why cats enter yards and can help guide effective deterrents.

Start with Deterrents

Before resorting to more extreme measures, try using humane household items to deter cats from your yard. Many common items can be strategically placed to discourage cats without harming them.

Citrus peels, juice or vinegar have strong scents that cats dislike. Try sprinkling citrus peels, spraying diluted vinegar, or placing small dishes of vinegar around problem areas [1]. You can also plant citronella or lavender, as cats tend to avoid these plants.

Coffee grounds can be an effective deterrent due to their scent. Sprinkle used coffee grounds in any areas cats frequent [2].

Aluminum foil and mylar tape make crinkling sounds when walked on, which scares cats away. Place sheets of foil or tape sticky-side up in paths and gardens.

Motion sensor sprinklers can startle cats without harming them. When movement is detected, the sprinkler turns on for a short burst.

Block Access

One effective method to keep cats out of your yard is to block their access points. Cats are agile creatures and can slip through small openings in fences or underbrush. Here are some tips to block a cat’s access:

Close off any low areas in your fence that a cat could crawl under. Look for gaps of around 6 inches or more at ground level and fill them in with chicken wire, lattice, plywood panels, or by sinking the fence bottom further into the ground if possible (Source).

Prune back overgrown vegetation, bushes, or branches near fences. Cats often use these as launching points to jump fences. Trimming them back at least 1-2 feet from the fence removes their access (Source).

Use chicken wire or lattice to block potential entryways. You can attach these to the bottom of fences, around air conditioning units, or anywhere cats may hide. Just make sure the area is cat-free first so no kittens get trapped inside (Source).

By physically blocking access, you can deter cats from even attempting to enter your yard.

Remove Attractions

One of the most effective ways to deter cats from your yard is to remove any attractions that may be drawing them in. Cats often enter yards in search of food, so eliminating any sources is key.

Do not leave out pet food for your own cats or dogs, as this can attract neighborhood cats. Outdoor pet bowls should be brought inside when your pets are finished eating. Any leftovers or spilled food should be cleaned up right away.

Fallen fruit from trees and bushes can also attract cats. Make sure to routinely clean up any windfall from fruit trees or berry bushes. Fallen fruit quickly rots and draws in insects, creating an enticing environment for cats.

Bird feeders are another common reason cats may enter your yard. Splashed bird seed on the ground is essentially an open buffet for cats. Opt for bird feeders that have weight-sensitive perches or surround your feeder with a “squirrel baffle” that allows birds access but keeps away larger animals like cats (Source).

Install Repellents

One option for keeping cats out of your yard is to place commercial cat repellents around the perimeter. These repellents use smells that cats dislike to deter them from entering. Some popular options include Coleus Canina plants, which give off an odor when touched that cats hate, and commercial sprays like the Ssscat Spray [1]. When shopping for repellents, look for ones made specifically for outdoor use.

You can also install ultrasonic devices that deter cats with sound. These devices emit high-frequency sounds that annoy cats when they come into range. Popular ultrasonic cat deterrents include the Pest Soldier Electronic Cat Repeller [2] and the Hoont Powerful Solar Animal Repeller. Place these around your property where cats tend to lurk. The sounds are inaudible to humans.

Try Smart Sprinklers

One effective method is to set up a motion-activated sprinkler system that sprays cats when detected without wasting water. Products like the Hoont Motion Activated Sprinkler connect to a hose and activate when motion sensors detect an animal. The sudden spray of water startles cats without harming them, and they learn to avoid the area.

These sprinklers can cover up to 1,200 square feet when placed in a strategic spot detecting cat movement. They spray water in multiple directions with adjustable sensitivity and duration settings to optimize the deterrent effect. The key is placing it where cats enter the yard and adjusting the settings so it activates every time.

Motion activated sprinklers provide an automated and effective method to deter cats without wasting water or constantly spraying. The water spray irritates cats and makes them avoid the area. Just be sure to check local regulations on outdoor water use before installing one.

Consider Chemical Repellents as a Last Resort

If other deterrent methods have failed, there are a few EPA-approved chemical cat repellents that can be carefully considered as a last resort. According to the EPA (here), methyl nonyl ketone is approved for use as a cat and dog repellent. However, the EPA warns that methyl nonyl ketone products should be used with caution, as they can be toxic to cats if misused. The EPA provides safety precautions and warnings that must be followed carefully.

Some other EPA-approved active ingredients in insect repellents (see here) may also act as cat repellents, like oil of citronella or catnip oil. However, they are not specifically approved for that use and extreme caution is advised. The safety of humans, pets, wildlife, and the environment should always be the top priority.

Chemical repellents should only ever be considered as an absolute last resort if other methods have failed. Any product must be EPA-approved and directions must be followed exactly. Supervise use carefully and apply judiciously. Consider consulting a professional for guidance to ensure proper and safe use.

When to Call Professionals

In severe cases of stray or feral cats causing problems, it may be necessary to call in professional help. Reputable pest control services like Spartan Animal & Pest Control can humanely trap nuisance cats and either remove or relocate them.

If you find abandoned kittens or friendly stray cats, contact animal rescue organizations instead of pest control. Many shelters have programs to foster, vaccinate, spay/neuter, and adopt out cats to help control populations humanely. Some groups like Wildlife Removal offer free stray cat removal and work with rescues.

For cats stuck in trees, calling professional arborists or tree services is safer than attempting dangerous DIY rescues. Specialists have the equipment and training to retrieve cats from heights quickly and securely.

Being a Good Neighbor

When dealing with neighborhood cats, it’s important to be a considerate neighbor. Keeping your own cats indoors or supervised when outside can help prevent them from entering other yards and causing issues. If a neighbor approaches you about an issue with your cat, have an open and polite discussion to understand their concerns. Listen to their perspective and explain yours as well. Try to find reasonable compromises – for example, keeping your cat indoors at night when the neighbor garden is most active.

Express that you want to work together as neighbors to resolve the conflict. With good communication, patience and effort to see the other’s viewpoint, compromise can often be reached. Stay calm and friendly, even if the neighbor seems upset at first. With time and demonstrated consideration, relationships can mend and a resolution found that satisfies both parties.


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