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Neighbors' cats - keeping them out of the yard

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Neighborhood cats turning yard into litter box

April 2011

Our yard seems to be the junction for every outdoor cat and stray in the neighborhood. I clean up cat poop most days of the week and have a dedicated brush and bucket for cleaning off the family shoes. Yuck! I tried a few sprays when we first moved in, but nothing seemed to work, and I eventually gave up. Lately though, it seems worse than ever. Any suggestions? anon


If the neighborhood cats are wandering around and making your yard a litterbox, I would get a humane trap and set it in your yard. When you catch the culprit(s)they will usually have a collar with a phone number if the pet owner is responsible. You can then call the owner and explain the problem, that their cat is causing a problem in your yard so your kids can't play or you step in cat poop and drag it through your house, etc. If you happen to trap a cat with no collar, call animal control and have the cat picked up. love pets hate poop in my space
We had a similar problem. Neighbors suggested we plant something called ''Lambs Ears'' at the border of our yard. Cats don't like it, apparently. It has sure done the trick for us. It multiplies voluntarily every year. We have to tend it very little except to cut off the dead growth occasionally. I hope you find it works for you as well as it does for us. Judy
Are you certain that it is cats? have you seen them? If not, consider that your yard may have become the neighborhood raccoon latrine! Generally, I think cats bury (or at least try to bury) their poop; raccoons just leave it lying there. If it might be raccoons, you will want to do some research to get them to move on since raccoon excrement can harbor pretty bad bugs. We had that problem for a while, and finally got them to move on by setting up a strong solar-powered motion-detector light focused on the spot, frequently cleaning the area (wear disposable gloves!), and piling a thick layer of mulch on top of the area (or maybe they were ready and it was just a coincidence). Do a web search for raccoon latrine and you will get loads of hits.

By the way - I first tried leaving bowls of ammonia out, as many site suggest, and they actually pooped right into the bowls! R.K.


i feel your pain. some columnist (?) suggested something that works great. instead of abatement, turn to courting. plant a selected area of your yard with a boatload of catnip. seem the cats will go there, roll, munch, poop... then leave. there's no keeping them out, this manages where they go! kitty biscuit free
Put coffee grounds onto the ground. Do not use these for more than two weeks around plants. However, should keep cats away. Tobacco (loose, in the unusual case that you chew tobacco) works too. Anon.

Neighbor's cats poop in vegetable garden

March 2009

Hello, I love cats...in fact, I used to love my neighbor's cats until they decided to use my vegetable garden as their litter box!!!! How can I discourage them from using it as their toilet? frustrated gardener


Try Cocoa shells. you can get them at the nursery in large bags like mulch--they are just natural cocoa shells, smell slightly chocolate-y and cats don't like to walk on them. if spread kind of thickly, will last a year or more. our neighbor cats stopped coming over right away and it doesn't smell like poop in our backyard at all anymore. The only downside is that dogs like to eat it, and it's evidently bad for them so if there are dogs that have access to your yard, or if you have a dog, you'll have to investigate more to ensure their safety. They are easy to use, and smell delicious and really do work! julie
Coffee grounds. Save them after making coffee and spread them all around the garden regularly, on top of the soil around the plants. (It's good for the plants, too.) If you don't drink coffee, see if a local coffee shop will give you some. Andi
Gad, I have the same problem. Both with my husband's cats (I opted out, I'm allergic) and every other cat in the 'hood that wants to lay claim. I've tried a lot of things, but other than building a greenhouse I have no answers. I hate cats at this point, although honestly, eating veggies that cats shit in isn't going to cause serious problems as far as I know (unless perhaps you're preg or nursing). On the other hand, I'm not inclined to eat what I grow when I know the cats have been pooping in and around it. I've even tried Lion Poop from the zoo... no va on that one. so I don't have any advice, other than to say, I'm with you on this and I think that cats should be mandatorially housebound, as do many cat advocates. -Rather be cat-less
We used to have the same problem with a housemate's indoor cat and houseplants, as well as neighborhood cats in our garden. What I did was lay some wire mesh in between the rows in the garden, and in my potted plants (for the pots I cut circles of mesh, and cut holes for the plants). The cats were discouraged from pooping and peeing there because they were unable to scratch up the dirt.

I used the kind of wire mesh that you put up before plastering a wall--flexible, easy to cut, and with hexagonal holes about 1- 2 inches. I'm sure anything similar would work, or any other method that prevents the cats from scratching and digging. poop-less plants


Here's an idea for you: Recently we have had to entice our own cat to stay in our backyard instead of running off to our old house's backyard. We learned from a cat behaviorist that if you ''mark'' your cat's own territory with his/her wet litter and excrement, then they stay within those bounds. If your neighbor is up to the task to do that in their own yard, that might work, or you could offer to do it for them perhaps? If they don't go for it, you could maybe borrow ''the above'' from a friend's cat and distribute that around, and I guarantee that your neighbor's cat will stay away. Cat Lover
Hot pepper spray around the garden. Ok for plants; deterrent for cats (must spray regularly). Sharp tiny rocks as ground covering are uncomfortable on their paws and make them less interested. You may have to work twice as hard since they can probably smell cat scent in your garden and want to revisit it. Good luck
Chiming in rather late... No to cocoa mulch if dogs around. No to pepper anything if they can inhale it. YES to chicken wire fencing, just a little bit under the dirt/soil. This will stop them. It is a drag to do if you have a large area, I speak from experience, but it will deter them when they get their claws stuck. About a year after I took it up they slowly began to test the waters again. Crafty little vixens they are. I too tried coffee grounds, citrus, and actually purchased coyote urine, then went even farther and tried my own, I kid you not (hey, it was free)but what finally worked was the wire. dog person

My neighbors are complaining about my cats

Nov 2005

Recently, two of my neighbors came to me regarding my cats pooping in their gardens. Basically, they want it to stop. My cats are indoor/outdoor cats and always have been. My mother's cat recently came to live with us, so now we have three to deal with. I have litter boxes, but they don't use them because they prefer to go outside (in my neighbors' yards, apparently).

I don't want my cats to poop in their gardens because I value my neighbor's right to have poop-free yards. One neighbor laughed derisively when I offered her the suggestions I saw on the BPN archives. I gather she doesn't want to try any of those methods to help repel the cats from her yard. What can I do?

I think the only way I can get my cats to stop doing it to change them from indoor/outdoor cats to indoor only. I am skeptical that I can make this change happen but I'm willing to give it a try. If anyone has done this I would love to hear how long it took, any tips, etc. Trying to be a good neighbor


I have the same problem, and I'm embarrased to admit that I have 2 indoor/outdoor cats plus feed a bunch of neighborhood strays, so I have exacerbated this problem for neighbors. I don't have any solutions, but just wanted to remind you that rainy season is coming. For my cats that means a lot more inside time and a lot more inside pooping. Good luck! anon
Hmmm...I've been in your situation and I too have had the knock on the door from a neighbor. Not only was my cat pooping in his yard, but he was fighting with other cats (noisy) and beating up his cute, but ding brained persian.

I listened with great empathy, and then apologized profusely. I also reminded my neighbor that cats have ''different'' boundaries then we do, and I cannot control the whereabouts of my cat. I encouraged my neighbor to use water and to feel free to scare my kitty out of his yard. I also offered to bring my cat in earlier at night before the prowling and fighting began. However, I did reiterate that my cat may continue to wander onto his property and I do NOT have control of that, and I gently mentioned that there are also MANY other cats in the neighborhood who poop and fight!

Your neighbor has to then decide if 1) he/she will set up a barrier to keep the cats out of his yard or garden; and/or 2) they have the legal right to trap your cat(s) when they are on his/her property. Now, you don't want to totally piss off your neighbor that he/she would want to do action 2 above!

Retraining three cats to be indoors after they've had a taste of the good outdoor life is VERY difficult. You can also set up a litter box area in your yard for your cats and encourage them to use it. This has worked well for me in the past. Or send your neighbor flowers and offer to clean up the poop at the very least if they continue to complain. An apologetic cat owner


Good for you! I wish my outdoor-cat-owning neighbor was as good as you! My neighbor was totally unhelpful when I asked him to keep the poop away from my yard and garden during my pregnancy. (Toxoplasmosis, deadly to a fetus, is carried in cat feces.) Indoors is the right idea. Cats live longer and healthier indoors, and so do the neighborhood birds.

I also wanted to comment on your remark: ''One neighbor laughed derisively when I offered her the suggestions I saw on the BPN archives. I gather she doesn't want to try any of those methods to help repel the cats from her yard.'' She probably has tried them already. I tried them myself, plus I have a dog -- and yet I still have cats, cat poop, and dead songbirds in my yard. (The Scarecrow, the heat-activated water sprayer, does work over a small area, but then you also get wet dogs and kids.) You're Doing the Right Thing


My planter box is a giant kitty litter box, and I hate it, so I understand your neighbors. I also am on the other end: My partner has two in/outdoor cats, who contribute to the nasty poop problem. I'd bet your neighbor has tried the obvious cat repellants etc., and like me, hasn't had any luck. So here's what you do: apologize sincerely, and offer to come over and clean up the poop on an on-going basis. That, or keep your cat inside.

As a dog owner, I clean up my dog's poop. As a cat owner, it's your reponsibility to clean it up. That should solve the problem, or at the very least, appease your neighbor to some extent. I'd ben happy if some errant cat owner would take some responsibility and come an clean up my yard! -- I hate cat poop


How to keep neighbors' cats out of my yard?

May 2003

Does anyone have advice on how to keep cats out of my yard? I don't have any pets & am constantly having to clean up after neighborhood cats. The smell is really bad in the planter area around my front porch and it is becoming very annoying. I am open to any advice. Thanks!


This column was in a recent SF Chronicle Home and Garden section:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/05/03/HO286052.DTL


-- Scatter pinecones in the areas the cats like to visit, especially under bushes. Ponderosa or other prickly cones work best.
-- Buy a commercial cat repellent and scatter or spray it in the places where the cats are doing their business.
-- Sprinkle heavy coats of pepper in those areas (I use about one 4-ounce can) where they are leaving their calling cards. fiona


We were plagued with the same cat problem (have a neighbor with 6 outdoor cats !) and our yard was a virtual litter box. We got a motion sensor sprinkler and the cats were gone in 3 days. I couldn't recommend it enough. We move the sprinkler around our yard every few months to keep the cats on their toes but, in general, the cats don't come around. The one we got was a scarecrow from www.frontgate.com and cost about $ 100 (you could probably find something cheaper if you shopped around). Best of luck.
I was reading the message threads about cats using outdoor gardens/planters as litter boxes. That was an ongoing problem for me. I solved it by cutting squares of chicken wire, placing them around my plants, and putting some soil over top so the wire is not unsightly. The problem solved without great cost or effort. The cats try to dig and do not like the feeling of the chicken wire impeding their "activities". This is a very frustrating problem and I did not see this particular solution posted. Thanks. M.

Smelly porch from neighbors' cats

Feb 2002

We just moved to a new home where neighborhood cats have established a habit of sleeping and urinating on the back porch. Is there a way to: 1. get rid of the smell (we no longer dare store any items out there) 2. discourage the cats from coming back? Thanks Anne-Marie


This guy Bill came up with the most effective cat pee smell solution we have ever seen. http://www.justrite.com/ This stuff works better than anything in the pet stores (we tried Nature's Miracle and a few others, but the smells persisted). Brian

Our porch and yard are neighbor cats' toilet

March 2001

Our next door neighbour has 5 cats who use our front steps/porch, front yard-back yard as toilet. Up to one year ago we had a dog that, while not a cat chaser, would at leat intimidate the cats enough so that they would stay away. Sadly the dog is now gone and the cats have taken over. The smell is becoming unbearable and there are feces all over. Taking to the neighbour is pointless as he is a "peculiar guy" , to say the least. He told us once that "the cats were here before you" otherwise he does not speak to us... How do we keep the cats away? I cannot get another dog, I do not want to use chemical repellants since we have a toddler and I do not want to hurt the cats.


Ground up orange peels supposedly repel cats. Worth a try! Deborah

Cats using my garden as litter box

May 2002

Help...Does anyone know how to prevent cats from using the garden as a litter box? I have tried citrus and cayenne but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions helpful. Stefanie (Note from moderator: I use red pepper flakes, but need to do it frequently as it seems to lose potency within 3 or 4 days)


I'm responding to the person seeking advice on discouraging cats from using the garden as a litter box. I've found that plastic forks stuck into the ground with the tongs up are very effective because cats find it impossible to dig around them. Also I've heard that cats dislike walking on aluminum foil. The best permanent solution is to plant something thick where the cats usually dig, possibly something low-maintainence and drought-resistant. Use the plasic fork plan while the plants are becoming established. You didn't say if the cats are your pets, so I don't know if you're trying to banish them from your garden or just preventing them from using it as a sandbox. If you want them out of the garden all together you can purchase a motion sensor sprinkler that will startle them away. Pepper powders, as you've found, don't always work. They can also be harmful to a cat, especially if it gets in a cat's eyes. Good luck. Mary
Check out: http://gardenweb.com It's a great place for gardening information. It has both specific plant and location forums. You can use their search button to search for ''cat'' to get lots of different ideas about approaches to the problem that you have encountered. Regards, Michele
August 1999

Can anyone advise me on how to stop the numerous neighborhood cats from pooping in my yard? There are a couple of houses that have taken in strays. One of them reportedly has 25 of them that she feeds on her front porch. That's wonderful for her except that she hasn't taken the responsibility to also potty train them. There are several spots in my yard that they regularly use often trampling my flowers. I need to make a daily sweep with my trowel and bag. I really got angry when I found my 2 year old walking around with a turd in his hand! I bought some "natural" repellant that really didn't work. I don't want chemicals around my kids but neither do I want cat poop. Please help!


I have the same problem. My neighbor has 20 cats and a dog who poops on my lawn. I've really got to get my husband to replace the fence that blew down almost two years ago to at least keep the dog out (he's halfway there!). Anyway, I was told to get a cat fence to put on top of the fence, if your yard is fenced. Apparently these are advertised in cat magazines which of course I've not had a chance to check out. I recall being told that it's a mesh fence that wouldn't support the cat's weight if they tried to jump over. If anyone has heard of this and knows a source, please let me know. Thanks.
To the person who wanted help with cats pooping: we've used chili pepper flakes successfully in our backyard. The drawbacks are that you have to put it out every coouple of days and that you have to wait until your child doesn't eat everything she comes in contact with. Also, I've seen machines in catalogs that emit sounds that cats, dogs, mice etc get annoyed by. I've never seen them in stores though.

Cats using child's sandbox

We've got the classic turtle sandbox. What do you do when a neighborhood cat uses it for a litterbox? Scoop it out? Sanitize it somehow? Toss out the entire sandbox? How often do you refresh/renew the sand? How do you get rid of the old sand?
If neighborhood cats have been using your sandbox, you need to replace the sand. Scooping it out will only get the poop, not the urine, and the sand is "ruined". It isn't considered hazardous waste or anything, so you can just dispose of it as conventional waste. To prevent it in the future, you just need to cover up the sandbox when it isn't in use.... a lot of sandboxes now come with lids. Otherwise, you'll have to make one.

Cats pooping in veggie garden - I'm pregnant

January 2003

One of the neighborhood cats has taken to using our raised vegetable beds as a litter box. I have two questions. First, does anyone have any good ways of discouraging the cat? Second, after cleaning it up, should I be concerned about residual bacteria and planting vegetables in the same area? I got to thinking about this because I'm pregnant and I've heard that pregnant women shouldn't clean litter boxes because of exposure to a bacteria in the cat feces. I then started thinking about whether or not my veggies, current or planted in the near future, would be contaminated. Thanks! roxanne


It's my understanding that it is something to be concerned about, babies in utero can contract toxoplasmosis (sp?) from the bacteria in cat poop which can be very serious. Having said that, I've been trying to keep my cats out of the plants for a long time, now. I've discovered that they tend to not like big pieces of bark or rocks, they want a fine material that they can paw through, and then cover up with. You might want to try mulching with big pieces of bark. Also, chicken wire laid down on top of the dirt will keep them away. One thing that hasn't worked is putting a fence around the border, they just jump right over it. Good luck! Jill
I wouldn't take a chance with cleaning cat poop and being pregnant. Could you have your partner clean the box? Better yet, have the neighbor who owns the cats clean it up. Once he/she gets sick of doing that, maybe that person will be in better control of his/her animals. anon
I understand your concern ! We had neighborhood cats that were using our yard as a litter box. The smell and the fact that we have a toddler who likes to dig in dirt got us doing some serious research on the matter. Our solution was a motion detector sprinkler. The cats hated getting squirted so much that they quit coming into our yard within the first 3 days ! We only use the sprinkler occasionally now - the cats know to stay away from our yard. It has worked wonders. We got ours through frontgate.com (it's a little pricey at about $100). Congratulations on your coming arrival ! Rachael
A few years back Times columnist Gary Bogue had advice about putting a wobbly fence on top of your fence to keep out cats. Perhaps if you ask, he can email it and other advice to you: garybug AT infi DOT net Here are my 2 cents. Even non-pregnant people should avoid food grown in an area pets use as a toilet. Perhaps food grown well above the ground (i.e. tomatoes) might be okay. Or food you would cook thoroughly? You could fill the raised bed with pointy sticks. You could have somone saturate some rags with cat repellent and tie them to sticks in the raised bed. You could surround the area with netting. (If you do this, please make the netting taut, so no animal will get tangled in it -- we once had to call animal control to release an opposum that got caught.) You could get a product (called Scarecrow) that has a motion detector and turns on a sprinkler when set off. For your reference, here is one purveyor of it (I have no experience with this company): http://www.awesometools.com/scarecrow.htm Good luck and I wish you the best with your pregnancy, birth and baby. J12
Go to www.gardenweb.com. The forum section has tons of great advice about discouraging cats from using gardens as litter boxes. Mary
One way to keep the cats out is to put down chicken wire. Apparently, they hate walking on it. As for the bacteria that is potentially already there, I don't know. Ask your midwife or OB for the latest info on toxoplasmosis, and to be tested for it. It's possible you've already had it and are now immune. Good luck; this is maddening. Jennie
You are very right to be concerned. The bacteria you're referring to (Toxoplasmosis) is not routinely found in the soil in the U.S. -- but it *is* found in cat poop, and it *is* transferable to soil, and it *is* potentially devastating to a fetus (miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects)... and so I would certainly be fearful if I knew that a cat had pooped in my veggie garden! I know all this because I was living in France during my pregnancy, and the Toxoplasmosis bacteria does in fact live in the soil there -- and so, as a result, I was not allowed to eat any raw fruits or vegetables that had grown in the soil An apple was OK if washed thoroughly (since it spent its life way up in the tree away from the dirt), but lettuce was literally off-limits... imagine your OB telling you ''DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EAT SALAD!'' :) Now, based on my experience, if you're planning on cooking all the veggies, I wouldn't worry about it. But that's pretty unlikely, so please talk to your OB about the situation -- a simple blood test can tell you if you are immune (although immunity in Americans is uncommon). In the meantime, you can get more info on webmd.com (just type in 'toxoplasmosis'). Sarah
Here's what I did to keep the cats out of the garden. I bought some of that netting that's for keeping birds out and that 1foot tall metal garden border that comes in rolls. I then lay the netting over the garden and stretched it taught, weighting it down with stones around each garden bed. I actually angled it out so that the cats couldn't climb in. This meant the netting was raised about a foot over the garden. Once the plants grew tall enough I removed the netting. When I was pregnant and handling feral cats I had myself tested for exposure to toxoplasmosis. They say that if you've been around cats a lot then you're most likely immune. FWIW, I wasn't. ---Sophie
To discourage cats, I would recommend a motion-activated sprinkler called a scarecrow. I think they cost about $70 and you can buy them at places like OSH. amy
Yes, toxoplasmosis is a potentially serious condition, but I wanted to add another perspective. I have had cats all my life, and was a heavy-duty meat-eater for the first 22 years of my life, so when I got pregnant I was very concerned about this. I had 3 indoor/outdoor cats at the time, and also volunteered with feral cats and with cats at the SF SPCA. The first thing I did was get myself and my cat (the one that was outdoors the most) tested. I was sort of hoping I'd test positive because then I would pass along the immunity, but much to my surprise we both tested negative! That actually made me even more nervous, so I had my husband do the kitty litter for most of my pregnancy (I must admit that towards the end I found myself doing it every once in a while). However, my vet said he hadn't seen a case in many years, and that it was very rare. I also had read that most humans get it from handling or eating raw meat, not from cats (I was a vegetarian by this time anyway). I also asked a woman who worked full-time with cats at the SPCA what she had done during her pregnancy, and she said that she tested negative also, so she took added precautions around kitty litter (she now has 2 healthy kids and about 5 cats). My feeling is that if the 3 of us, with all of our cat contact and meat-eating history, tested negative, it must be extermely rare. Tracy
What you are worried about with cat poop and pregnancy is a parasite called toxoplasmosis. It causes a problem primarily during the first trimester of pregnancy if you have no prior exposure and antibodies yourself. Although cats are the definitive host of the parasite, most people pick it up from undercooked meat(beef,etc), so the most important preventative step is to cook meat well. Also, garden with gloves, so that you do not have dirt on your hands. This protects you from a lot more than just the toxo. In general, because of the risks of poop on foodstuffs, though, it is a good idea to discourage the cats from using your vegetable garden. There are sprays- Boundary, Repel, etc. that contain odors that cats don't like. The thing I have found most effective though is to take wire or twigs and create a pattern in the open spaces that poke upwards to bother the cat as they try to walk through. I usually cut off the top piece of the fencing I use to make tomato cages so that I have a long strip of wire with pieces sticking out at right angles on both sides. (A long piece sortof like this +++++++++) I then place these wires (I try to make decorative shapes, etc) in the more open spots of the garden or whereever the cat is trying to walk or squat with the side pieces sticking up about 2-3 inches. Sometimes need to watch the cats response and adjust the wire if the cat is persistent. Be patient, but it is possible to discourage them. a local vet
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