Garden Pests Series: C…

Thoughts and musings

Garden Pests Series: C…

Lewis | March 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

…is for Cats.

This is the latest blog post in our Garden Pests Series, and as we go through our self-compiled list made up of 26 nuisances in the garden, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet, we have now reached the letter ‘C’. Could it stand for ‘carrot fly’? Possibly. How about ‘clubroot’? You bet. But in this instance, it stands for ‘cats’! Some featured in this list are more common knowledge than others, and you may be as surprised that cats are included as I was when I was doing research to compile this list. But this common household pet can affect a number of plants in your garden. So read on to find out more, and what you can do to help deter these feline creatures!

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 8.5 million cats in the UK, with nearly 20% of households in the country having at least one cat as a four-legged resident. Therefore, when this is taken into account alongside the damage cats can cause in gardens, it is no surprise that there are a number commercially-available cat deterrents to the public. But we will get to those in good time…

If you are concerned that a cat or two could be harming your garden, there are a few telltale signs to keep an eye out for. You can look for evidence of digging in garden borders, overturned or trampled-on plants and evidence of scratch marks on trees or shrubs. The presence of one or more of these signs could well be an indication that a cat is affecting your garden. In addition, if you would like further proof, plants that are commonly affected by cats are soft-stemmed annuals, such as pea plants, and herbaceous perennials, such as red clovers.

Cats may not be as strong a gardening concern for those in rural areas as it is for urban gardeners, as in large cities where cat populations are higher and gardens are generally smaller, the problem is exacerbated. The number of actions a cat commits that affect your garden are numerous. Firstly, cats dig around flower beds and borders, and often use the ground as an open-air litter tray! Not only this, cats are known to sunbathe amongst herbaceous plants on Summer days, squashing them in the process. But perhaps the most serious, in this author’s eyes, is the possibility of a male cat, who hasn’t been neutered, spraying around the garden, which leads an unpleasant smell and can scorch plant leaves.

Therefore, any gardener should know that anything that disturbs plants is usually a problem. Of course with cats, it is a bit of a different concept to treatment to aphids, for example. These aforementioned cat deterrents, that you can buy from all good vendors, come in different forms, but all have the same goal; to discourage cats from entering your garden. Some work by giving off a high-pitched sound, others by giving off a bad smell, and both are disliked by cats. However, they do have varying degrees of success, with determined cats everywhere!

There’s more you can do, though. Close planting isn’t as appealing to cats, so maybe you could try not to leave any bare ground in your flower beds. Another idea is, via irrigation, to keep your ground moist, as cats prefer dry soil. Thirdly, laying twigs on the surface of the soil can discourage cats from using it as a toilet area. Being creatures of habit, cats often return to a preferred area to ‘do their business’, and spiky twigs can help deter them. Finally, you can have a ground cover plant called Plectranthus ornatus, or more colloquially the ‘Scaredy Cat’ plant, as it emits a smell which cats aren’t too fond of.

It’s true; I do learn something new every day! I knew cats can be mischievous, but before today I didn’t know they could cause significant damage in one’s garden. You may well have known this already, but either way, make sure you take the precautions to stop unwanted felines ruining your flowerbeds! Having a dog would be a good start, too!