If cats are a nuisance in your garden, consider buying some plants that are known cat repellents. Much as cats love catnip, there are some scents which they hate, and scientists have worked hard to develop new strains of flowers and plants that incorporate those smells.
Cats. You either love them or hate them, and want to attract them into your garden, or you want to keep them out.
Much as only some cats like catnip, only some cats hate certain plants.
If cats have been annoying you, by spraying all over the place, or by scratching up the earth in your newly planted seed-bed, then you may wish to consider planting plants and flowers that cats are known to dislike.
Cats always use bare earth in which to do their toilet, in the absence of cat litter. They wouldn't even notice a few sprouting seedlings you so carefully planted, but which they ruin with their claws as they dig them up as well as the dirt they use to cover over their crap.
Here are some of the best cat repellent plants you can plant in your garden to keep cats out, or to keep them away from your planted borders.
Curry Plant - Helichrysum augustfolium or italicum
This plant grows wild in the Mediterranean area where it is nothing more than a nuisance. It may smell quite strongly of curry but has no culinary uses at all.
It is a frost tender perennial that is known to deter cats, who do not like the smell.
I have never seen a cat go near a curry plant, so there may well be some truth in this.
Known by both botanical names Helichrysum italicum or Helichrysum angustifolium, it is a member of the daisy family, and normally grows in USDA equivalent zones 8 - 11.
I would highly advise against planting this plant unless you have a severe problem with cats, as it will just become another difficult weed to remove from your garden long after the cats have left well alone.
On the plus side, it does have some medicinal uses for soothing sunburn, reducing inflammation and healing infections.
Scaredy cat plant - Plectranthus caninus (coleus canina)
The name of this plant suggests cats are scared off by it, but I think that is just a marketing ploy. In actual fact, it does smell a bit of dog piss, which is just what every gardener wants in their garden!
It is supposed to deter both cats and dogs, and while there may be some truth in this, it only works on those animals with a sense of smell.
As only 70% of cats are affected by catnip, I would suggest that the other 30% have a reduced or no sense of smell.
If catnip works on the cats that are visiting your garden, then both the curry plant and the scaredy cat plant will work too.
What you must remember is that cats will just walk round these plants and go to another part of the garden, so if you want to protect young seedlings from being scratched up by cats, then you will want to plant a ring of cat deterrant plants round your growing area.
Cats can of course, simply jump over them.
Why cats dislike lavender is a mystery, because the scent is wonderful. Lavender can grow quite shrubby, so plant them in a line as a deterrant to stop the cat wandering further into your garden.
There are so many varieties of lavender available on the market. Look for a tall growing variety to be the most effective against cats. While cats can jump over hedges, they like to see what is on the other side first, and lavender plants can easily grow taller than a cat to block their line of sight.
Borders lining pathways are the perfect situation for your lavender plants, because they release their scent into the air when you just brush against them, as you might do while walking past.
Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary also grows wild in the Mediterranean area, and is useful in cooking too, so it is well worth planting in your garden or yard.
It is a woody perennial so it will re-grow each year after planting, and has a sweet fragrance.
If you are trying to deter cats, planting rosemary has so many bonuses.
The trouble with rosemary is that it really needs a warm and dry climate in which to thrive, so will dislike cold, wet ground.
In a climate colder than USDA zone 9, you would probably be better growing rosmarinus officinalis in a container that can be moved indoors or into the greenhouse in severe weather, or treating it as a summer annual.
They dislike acid soil, but grow well in neutral to alkaline soils. Grow it in good quality potting compost with a neutral pH of 7 or thereabouts.
As you can imagine, cats do not like walking on anything prickly, nor will they attempt to squeeze through a prickly hedge, so if you really want to keep cats out of your garden, then consider planting perimeter hedging that have prickly leaves or thorns on their stems.
Here are some suggestions to deter cats:
- Hawthorn - can be pruned into a dense hedge that will keep out cats and burglars, making your home safer.
- Wild Rose (rosa rugosa) - forms a dense thicket when pruned into shape. Has attractive flowers all summer long, and beautiful rose-hips in the fall.
- Bramble (blackberry) - be careful not to buy one of the new thornless varieties, but brambles are almost impossible for either human or animal to pass with their thorny stems. Prune into shape with long handled shears, and enjoy plenty of berries for jam or puddings every autumn.
- Holly - everyone knows holly as it is widely used for decorative purposes at Christmas time. Forms an impenetrable hedge when planted close together.
- Prickly Currant - perfect if part of your yard is in shade as ribes lacustre grows well in this location. Spreads easily, has thorny stems, and edible fruit.
- Pyracantha - likes sun or partial shade and can grow to form a dense barrier around your garden. Very showy plant with lots of orange berries in the fall.
- Berberis - there are a huge variety of different species of berberis, all of which have prickly stems and leaves. Check for height and spread to find the perfect berberis for hedging or space filling at the edge of your garden.
- Pampas grass - no thorns but the leaf edges of the pampas grass are razor sharp, and act as a perfect cat deterrent.
- Blackthorn (prunus spinosa) - no right-minded cat would go near a blackthorn bush because of its vicious spines, and the advantage of having them in your garden far outweighs their prickly disadvantages. It is covered in beautiful white blossom in the spring, that over the summer turns into a fruit called a sloe. Like a small plum, sloes are great for use in wine and liqueur making, as well as gin.
If you really can't be bothered planting a garden with plants that will will repel cats, consider planting lots of catmint, or catnip as it is more commonly known.
Cats are extremely attracted to catmint which acts on their central nervous system like a feel-good drug, and they may become so mesmerized by this plant that they forget to go and dig up your seedlings.
The best cat repellent plants work as barriers to not allow cats in, but unfortunately the most determined cat will get past all barriers built to keep them out.
Cats were once tree dwellers, way back in their dim and distant past, and if you want to prevent a cat from climbing a tree, perhaps one that has a bird's nest in it, then the best repellent is to place some citrus peel on the ground around the base of the tree.
Kathy on September 03, 2018:
I use citrus peel and oils to repel cats and it works, they hate lemon or orange, works on carpets and flooring too where cats sometimes go and spray.
Katkill on April 22, 2015:
Just shoot the cats
Freefall74 on January 21, 2015:
Very useful information, thanks you. My new neighbour has moved in with her 10 cats!!! The lose pebble path that runs down the side of my house has now turned into their oversized cat litter. Frustrated doesn't even come close. May start with plants but think I might have to invest in an electronic cat scarer.
kevin murphy from Ireland on September 30, 2014:
Thanks for these! :) The cats wont leave my garden alone, so i think lots of lavender will do me! Thank you.
Terry Moyemont on September 21, 2014:
As to rosemary, we're zone 7 here in the Seattle area and have never had a problem with a number of rosemary varieties. Only make sure to NOT plant them in a low lying area where water can pool in the winters. we are hortoholics and use the rosemary to keep our own cats out of areas in the gardens which contain our rare plants. Seems to work fine...and we have just what we need for grilling lamb.
Kalmiya from North America on February 01, 2014:
What great suggestions. Our young male cat has started to spray indoors now and I've been using vinegar to clean/distract but will add rosemary and lavender essential oils into my vinegar spray cleaner to see if this will be a greater deterrent.
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on July 03, 2013:
If it is baby birds you are worried about, I would honestly forget about plants and install an electronic cat scarer.
Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 01, 2013:
This is a timely hub and very useful, because some of our neighbors' cats have been trying to eat the house wrens that nest in our yard every year. Which of these plants, do you think, is most effective for the Southern California area? Thanks for the great information.
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on June 22, 2013:
I guess not all cats hate those plants, just like not all cats love catnip. Trial and error I suppose. Good luck!
Donald from Florida on June 22, 2013:
Great Hub I really appreciate this information as a cat owner and unfortunately a stray cat pit stop. I think I will start from the top and work my way down the list. Thanks Again!
Bg Rose on April 30, 2013:
I was so happy to read that there are plants to keep cats away from gardens. I have been having cats in my garden for the past ten years. I will be trying out all the plants if I can find them all. Thank you
Mouse on March 02, 2013:
Lavender plant don't work the cats still do there business in my flower beds and I have lots off lavender plants.
iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on January 23, 2013:
Hmmmm.. there are stray cats breaking into and wandering into our yard, so I might as well consider some of your plant suggestions. Thanks for your info. Up, useful and a following. :)
Arizona's Restoration Experts, LLC on January 15, 2013:
Very happy to have found your hub - you have a lot of great information. Look forward to reading and learning more.
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on January 15, 2013:
Let me know how you get on :)
Marlene Bertrand from USA on January 14, 2013:
These are all fabulous suggestions. I love lavender, so I think I'll try growing lavender first to see how they work. Thank you.
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on January 05, 2013:
Both of these will grow well as I see you must live in a warm climate (lantana). You could try the curry plant at the very edge of your garden too, although it's a bit weedy.
Arizona's Restoration Experts, LLC on January 02, 2013:
Useful info, have a wild cat that keeps doing its business in my front yard filled with lantana. HATE IT!! Will try the lavender and rosemary.
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on December 26, 2012:
You can also leave some citrus peel lying around as it seems cats hate that too! Both rosemary and lavender grow really well in a warm climate, as does the curry plant, so you are spoilt for choice, as they say. Good luck!
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 24, 2012:
Oh wow glad I came across this! I have neighbors cats that drive me nuts and I will surely get some of these plants going in the spring. Matter of fact I have a couple rosemary plants I can start multiplying! I love the Lavender, too, and I would think that may be as easy as rosemary to grow. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on June 24, 2012:
Thanks, rbm! Let me know if it works for you :)
rbm on June 24, 2012:
Very useful information! I don't have a cat right now, but had two only a few years ago, and as much as I loved them they did some damage to my garden.
There are a few stray cats where I live now who pay a visit to my garden every once in a while, and it's good to know that lavender and rosemary are among the herbs they dislike, since I've planted lots of those!
Great hub, voted up! :)
GardenExpert999 (author) from Scotland on May 05, 2012:
Good luck, girls. Try these plants by all means, but like I said, cats are such free-minded creatures that they will go anywhere, no matter what barrier you put up. What is always a good idea is to make sure plants are planted close together in borders, leaving no bare earth, as it is this that attracts cats for use as a toilet. If you have plants in containers and cats are in the habit of knocking the compost out, you can cut a ring of biodegradeable cardboard from a breakfast cereal box and line the top of the pot. That keeps cats out, as they can't then scratch the dirt.
Helena Ricketts from Indiana on May 04, 2012:
I was just getting ready to go to Google to see how to keep my neighbor's cats out of my garden this year when I stumbled upon your hub! Awesome! I will be trying some of these plants this year and maybe my garden will finally be cat pooh free. : /
Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 04, 2012:
This is such an informative Hub! I don't have a cat; only a spoiled little dog. I had heard about catnip making a cat a little tipsy, but I didn't know it to be true. I'll vote this Hub UP, etc.