If cats have become a nuisance in your garden, find out the best ways to encourage them to go somewhere else.
Cats are adored pets, but they can become a nuisance if they leave their mess in your garden, keep you awake with fighting or scare off the wildlife.
More than 6,000 Which? members completed a survey which revealed that 55% have problems with cats in their garden.
Three quarters reported soiling as their main problem, and more than 4 in 10 reported cats scaring off, attacking or killing garden wildlife, with birds being the main victims.
Our members also reported that cats dug up or squashed their plants and were noisy, yowling or fighting with other cats.
The most effective cat deterrents
Create a barrier
Top rated for effectiveness was chicken wire spread over your beds, followed by any other kind of barrier that keeps the cats off the soil.
Spikes or thorny cuttings in the ground to deter them from digging and soiling were also rated as effective. One member told us: ‘After several years of unsuccessful initiatives, I have found that carefully placing bamboo skewers, point upwards, in flower beds is a brilliant way to frustrate the moggies.’
Buy or borrow a dog
Not a practical solution for everyone, but more than 150 of you have used a dog to deter cats from your garden, and almost half found it effective. Although terriers and whippets were some of the favourite ‘cat-deterring dogs’, one member told us:
‘Buying a German shepherd was the best decision. We got rid of the cats, and they haven’t returned.’
More than 1,000 members have tried an ultrasonic repellent, and 32% said it was effective. These small electronic units send out a high-pitched tone that cats don’t like but we can’t hear.
The most mentioned brand was CatWatch. It’s expensive, at £54.95 (plus £15.95 for a mains adaptor if you don’t want the hassle of replacing batteries).
You also need to position it so the sensor’s line of sight crosses the cat’s path. One member told us: ‘Since using CatWatch, I have very little problem from cats. I know the batteries need replacing when cats enter the garden again.’
Motion-activated deterrent sprinkler
Just over 100 members have tried a motion activated sprinkler, such as the ScareCrow or the Catclear, that jets water at the cat when it walks by, and 43% rated it as effective.
It’s like a water pistol but is more effective, as it will hit the cat every time once you’ve found the best spot to position it.
One member who’d tried many deterrents over several years told us: ‘The only one that has worked is the motion-activated water sprinkler; absolutely no fouling any more
Are cats a problem in gardens?
The best data we have from a survey by the British Mammalian Society of dead prey brought home by cats, suggests that during the five months of the survey, 9 million British cats killed 57.4 million mammals, 27.1 million birds and 4.8 million reptiles and amphibians.
Wildlife behaviour is altered by the mere presence of predators; in other words, that fear of predation is a problem in itself, and that this can reduce wildlife populations even in the absence of actual mortality so the presence of cats among other predators may mean that wildlife doesn’t feel safe in your garden and so will steer clear.
All cats are legally protected from harm by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and their Scottish and Northern Irish equivalents.
Dealing with neighbourhood cats comes down to a combination of humane deterrents and tolerance.
What can cat owners do to help wildlife?
Fit a bell or electronic alarm to your cat’s collar; both have been shown to reduce predation.
Keeping your cat indoors more of the time reduces the number of animals killed, although a lot depends on when you do this.
Keeping your cat in at night tends to protect nocturnal mammals, while fewer birds are killed if your cat is kept in during the day