pro landscaper magazine
pro landscaper magazine

A guide to cat-proofing your gardens

by | 26 Oct 23 | Garden Design, Nature & Biodiversity, Opinion

Known for their curious nature, their independence and being mischievously playful, cats are not to everyone’s liking. It’s a divide that dates back centuries: are you a cat person, or a dog person? The chances are, even if you’re neither, it’s more than likely that you will encounter a friendly feline within your local community. But being incredibly stubborn and with a habit of possibly exploring places they shouldn’t, cats aren’t always a friend to a proud gardener. 

With national cat day taking place on Sunday 29 October, having a conversation about a client’s pets or the neighbourhood explorers may be more of a worthwhile topic then you’d think! When designing a garden and working with a client, whether it be in a rural or urban environment, there are always creatures on the move, having several adverse effects on a garden; for those who favour dogs especially, cats can often be considered a pest, causing destruction and disturbance.  

The use of ‘nature’s litterbox’, for example, can be incredibly frustrating and harmful, introducing diseases into the soils and an unpleasant working environment. Alongside bathroom facilities, gardens present the perfect serenity for day beds, play parks and a sneaky tasting session, further disturbing the grounds and potentially damaging plants.

Whilst their charms can only do so much to gain forgiveness, gardeners are encouraged to expand their gardening pallet to incorporate a natural barrier, discouraging cats from entering and reducing the quantity of disruption.  

According to Sloane & Sons, the Teak Furniture Specialist established 1989, the top plants to use when building your natural barrier include lavender, rosemary, rue and pennyroyal – all known for their distinct scent. 

The pungent smells from each plant are seemingly too strong for a cat’s hypersensitive senses. Similarly, the curry herb plant releases its odour when touched. With a coarse texture and spicy nature, cats are bound to avoid this at all costs.

The scaredy cat plant, aptly named by experts in Germany, is known to repel pests in the garden and can have a similar effect on humans – probably best to keep this one out of reach wherever possible! 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have catnip. Planted smartly, the well-loved herb can be used as a distraction. Completely safe and used in popular treats and toys, cat nip lures curious paws into a chemically produced high, triggering the opioid reward systems.  

On the theme of triggering chemical responses, one of the biggest deterrents is coffee. The natural caffeine contained within the plant attacks their central nervous system. Much like humans after a few too many espressos, cats can become restless, nervous, and wary of their surroundings. It’s only to be used in small quantities so not to cause lasting harm.

On the other hand, for those hoping to attract rather than repel cats, there are a selection of plants to avoid. Lilies, for example, are extremely toxic and potentially fatal to cats, so should be avoided completely. For a full list of poisonous plants, refer to the International Cat Care website. 

Creating a “no-go zone” using a selection of these plants can help protect the plants that a client is most precious about. Forming a fence of foliage not only reduces the amount of damage to the plants, but also prevents those unwanted surprises within the soil.  

There are many ways a garden can support the local wildlife, but when working with a client, perhaps take a moment to consider those domesticated creatures nearby and future proof your designs. 

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