Image: Alex Balan
Stray and feral cats are a growing problem in the United States. In fact, the Feral Cat Coalition has estimated more than 60 million stray cats exist. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects an additional 5 million domestic cats are abandoned annually. That’s a lot of cats! Not only is it considered inhumane treatment when you fail to prevent or control a stray cat population, but conservationists also argue that feral cats contribute greatly to the population reduction of songbirds and other endangered birds.
So, how can you help deter those stray cats from you area? There are a lot of home remedies (some surprising) out there to help you keep cats out of your yard and garden areas. Some people swear by planting herbs that cats don’t like to be around. These include lavender, rue, geranium, absinthe, lemon-thyme, rosemary and pennyroyal (among others). Others have had luck with using large flat river stones in garden beds so the soil is less diggable – and thereby less attractive to the stray felines (and these stones are pretty, too!).
Other remedies include emptying used tea leaves, citrus fruit and raw onions in and around your garden or flower beds as cats dislike the taste and smell of these common foods. If you’d rather lure the cat elsewhere, you could also try planting some catnip in a different area of your yard (or on the outskirts of it!) and allow them to enjoy their time in their own “garden”!
If the homemade repellents listed above aren’t doing the trick, there are other alternatives. Specially designed cat repellents are available that can be used to deter stray cats from making themselves comfortable near your home. Some repellents, typically granular, can be used indoors to protect areas that may become shelter for stray cats, such as your garage or shed. Motion-activated water sprayers are also a useful way to protect landscape and gardens from stray cats.
Many areas also offer trap, neuter and adopt programs or trap, neuter and release programs in order to help control the stray cat population. Call your local humane league, SPCA, veterinarian or similar organization to find out about these programs and their recommended methods before trapping stray cats.
Specially made cat traps can be used to lure the cats when properly baited (although remember to never handle captured cats or leave children unattended near one). The best baits to use in cat traps include fish, meats, oil of catnap, sardines, canned tuna or mackerel (generally any kind of smelly food!), or chicken. The best time to setup your trap is right around dusk. Make sure to fold a piece of newspaper to line the bottom of the trap, as cats will avoid walking on wire. After your trap is set, it’s best to cover it with a large towel to help camouflage the cat and calm it down after you catch it!