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Keeping cats out of the garden

Some cats will find any dirt pile outside and roll around in it. Unfortunately, that dirt pile is often a garden where your favorite plants are located. 

Leonard Perry is a retired extension horticulturist at the University of Vermont. He says cats are after the dirt, not the plants. To them, the garden is one giant litter box and the nicer the soil, the more attractive it is to take care of business. Keep the kitties from scratching around by making it tough for them to do so.

"If you have a well-planted bed, of course you don't have much open space in it. Just mulch may do it. Again, if it's an organic mulch, it's real nice and soft, they may find that nice and diggable too, or compost, one of the tricks you can use is to put a piece of chicken wire just underneath the mulch or on top and just lightly sprinkle some of it on top if you want for aesthetics," says Perry. "That way, if they start to scratch and they run into the chicken wire, they won't like that."

Most cats don't like water, either. Perry says a squirt from the garden hose might work, or a sprinkler that automatically comes on when it detects motion. You could also try planting things that look nice in the garden but are foul to felines. Rue and lavender are two odors they detest. 

There are commercial cat repellants in powder and spray form, but you can make your own, too.

"A lemon juice solution may be somewhat effective to spray around," he says. "Cats don't like mint at all so get some mint oil, or something very minty and make a little solution, and maybe some other very nice spices that you like, but the cats may not."

Keep cats away from your garden by giving them a space of their own. In a far corner of the yard, plant some catnip, spread some dirt and sand for rolling around in, and soon you'll both be purring with contentment.

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