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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - March 02, 2009

From: Royse City, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Keeping dogs and cats out of flower gardens
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Do you have any suggestions to keep the cats and dogs out of my flower garden? They either just walk through it, and trample everything, or sleep on the soft blooms and squish everything. I am desperate. We live in the country and the animals are a necessity.

ANSWER:

Well, as far as Mr. Smarty Plants knows, there aren't any plants that are guaranteed to repel dogs and cats, short of planting everything in long-spined cactus.  Over the years I've read many suggestions on keeping pets out of flower beds and you can see a very good list from the Gardenweb.com forum of methods and products geared toward keeping cats away.  These include both natural and manufactured chemicals (e.g., citrus peels, coffee grounds, moth balls, etc.) and sharp and/or prickly objects (e.g., thorny branches and sweetgum balls on the soil surface or bamboo skewers sticking up in the flower bed).  The chemicals have the disadvantage of dissipating or washing away in the rain, which means that they would have to constantly be replaced.  Additionally, some chemicals, such as moth balls or cayenne pepper, have the potential to harm the animals.  The sharp and spiny objects could also injure the animals (or you) and would need to be monitored constantly to be sure that they were in place.  

The one on the list that sounds the most humane and effective to me is the motion sensor sprinkler.  There are several brands, e.g., Scarecrow and Havahart Spray Away, that function with a 9-volt battery and can detect the animal 35 feet away.  Once detected the animal is hit with a short burst of water at hose pressure.  The noise and the water effectively keeps the animal away from the area.  The sprinkler can cover an area of 1000 feet and uses very little water (Cat Wars! page about one man's experience with Scarecrow, the motion sensor sprinkler, and another electronic device called CatStop that uses ultrasonic sound to keep cats away.

 

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