Keeping Cats in the
While many people want to keep cats out of the garden,
if you'd rather invite them in, here's what you do. Create a garden
for your feline friends by planting catnip, catmint, and other plants
they love. In fact, giving cats their own space may help keep them
out of your flower beds and vegetable plot.
Because cats will want to eat, sleep, and play in their
garden, the plants may become bedraggled, bent, or broken. So, you'll
probably want to tuck the garden behind a garage or in a corner
of the yard. It's also a good idea to isolate it from favorite flowers
or your vegetable crops.
Prepare the soil as you would any new garden, working plenty
of organic matter and fertilizer into the soil. Clay and sandy soils
especially will benefit from the addition of compost or peat moss.
Water frequently throughout the season.
Although not all cats respond the same way to all so-called cat
aphrodisiacs, most will go crazy over catnip (Nepeta cataria).
Long before anyone discovered that this plant, a native of Europe,
triggered a response in cats, it was used for tea and as a medicinal
herb to treat a number of ailments. It is also said to be an effective
Plant catnip in full sun in well-drained soil. Plants will grow
to a height of nine to 12 inches, producing tiny lavender flowers
beginning in early summer.
Most cats also will adore catmint (Nepeta mussinii), which
induces similar frenzies in cats. The plant has silvery leaves,
and flowers ranging in color from white to dark blue, depending
on variety. The compact plants make a nice place for an afternoon
catnap. For best results, this cultivar needs to be grown in a sunny
No cat's garden would be complete without cat thyme (Teucrium
marum) or valerian (Valeriana officianalis). The first
is a member of the mint family and has deep green leaves and purple
spires. A Mediterranean native, it may grow to heights of one to
two feet if planted in full sun in a moist, well-drained spot. It
is related to the herb Germander, not the herb Thyme, so its common
name is misleading!
Valerian, a sedative for humans but a stimulant for cats, also
goes by the name garden heliotrope. It's an attractive plant with
fern-like foliage and fragrant pink, white, or lavender flowers.
At maturity, plants may reach heights of three to four feet.
The one drawback of planting this is that it may attract rats
although that won't be a problem if your cats are good hunters or
you plant plenty of catnip, a known deterrent to these undesirable
rodents. Valerian can be grown in sun or partial shade and is not
particular fussy about soil conditions.
In addition to planting a smorgasbord of favorite plants, be
sure to leave a patch of loose dirt for rolling and digging. Compost
is sometimes even better than dirt for cats, but if you use this
in a good flowerbed be aware that they may use this for a litter
box! You can put some wire mesh under mulch or compost to make less
Add some shade with a small teepee of boards or half a plastic
culvert, burying the bottom few inches in the soil so it won't collapse
in heavy rain or wind or by roughhousing by playful cats.
The culvert or similar structure also provides a secure hideout
for them, or protection if being chased. It saves them from getting
stuck up a tree! Just make sure it is not too large for small kids
to climb in and get stuck. It also provides cover in bad weather,
as does an open area under porch or nearby shed.
Consider adding a water feature like small pond for drinking
water for your cats. However, if you put in fish, you may need to
place a net just under the water surface to protect them!
If you have bird feeders near your garden, make sure that they
are high enough so the cats can't climb up to get birds. I put mine
on a pole so I can easily take them down, or on a pulley and rope
to lower them, when I need to refill.
Finally, cats like to nibble on grass. So, include some
nice grassy plants in your garden or leave a patch of un-mown grass
near the garden for munching. Then sit back, relax, and watch your
pets enjoy their new outdoor space.
Keeping Cats out of the Garden
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor