Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Tip of the Week: How to Deter Cats

Posted in Gardening Tips on December 14 2009, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education.

I was reading a magazine article recently that suggested placing tomato cages under bird feeders to keep cats away. It reminded me that I am often asked by homeowners how to keep their cats from eating their houseplants. Here are my suggestions.

1. Cats hate the smell of citrus—place an orange peel on top of the soil.

2. Place gravel or pebbles as a mulch around your plants to stop cats from digging in the soil.

3. Spray plant leaves with a homemade blend of water, a few drops of Tabasco sauce, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

4. Cats don’t like getting wet. Keep a loaded spray bottle close to your plants and give the cat a quick spritz if it approaches restricted areas.

5. Tape balloons to the sides of your plant pots—the noise of a bursting balloon will scare away your cat and train it to avoid your plants.

6. Give your cat plenty of toys to play with so it is not bored when alone in the home.

7. Grow plants that have odors unappealing to cats such as citrus, mint, lavender, and rosemary.

Of course, cats being cats, some of these suggestions might work and others will just encourage them to be even more menacing and destructive with your treasured houseplants. A trip to a pricey kitty psychologist may be in the cards.

Some common houseplants that are either poisonous or can cause allergic reactions in cats include aloe (Aloe vera), amaryllis (Amaryllis), asparagus fern (Asparagus sprengeri), avocado (Persea americana), dumb cane (Dieffenbachia), elephant ear, (Caladium), kalanchoe (Kalanchoe), peace lily (Spathiphyllum), and swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa). For a complete list, visit the ASPCA’s Web site.