Humane Deterrents for Free-Roaming Cats

Traditionally, trapping and bringing free-roaming cats to shelters has been a popular choice for population control. However, many of these cats are typically euthanized in shelters and this method is often not effective. Removing the cats from an area can be an invitation for more cats to enter that territory. So, people are frequently caught in a vicious cycle where free-roaming cat populations are not controlled.

Need to get rid of unwanted free-roaming cats? Humane deterrents are the best approach....

Smells that repel cats: To keep cats out of yards or gardens, plant the herb rue or sprinkle dried rue. Citrus or lemon scents (orange peels, lemon peels), garlic, ammonia, vinegar, coffee grinds, pipe tobacco, mustard, citronella, or eucalyptus all deter cats as well. The scents diminish over time, so re-applying is necessary.

Motion-activated sprinklers: These have motion sensors that trigger a short blast of water.

Motion-activated, ultrasonic alarm: This alarm emits a high-pitched sound that repels cats, but can’t be heard by humans.

Secure outdoor trash: Make sure your outdoor trash has a secure lid so that cats do not get into your trash to eat.

Digging deterrents: Plastic mats with flexible plastic spikes. Place on the ground with spike side up to discourage cats from digging.

Other digging deterrents: Push chopsticks into small potted plants. Use pine cones, lava rocks, concrete pavers or stones as mulch to prevent cats from digging. Place large river rocks throughout the garden or use poultry fencing or landscape wrap around plants.

Blocking off access: Cats seek out dry, warm shelter away from the elements. Block off access to the places in which you don’t want cats (making sure no cats are inside before doing so). To guide cats away from those areas, provide another shelter. There are many inexpensive options for community cat shelters.

Talk to your neighbors: If your neighbor is feeding free-roaming cats that live on their property, have them call Orange County Animal Services to speak with someone about spay/neuter resources. We can also give them tips on helping their community cats be good neighbors (this includes spay/neuter information to control the free-roaming cat population!).

*Thanks to The Humane Society of the United States and Best Friends Animal Society for providing information on humane deterrents.