Research - cat deterrent project August 2003, Sarah Nelson & Nigel Butcher setting up infra-red camera & VCR.

Cat deterrents for gardens

There are many ways you can deter cats from your garden.

What you can do

  • Surround an area with a fence (chicken wire etc) that leans in the direction from which the cat will approach. The cat is unable to climb over such an angled fence.
  • Flimsy plastic roll-up fencing placed on top of a fence etc to prevent cats climbing over it.
  • Taut wire or string fitted 10-15 cm above the fence-top makes it difficult for cats to balance on the fence.
  • Place half-full plastic bottles in borders. This is an old gamekeeper's trick - the light reflection is supposed to deter.
  • Mailshot and other unwanted CDs can be threaded on twine with knots in between to keep them apart. String these across flower beds or hang from trees. The light reflections deter.
  • Spiked tree collar to prevent climbing up a tree.
  • Downward-opening cone or a biscuit tin fixed to the pole below the bird table to prevent cat climbing up it. Vaseline or other grease on a smooth pole will also help.
  • Placing clippings from thorny or spiky plants under bird feeders and under bushes will prevent cats from using these areas to stalk birds.
  • There is a new garden plant, Coleus canina, on the market. It is marketed under the names Pee-off and Scaredy-cat. This plant has a pungent odour that is said to repel cats and other mammals from the garden. It should be available from a number of garden suppliers.
  • Scent deterrents will either serve to repel (eg Citronella) or mark a territory (eg Silent Roar). Alternatively, try orange or lemon peel, since cats are not keen on the smell of citrus.
  • Bucket or water pistol full of water will help to chase a cat out of the garden. There is an automated option, the scarecrow, which is attached to a hosepipe, and will deliver a water jet when activated by a motion detector, but be aware that water freezing in the pipes can damage the gadget.
  • The CATWatch deterrent is endorsed by the RSPB and reduces cat visits by up to 33 per cent. Follow the link from this page.
 Research - cat deterrent project August 2003, Sarah Nelson & Nigel Butcher testing sprinkler.

Ultrasonic cat deterrent

CATWatch, an ultrasonic cat deterrent, reduces cat visits into gardens by a third, new research for the RSPB has shown.

One hundred and fifty volunteers across the UK took part in a two-year scientific trial to determine the effectiveness of CATWatch in reducing cat intrusions into gardens.

Results show that the device did have a deterrent effect, reducing the probability of a cat visit into a garden by 32 per cent. The total time spent by cats in gardens was also reduced by 38 per cent.  The deterrent effect also appeared to increase with time, suggesting cats were learning to avoid gardens with active devices.

CATWatch, marketed by Concept Research, works by detecting movement and body heat within a range of 12m, through an angle of 100 degrees and triggering an ultrasonic alarm. 

RSPB endorsed

Andy Evans, of the RSPB, said: ‘This is the first time independent research has shown that an ultrasonic device can have a deterrent effect on cats. CATWatch offers a pragmatic partial solution for non-cat owners who wish to deter cats from entering their gardens. This complements our recent research demonstrating that bells mounted on quick-release collars can reduce the number of birds killed by cats.’

Gardens are becoming increasingly important to many birds, such as the house sparrow, song thrush and starling. All of these birds are regular visitors to gardens and CATWatch can help to deter cats from entering gardens. 

Andy added: ‘Although there is currently no evidence to suggest that cats are responsible for the overall decline in bird numbers, it is sensible to adopt a precautionary approach to try to reduce predation. CATWatch will reduce the number and duration of cat visits to gardens and thus may help to protect birds.’

CATWatch is available from RSPB shops, most leading UK garden centres or direct from the manufacturers Concept Research. It’s harmless to cats and is not found to affect other species.

House sparrow, Passer domesticus, male, perched on stone in garden. Co. Durham.

How you can help

Cat, hunting. Marshside RSPB reserve, Southport, Lancashire, England.

Help keep cats away from your garden birds with the Catwatch cat deterrent from the RSPB online shop.