How to Deter Stray Cats

Stray and feral cats are a growing problem in the United States. In fact, the Feral Cat Coalition has estimated more than 60 million stray cats exist. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects an additional 5 million domestic cats are abandoned annually. That’s a lot of cats! Not only is it considered inhumane treatment when you fail to prevent or control a stray cat population, but conservationists also argue that feral cats contribute greatly to the population reduction of songbirds and other endangered birds.

So, how can you help deter those stray cats from you area? There are a lot of home remedies (some surprising) out there to help you keep cats out of your yard and garden areas. Some people swear by planting herbs that cats don’t like to be around. These include lavender, rue, geranium, absinthe, lemon-thyme, rosemary and pennyroyal (among others). Others have had luck with using large flat river stones in garden beds so the soil is less diggable – and thereby less attractive to the stray felines (and these stones are pretty, too!).

Other remedies include emptying used tea leaves, citrus fruit and raw onions in and around your garden or flower beds as cats dislike the taste and smell of these common foods. If you’d rather lure the cat elsewhere, you could also try planting some catnip in a different area of your yard (or on the outskirts of it!) and allow them to enjoy their time in their own “garden”!

If the homemade repellents listed above aren’t doing the trick, there are other alternatives. Specially designed cat repellents are available that can be used to deter stray cats from making themselves comfortable near your home. Some repellents, typically granular, can be used indoors to protect areas that may become shelter for stray cats, such as your garage or shed. Motion-activated water sprayers are also a useful way to protect landscape and gardens from stray cats.

Many areas also offer trap, neuter and adopt programs or trap, neuter and release programs in order to help control the stray cat population. Call your local humane league, SPCA, veterinarian or similar organization to find out about these programs and their recommended methods before trapping stray cats.

Specially made cat traps can be used to lure the cats when properly baited (although remember to never handle captured cats or leave children unattended near one). The best baits to use in cat traps include fish, meats, oil of catnap, sardines, canned tuna or mackerel (generally any kind of smelly food!), or chicken. The best time to setup your trap is right around dusk. Make sure to fold a piece of newspaper to line the bottom of the trap, as cats will avoid walking on wire. After your trap is set, it’s best to cover it with a large towel to help camouflage the cat and calm it down after you catch it!

Image: Alex Balan

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  • sonny

    Have the spray model B5265
    The problem is that it will go off at random times for no reason…Every 10 seconds or so and will do this all nite long ….Continues to flood my yard at nite time. Any way to fix this other that throwing it at the cats?

    • 11:03 am - August 14, 2011

    • Reply
    • Havahart®

      Hi Sonny,

      There are a couple things that might cause your unit to activate all night long. If there is no animal present to set the unit off, something else may be triggering it and your sensitivity setting may be too high. Take a look around to see if there are any trees or plants within the detection range that might be causing the unit to go off when the wind blows and moves the leaves/branches.

      If there are plants in the detection range you will want to re-set your sensing area to a shorter distance, and re-test that coverage area. If you continue to have issues with your unit, please contact our Consumer Care team, toll free at: 1-855-542-8242.

      Thank you,

      Your Friends at Havahart®

      • 10:34 am - August 15, 2011

      • Reply
  • Dee

    It’s interesting to note that all these solutions require the non-cat owner to spend money to deal with the problem of neighbors’ cats trespassing into their yards, which the owners should control, or feral cats intruding, which local governments should trap and adopt out or euthanize. Notice also that the same expectations are not applied to dogs, which are expected to be restrained by their owners and not allowed to live as feral animals.

    • 10:24 am - December 31, 2012

    • Reply
  • Kelly Kelley

    Message to “Dee”:

    Well yes, you do have to spend money to correct a problem you are having – should the government subsidize it for you? It’s not illegal to let a domestic “owned” cat out. Stray, feral and abandoned cats are not the one’s at fault for their situation of being homeless and likely didn’t chose to live such a pitiful existence. Where is your tolerance and charity? The “euthanize them all” mentality is a cruel and intolerant approach to a sad dilemma. Hopefully you will never be down on your own luck, homeless … I bet some politicians secretly have the same thought process for what they view as the lower financial eschalans of our society, or the 47%. Have a heart, cats are God’s creatures too, and should still be treated with compassion and kindness. After all, I bet you wouldn’t kill all the birds the crap on your car, or eat your grass seeds (or perhaps you do).

    • 12:01 pm - October 16, 2013

    • Reply
    • K

      Kelley — I believe you have totally missed Dee’s point, which is basically: “why is this not the owner’s responsibility if the cat belongs to my neighbor? (It sure would be if it was a dog!)” …and Dee has a great point. I have no idea why cats get such a special status. It’s illogical.

      • 11:53 pm - September 22, 2015

      • Reply
    • Kathleen

      Kelley, Where I live we have an ordinance that states Cats must not be allowed to roam. This idea that it is okay to let them roam freely isn’t healthy for either the cat or the environment. I am tired of stepping in cat excrement in my backyard. Want to talk about charity and tolerance? We have adopted over 20 cats over the years and we never allowed them to roam. The neighbors’ cats have killed every Cardinal, BlueJay and Mockingbird fledgling that has nested in on my property. Be responsible cat owner. If your cat is roaming on other’s property you are an irresponsible cat owner.

      • 2:45 pm - April 15, 2016

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  • ruth

    I agree with everyone dealing with feral cats. They are around, because cat owners have no responsibility… no collar, no restraints, no no no no……… They can be trained just like dogs. My grdaughter taught her feral Siamese kitten to lead on a leash and would stake it in back yard … Never fought it…Stake was in ground , not in cat, just to make it clear. Owners can put a ‘run’ in yard with cover, so they can’t get out. Big enough so they can roam and have food water and litter box. People have to do similar things for their dogs. I love animals. But when you have a colony of cats coming though and your side yard is their favorite place for their own , not so private, litter box, it is a big health problem. It is a fact they leave lots of bacteria and viral things…. We have to spend a LOT of money to fix all the damage that has been done as well as all the holes etc they have dug under the fence and shed. I didn’t realize how fast they can dig holes. Chili powder, pepper , hot sauces is what cat coalitions recommend. HAHAHAHAHA Besides, they leap like superman over the fence. So guess next step is putting something on top of fence to make it higher. I don’t see how neutering and spaying and releasing is humane. Sure they don’t present us with kittens, but they are a dangerous group. Snarling and will attack if they feel threatened. People say they don’t eat birds. HAHAHAHA again. It is expensive and it is very annoying and I and some of my family are allergic to cats. Ain;t fun, folks. The cats are always looking for food., scared if you even look out the window, always looking for a safe place to lay down awhile….. like on our patio or behind our shed. Possums and skunks don’t like our remedies, so they are gone. Also we have been told to lay rose bush branches with thorns around. None of these things are humane. I could hose them down, but that would be awful. Like I said, I love animals. But you people who advocate this is all ok…. you have to think about the health of people……. kids, for pete sake. Our yard is not safe for children and we have lots of grands and grtgrands. No, I do not appreciate that when we trapped the cats and several took them in to be neutered and spayed and then gifted us with ALL of them AGAIN….. except the 6 kittens born under our shed. My front yard has a smell that will knock you down when you come out the door.. We are to be tolerant…. if not , how horrible we are. We can get sick , spend money like crazy and not have company..and you have the nerve to think that is ok. OWNERS OF CATS>>>> keep your cats HOME! Laws need to be set for all animals. Cats cannot be exempt. I’ll be glad to deliver some pretty cats. to you. People , they do form colonies and they don’t go away. So many in our neighborhood.

    • 10:14 pm - September 2, 2016

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  • Mariam Habib

    I feel you guys I have a inside cat and I take care of her. My neighbors feel the neighborhood needs to take care of them. Smh I am very upset about the cat problem!!!

    • 2:22 am - January 6, 2017

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