How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard, Sandbox, and Other Favorite Haunts

If you’re wondering how to keep cats out of your yard, you’re not alone. Sure, they’re cute. They’re cuddly. And if they’re yours, cats can be amazing companions (no matter what all those dog lovers say). Yet outside your doors, there are an estimated 80 million feral cats in America, plus hundreds of thousands more whose owners let them roam the neighborhood, causing trouble.

So when the local felines decide your yard is the place to stage a catfight at 2 a.m. or that your toddler’s sandbox is their restroom of choice, most homeowners will want to know how to keep cats out of the yard. After all, you can’t exactly put up a “no cats allowed” sign and trust they’ll steer clear. So here are some proven tactics to keep felines at bay.

How to keep cats out of your kids’ sandbox

This is a classic gripe for homeowners. After all, “eliminating in a sandy mixture is natural cat behavior,” says Casey Coke Murphy, pet behaviorist at Mars Petcare in Franklin, TN. In other words, an open sandbox is basically a public bathroom as far as the neighborhood kitties are concerned.

The solution? Top your box with a lid. This will not only keep the cats out, but also prevent rain from turning your kids’ play space into a mud pit. Barring that, Coke Murphy suggests scattering citrus peels around the perimeter.

“Most cats do not like citrus scents and will avoid it as a result,” she explains. (Who knew?)

How to keep cats out of your garden

Although their canine counterparts are better known for digging giant holes, cats love loose dirt and can do some serious damage to a garden. Even if they’re not pawing up the ground, all it takes is a cat napping among your flowers to put a serious dent in your landscaping.

Picking your plants wisely can help deter the neighborhood cats from moving in, says David Holt, landscape foreman for D&R Excavating and Landscaping in Glen Spey, NY. Holt recommends his clients plant fragrant herbs such as rosemary, lavender, or lemon balm. You can also sprinkle diluted lemon juice or orange oil on foliage, he says, much like the citrus peel trick for your sandbox.

How to keep cats out of garbage cans

Feral cats tend to be scavengers, and that means the scent of your garbage is mighty attractive to a hungry feline. If you have the sort of trash that’s full of fragrant delicacies (to a cat, anyway), you’ll want to keep it indoors for as long as possible—until trash day if you can, says Coke Murphy. That includes leftover chicken, fish, and other treats cats love.

If you keep your garbage outdoors, you can invest in a new set of trash cans with closable locking lids that will prove too hard to open for neighborhood kitties. If they can’t get in, they’re bound to move on to another house where they can feast.

How to keep cats out of your yard

If the cats in your yard seem to be strays—say, they have no collar and appear malnourished—you can also see whether they can be adopted so they have a true home. Call your local animal shelter and inquire whether it will take in cats for adoption. If the cats in question seem too feral to be a good pet, another option is catch and release, where rescue organizations humanely trap the cats and make sure they’re vaccinated and neutered to help control the cat population in your area.

And, of course, whatever you do, don’t feed any strays that show up at your door—which is a surefire way to keep them coming around (and telling all their friends, too).

Article by Jeanne Sager