Cats Pooping in My Vegetable Garden

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Cat poop in my vegetable garden

April 2012

We have just had new neighbor move in and we share a yard. They have a couple of cats, one of whom seems to really like to use one of my vegetable beds as a toilet. Trying to figure out preventative solutions, rather than just digging/asking neighbors to dig it out (tough b/c the cat buries it).

Some thoughts about what I could put down on the beds to deter them? Also would asking neighbors to provide an outdoor litterbox help?

Finally, how toxic is it to eat vegis from a cat poopy box? The only thing planted in there right now is mature kale and some onions. I will probably avoid the onions b/c they are roots but is the kale ok?

Is cat poop very dangerous to non fetuses?

Thanks for any and all advice.

Never had cats. unfamiliar with their ways... Anon

Unfortunately you will need to put down some mesh lining in-between your plants to keep the cats from pooping on the soil. You can buy rolls of it at the garden store, ACE, or somewhere similar. It's black and has little mesh squares, about 1/2'' or so. You'll also need little stakes, shaped like upside-down U's, to hold it in place. Because the cats can't dig around they will sometimes walk on and/or sleep on the mesh, but they'll poop elsewhere. We have three cats and eight veggie beds and we've had to do this all over our yard. Sadly, our cats will find the ONE spot that we've neglected and then fill it with poop. And an outdoor litter box will not help, I'm afraid. They prefer the garden!

As for the toxicity, I'm not sure. We were worried about the same thing. I know that for many years we were eating fruits and veggies from our garden even with the cat poop issue. It's taken us years to figure out how to deal with it. When it's your own cats its a big hassle, but you're sort of resigned to dealing with it. However, when it's someone else's cats doing the mess it's hard not to get resentful of all the work involved. Good luck staying calm and peaceful as you deal with this problem! Mailisha

I can't answer about just how high your risk really is, though I will say that I dug in our garden while pregnant and occasioned upon some cat poop now and then, and it never turned into a toxoplasmosis diagnosis. BUT, I will say (and I suppose this only helps if you don't have a dog in your yard) that I discovered that my cat -and neighborhood cats - don't dig in my garden when I use cocoa hulls as a mulch. They really stay away from digging near it. It's my great miracle of gardening: no poop, AND my yard smells like brownies! happy gardener

Funny, my gardener just mentioned this problem to me a few weeks ago...I was oblivious and thought that it would be ''organic.'' She thought that it was dangerous (I don't know one way or the other. Her suggestion was to dig it out as it goes in; and redo the top level of soil when we go to plant this spring...and then cover the veggie garden with netting so that the veggies can grow through it, but cats can't get in to dig... Gardener with a cat

I did a google search for ''cat repellant for gardens''. The first website I found was this:

I wish I'd know the chickenwire trick, but one that I used because the neighborhood cat in my yard liked to lay on top of my newly planted seeds and seedlings was to put bamboo skewer sticks in with the seeds, with the outer sticks pointing out around the planted area. It made for an unpleasant enough obstacle that the cat stayed off.

A really simple cat repellant is to ask your neighbor to keep their cat indoors when you or they are not at home so that someone is present to train the cat to stay out of the garden when it is outside. You could let them know that indoor cats live much longer healthier lives than outdoor cats, which run the risk of infection from fights with other cats and animals and death from toxic chemicals and cars. Not fond of cats in the garden

Depending on how big the beds are, the simplest solution is to poke sticks throughout the bed so the cat can't dig in it or poop in it. I've done this with several smaller raised beds and it works great. L

We have cats who like to poop in our vegetable bed. The best solution we have come up with is to ''plant'' plastic (we used compostible) forks with the tines face up in all areas of the vegetable bed that could be accessible to little poopers. You need to put them kind of close together. By doing this, cats can't find a comfortable spot to ''go''. We ran out of forks and used a few knives and spoons and these worked ok too. It looks a little funny but it works pretty well! The proud owner of a fork garden.

I like to cover the garden with the weed block fabric after the soil is tilled. I then cut a small hole in the fabric where each seed or plant is deposited. You could add a small cage around the plants or even a fence to keep cats out. The fabric prevents digging. You could also get some mountain lion urine used to keep deer away which might work for the cats as well. Maybe just a litter box outdoors that allows easy digging would be all it takes. They are lazy and like to dig where it is soft soil or sand or mulch. Prime the new litter box with some of the deposits they left in the garden. same problem

I have my veggie garden in planter boxes and have found that putting chicken wire over the boxes at the time of planting has really helped deter the cats. I just cut holes where the plants grow through. I get tons of neighborhood cats pooping in my yard and haven't had an incident in the veggie boxes since (the rest of my yard is another story though). I'm glad I haven't had to resort to something with a lot of upkeep like sprinkling paprika or buying fancy gadgets.

good luck! no more poop near my veggies

We had a terrible time with keeping cats out of our garden. First, there is really nothing that will deter them consistently. The best thing to do is use barriers. We have used stakes, netting, boxes and cages . This has been very effective. Mostly we have planters and containers. On 1 larger garden I took 4 bamboo poles and created a teepee that I then covered with netting. I wrapped three of the sides around wood and buried it and then use the 4th side to get to the plants as needed and wire the door shut. It works great!

As for eating stuff growing in it...its mostly not a good idea. The mature kale should be fine, other than that I would remove any contaminated dirt and replant with protection. Cat poop has taxoplasmosis which, while very dangerous to those with compromosed immune systems and pregnant women, is not good for anyone! no more cats in my veggies

I have had luck with putting used coffee grounds in my flower boxes! Anonymous

Lay down branches from pruned trees or shrubs in between your veggie rows that make it impossible for the cats to scratch and poop, or bits of chicken wire or other heavy screen. Old framed window screens work great for areas that are yet to be planted, or propped up on bricks over areas that have just been planted with seeds. This is the most effective and easy way to keep cats out that I have found.

Or, you can build a pvc hoop frame and put remay over the top to completely enclose the area, but you must remove it to water (unless you have laid down irrigation lines) and to allow plant pollination for those plants that need it. This solution will increase the temperature a couple degrees and prevent flea beetles and loopers so that's an added plus for this method.

I have also tried sprinkling uber hot cayenne that you can buy for cheap at Indian grocery stores in 1 lb bags which is helpful for as a squirrel deterrent too, but of course this is cruel and every time you water you have to sprinkle more.

Or, alternately, I hear cats taste just like chicken.... (I'm joking, dear Berkeley friends)

Good luck! Lindsey the gardener

Neighborhood cats using yard as litter box

Aug 2015

The neighborhood cats have started using my yard as a litter box. I'm finding poop in the mulch areas and my planting beds. Flowers have been dug up and planters toppled. I think they have also started marking my deck by the yellow stains I'm finding in the morning. I don't have any pets that would attract or deter them. I don't mind cats but I'm getting tired of finding poop everywhere plus the garden destruction. Is there some way to repel or deter the cats from my yard? not a fan of cat poop

We moved into a house with a full sun front yard. I was SO EXCITED. Then our next door neighbors adopted cats 4 and 5, with NO litter box. I changed my cut flower garden to full landscaping, and we got a dog to keep them out of the back yard. Still Hate My Neighbors

We have a bird sanctuary in our backyard and use something called Catstop made my Contech. I just googled it and you can find it many places. It uses a battery, has a motion sensor and emits a high pitched noise that is hard for humans to hear, many don't, but it is unpleasant for cats to hear. We actually have 2 and have been very pleased by their effectiveness. The company has great customer service. lark

There is some stuff you can spray or shake to ward off unwanted critters. I don't remember what it is called, but they sell it at Home Depot and hardware stores. It's basically just different kinds of pepper, I think. I don't know if it really works, but it's cheap enough to try for a few months. Anon

Are you sure that it's cats that are using your raised beds? Perhaps it is racoons. Cats don't normally pull up plants, but racoons will. Either way, you might want to cover your raised beds with chicken wire. Good luck!

We had the same problem and solved it by going to a hardware store-or nurseries have it too-and buying a large container of ''Critter Ridder.'' It a combination of natural herbs, spices and hot peppers (all powdered) which the cats and other animals hate. It does no damage to the plants and keeps the unwanted animals away. anon

Orange peels are a great cat-deterrent. Leave some orange peels out where you don't want the cat. Not sure about citrus sprays or air fresheners. no more cats in my yard

Are you sure that it is cats? They usually don't pull up plants. Maybe you have raccoons. It is hard to get rid of hungry animals. We have used a sprinkler that turns on when it detects movement. Also a noise maker that turns on when it detects motion. You can find these things at a hardware store. Anon

Try this:

Get bulk quantities of cayenne pepper - it may be least expensive in a Mexican market, or maybe a natural foods store.

Spread the pepper out in a dense path wherever the cats have been pooping and damaging things. It will burn their butts when they sit down.

We had good results after one application, but it might be necessary to repeat, especially if there are many cats. Good luck!

I Hate Cats

Neighbor's cats poop in vegetable garden

March 2009

Hello, I love fact, I used to love my neighbor's cats until they decided to use my vegetable garden as their litter box!!!! How can I discourage them from using it as their toilet? frustrated gardener

Try Cocoa shells. you can get them at the nursery in large bags like mulch--they are just natural cocoa shells, smell slightly chocolate-y and cats don't like to walk on them. if spread kind of thickly, will last a year or more. our neighbor cats stopped coming over right away and it doesn't smell like poop in our backyard at all anymore. The only downside is that dogs like to eat it, and it's evidently bad for them so if there are dogs that have access to your yard, or if you have a dog, you'll have to investigate more to ensure their safety. They are easy to use, and smell delicious and really do work! julie

Coffee grounds. Save them after making coffee and spread them all around the garden regularly, on top of the soil around the plants. (It's good for the plants, too.) If you don't drink coffee, see if a local coffee shop will give you some. Andi

Gad, I have the same problem. Both with my husband's cats (I opted out, I'm allergic) and every other cat in the 'hood that wants to lay claim. I've tried a lot of things, but other than building a greenhouse I have no answers. I hate cats at this point, although honestly, eating veggies that cats shit in isn't going to cause serious problems as far as I know (unless perhaps you're preg or nursing). On the other hand, I'm not inclined to eat what I grow when I know the cats have been pooping in and around it. I've even tried Lion Poop from the zoo... no va on that one. so I don't have any advice, other than to say, I'm with you on this and I think that cats should be mandatorially housebound, as do many cat advocates. -Rather be cat-less

We used to have the same problem with a housemate's indoor cat and houseplants, as well as neighborhood cats in our garden. What I did was lay some wire mesh in between the rows in the garden, and in my potted plants (for the pots I cut circles of mesh, and cut holes for the plants). The cats were discouraged from pooping and peeing there because they were unable to scratch up the dirt.

I used the kind of wire mesh that you put up before plastering a wall--flexible, easy to cut, and with hexagonal holes about 1- 2 inches. I'm sure anything similar would work, or any other method that prevents the cats from scratching and digging. poop-less plants

Here's an idea for you: Recently we have had to entice our own cat to stay in our backyard instead of running off to our old house's backyard. We learned from a cat behaviorist that if you ''mark'' your cat's own territory with his/her wet litter and excrement, then they stay within those bounds. If your neighbor is up to the task to do that in their own yard, that might work, or you could offer to do it for them perhaps? If they don't go for it, you could maybe borrow ''the above'' from a friend's cat and distribute that around, and I guarantee that your neighbor's cat will stay away. Cat Lover

Hot pepper spray around the garden. Ok for plants; deterrent for cats (must spray regularly). Sharp tiny rocks as ground covering are uncomfortable on their paws and make them less interested. You may have to work twice as hard since they can probably smell cat scent in your garden and want to revisit it. Good luck

Chiming in rather late... No to cocoa mulch if dogs around. No to pepper anything if they can inhale it. YES to chicken wire fencing, just a little bit under the dirt/soil. This will stop them. It is a drag to do if you have a large area, I speak from experience, but it will deter them when they get their claws stuck. About a year after I took it up they slowly began to test the waters again. Crafty little vixens they are. I too tried coffee grounds, citrus, and actually purchased coyote urine, then went even farther and tried my own, I kid you not (hey, it was free)but what finally worked was the wire. dog person

Cats using my garden as litter box

May 2002

Help...Does anyone know how to prevent cats from using the garden as a litter box? I have tried citrus and cayenne but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions helpful. Stefanie (Note from moderator: I use red pepper flakes, but need to do it frequently as it seems to lose potency within 3 or 4 days)

I'm responding to the person seeking advice on discouraging cats from using the garden as a litter box. I've found that plastic forks stuck into the ground with the tongs up are very effective because cats find it impossible to dig around them. Also I've heard that cats dislike walking on aluminum foil. The best permanent solution is to plant something thick where the cats usually dig, possibly something low-maintainence and drought-resistant. Use the plasic fork plan while the plants are becoming established. You didn't say if the cats are your pets, so I don't know if you're trying to banish them from your garden or just preventing them from using it as a sandbox. If you want them out of the garden all together you can purchase a motion sensor sprinkler that will startle them away. Pepper powders, as you've found, don't always work. They can also be harmful to a cat, especially if it gets in a cat's eyes. Good luck. Mary

Check out: It's a great place for gardening information. It has both specific plant and location forums. You can use their search button to search for ''cat'' to get lots of different ideas about approaches to the problem that you have encountered. Regards, Michele

August 1999

Can anyone advise me on how to stop the numerous neighborhood cats from pooping in my yard? There are a couple of houses that have taken in strays. One of them reportedly has 25 of them that she feeds on her front porch. That's wonderful for her except that she hasn't taken the responsibility to also potty train them. There are several spots in my yard that they regularly use often trampling my flowers. I need to make a daily sweep with my trowel and bag. I really got angry when I found my 2 year old walking around with a turd in his hand! I bought some natural repellant that really didn't work. I don't want chemicals around my kids but neither do I want cat poop. Please help!

I have the same problem. My neighbor has 20 cats and a dog who poops on my lawn. I've really got to get my husband to replace the fence that blew down almost two years ago to at least keep the dog out (he's halfway there!). Anyway, I was told to get a cat fence to put on top of the fence, if your yard is fenced. Apparently these are advertised in cat magazines which of course I've not had a chance to check out. I recall being told that it's a mesh fence that wouldn't support the cat's weight if they tried to jump over. If anyone has heard of this and knows a source, please let me know. Thanks.

To the person who wanted help with cats pooping: we've used chili pepper flakes successfully in our backyard. The drawbacks are that you have to put it out every coouple of days and that you have to wait until your child doesn't eat everything she comes in contact with. Also, I've seen machines in catalogs that emit sounds that cats, dogs, mice etc get annoyed by. I've never seen them in stores though.

Cats pooping in veggie garden - I'm pregnant

January 2003

One of the neighborhood cats has taken to using our raised vegetable beds as a litter box. I have two questions. First, does anyone have any good ways of discouraging the cat? Second, after cleaning it up, should I be concerned about residual bacteria and planting vegetables in the same area? I got to thinking about this because I'm pregnant and I've heard that pregnant women shouldn't clean litter boxes because of exposure to a bacteria in the cat feces. I then started thinking about whether or not my veggies, current or planted in the near future, would be contaminated. Thanks! roxanne

It's my understanding that it is something to be concerned about, babies in utero can contract toxoplasmosis (sp?) from the bacteria in cat poop which can be very serious. Having said that, I've been trying to keep my cats out of the plants for a long time, now. I've discovered that they tend to not like big pieces of bark or rocks, they want a fine material that they can paw through, and then cover up with. You might want to try mulching with big pieces of bark. Also, chicken wire laid down on top of the dirt will keep them away. One thing that hasn't worked is putting a fence around the border, they just jump right over it. Good luck! Jill

I wouldn't take a chance with cleaning cat poop and being pregnant. Could you have your partner clean the box? Better yet, have the neighbor who owns the cats clean it up. Once he/she gets sick of doing that, maybe that person will be in better control of his/her animals. anon

I understand your concern ! We had neighborhood cats that were using our yard as a litter box. The smell and the fact that we have a toddler who likes to dig in dirt got us doing some serious research on the matter. Our solution was a motion detector sprinkler. The cats hated getting squirted so much that they quit coming into our yard within the first 3 days ! We only use the sprinkler occasionally now - the cats know to stay away from our yard. It has worked wonders. We got ours through (it's a little pricey at about $100). Congratulations on your coming arrival ! Rachael

A few years back Times columnist Gary Bogue had advice about putting a wobbly fence on top of your fence to keep out cats. Perhaps if you ask, he can email it and other advice to you: garybug AT infi DOT net Here are my 2 cents. Even non-pregnant people should avoid food grown in an area pets use as a toilet. Perhaps food grown well above the ground (i.e. tomatoes) might be okay. Or food you would cook thoroughly? You could fill the raised bed with pointy sticks. You could have somone saturate some rags with cat repellent and tie them to sticks in the raised bed. You could surround the area with netting. (If you do this, please make the netting taut, so no animal will get tangled in it -- we once had to call animal control to release an opposum that got caught.) You could get a product (called Scarecrow) that has a motion detector and turns on a sprinkler when set off. For your reference, here is one purveyor of it (I have no experience with this company): Good luck and I wish you the best with your pregnancy, birth and baby. J12

Go to The forum section has tons of great advice about discouraging cats from using gardens as litter boxes. Mary

One way to keep the cats out is to put down chicken wire. Apparently, they hate walking on it. As for the bacteria that is potentially already there, I don't know. Ask your midwife or OB for the latest info on toxoplasmosis, and to be tested for it. It's possible you've already had it and are now immune. Good luck; this is maddening. Jennie

You are very right to be concerned. The bacteria you're referring to (Toxoplasmosis) is not routinely found in the soil in the U.S. -- but it *is* found in cat poop, and it *is* transferable to soil, and it *is* potentially devastating to a fetus (miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects)... and so I would certainly be fearful if I knew that a cat had pooped in my veggie garden! I know all this because I was living in France during my pregnancy, and the Toxoplasmosis bacteria does in fact live in the soil there -- and so, as a result, I was not allowed to eat any raw fruits or vegetables that had grown in the soil An apple was OK if washed thoroughly (since it spent its life way up in the tree away from the dirt), but lettuce was literally off-limits... imagine your OB telling you ''DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EAT SALAD!'' :) Now, based on my experience, if you're planning on cooking all the veggies, I wouldn't worry about it. But that's pretty unlikely, so please talk to your OB about the situation -- a simple blood test can tell you if you are immune (although immunity in Americans is uncommon). In the meantime, you can get more info on (just type in 'toxoplasmosis'). Sarah

Here's what I did to keep the cats out of the garden. I bought some of that netting that's for keeping birds out and that 1foot tall metal garden border that comes in rolls. I then lay the netting over the garden and stretched it taught, weighting it down with stones around each garden bed. I actually angled it out so that the cats couldn't climb in. This meant the netting was raised about a foot over the garden. Once the plants grew tall enough I removed the netting. When I was pregnant and handling feral cats I had myself tested for exposure to toxoplasmosis. They say that if you've been around cats a lot then you're most likely immune. FWIW, I wasn't. ---Sophie

To discourage cats, I would recommend a motion-activated sprinkler called a scarecrow. I think they cost about $70 and you can buy them at places like OSH. amy

Yes, toxoplasmosis is a potentially serious condition, but I wanted to add another perspective. I have had cats all my life, and was a heavy-duty meat-eater for the first 22 years of my life, so when I got pregnant I was very concerned about this. I had 3 indoor/outdoor cats at the time, and also volunteered with feral cats and with cats at the SF SPCA. The first thing I did was get myself and my cat (the one that was outdoors the most) tested. I was sort of hoping I'd test positive because then I would pass along the immunity, but much to my surprise we both tested negative! That actually made me even more nervous, so I had my husband do the kitty litter for most of my pregnancy (I must admit that towards the end I found myself doing it every once in a while). However, my vet said he hadn't seen a case in many years, and that it was very rare. I also had read that most humans get it from handling or eating raw meat, not from cats (I was a vegetarian by this time anyway). I also asked a woman who worked full-time with cats at the SPCA what she had done during her pregnancy, and she said that she tested negative also, so she took added precautions around kitty litter (she now has 2 healthy kids and about 5 cats). My feeling is that if the 3 of us, with all of our cat contact and meat-eating history, tested negative, it must be extermely rare. Tracy

What you are worried about with cat poop and pregnancy is a parasite called toxoplasmosis. It causes a problem primarily during the first trimester of pregnancy if you have no prior exposure and antibodies yourself. Although cats are the definitive host of the parasite, most people pick it up from undercooked meat(beef,etc), so the most important preventative step is to cook meat well. Also, garden with gloves, so that you do not have dirt on your hands. This protects you from a lot more than just the toxo. In general, because of the risks of poop on foodstuffs, though, it is a good idea to discourage the cats from using your vegetable garden. There are sprays- Boundary, Repel, etc. that contain odors that cats don't like. The thing I have found most effective though is to take wire or twigs and create a pattern in the open spaces that poke upwards to bother the cat as they try to walk through. I usually cut off the top piece of the fencing I use to make tomato cages so that I have a long strip of wire with pieces sticking out at right angles on both sides. (A long piece sortof like this +++++++++) I then place these wires (I try to make decorative shapes, etc) in the more open spots of the garden or whereever the cat is trying to walk or squat with the side pieces sticking up about 2-3 inches. Sometimes need to watch the cats response and adjust the wire if the cat is persistent. Be patient, but it is possible to discourage them. a local vet