Types of Cat Deterrent

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 08, 2021

Outdoor cats can be nuisances if you don’t want them around. Some feral cats can be aggressive towards you and your pets. Cats are natural predators and can kill wildlife like birds and squirrels that you welcome into your backyard. 

Outdoor cats may also dig up your backyard or leave feces nearby. Cat feces can leave parasites behind that infect you and your family, and feral cats can carry mange or scabies.

How to Keep Cats Out of Your Yard

You can choose to coexist with feral cats, but if you don't want to do that, you should consider some easy ways to deter them from coming into your yard. These options are humane, as you should never harm or kill nuisance cats. 

Digging barriers. Cats tend to defecate in places where they can dig, like sand or garden soil. Deterrents like prickly rubber mats, chicken wire, or sharp mulch can keep cats from walking in those areas. 

Motion-activated sprinklers. When triggered, the sprinklers will spray streams of water, startling and irritating the cat. When they come back they'll be sprayed again, and they’ll begin to associate your yard with water. 

Scent repellents. Cats don't like many common household smells, like citrus or coffee. Place citrus peels, coffee grounds, eucalyptus, or cayenne pepper along your fence or the border of your garden.  

Ultrasonic cat deterrent. These devices, which are triggered by motion sensors, emit an ultrasonic alarm. This sound doesn't hurt cats but instead startles them and sends them running. Humans can't hear the sound, so this won't be an annoyance for you. 

If these don't work, you may have to deal with the problem at the source. 

Open trash cans can be a source for nuisance cats. Remember: feral cats are scavengers, and they're looking for food. Secure metal trash cans with lids will deter cats from jumping on them, because cats don't like the sound. And trash cans that aren't secure can attract other neighborhood pests like rats and raccoons.

Open crawl spaces or places under the house can be an inviting shelter for stray cats. You can block where the cats are getting in by using chicken wire or lattice. If you can find where they enter, you can block the entrance when they leave, but make sure no cats or kittens get sealed in. 

But if even that doesn't work, you may want to install a cat-proof fence. This can be the priciest cat deterrent, but it's effective. It's designed to keep pet cats in or feral cats out. The top of the fence has a net the cat can’t climb. 

In addition, a trap-neuter-release program, where volunteers spay and neuter wild cats, might be available in your city. After all, fewer wild kittens roaming your neighborhood means fewer cats to deal with in your yard.

You can help the trap-neuter-release program in your community in a few simple ways:

  • Set up traps in your neighborhood. 
  • Take cats that have been caught to the clinic, and, after surgery, to a place where they can rest. Transportation volunteers are much needed. 
  • Keep cats after surgery in your garage or spare room. Clinics need volunteers to hold cats while they recover. 
  • Spread word about the program to your neighbors or in areas where there are lots of stray cats. 
  • Volunteer at your local clinical to fundraise, keep track of cats, and answer calls and emails. 

Tips for Choosing a Cat Deterrent

Find what they're attracted to. Some cats may be seeking shelter near or under your home. Others may want to use your backyard as a toilet. Some come for the food. Finding what’s bringing cats to your home will help you find the solution. 

You might need more than one. Cats are smart animals. They can find new ways into your yard. If your first cat deterrent isn’t working, you may need to use another one. There’s not one deterrent that works on all cats. 

Choose a humane deterrent. Harming animals doesn't help anybody. If you’re using scents or plants, make sure they aren’t toxic to cats. Having the cats spayed or neutered and released is a humane way to reduce the feral cat population.

Show Sources


Alley Cat Allies: “Humane Deterrents.”


CAP: “Living with Feral Cats in Your Neighborhood.”

The Humane Society of the United States: "Neighborhood watch: How trap-neuter-release can help community cats near you." “Not here, kitty, kitty.”


RSPB: “Cat deterrents for gardens.”


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