It’s a nice warm spring day, and you want to get some gardening done. On your knees, you begin scraping out last fall’s leaves when it happens. Yuck! Cat poop!

If you live among other humans, chances are there will be cats that are exclusively outdoor or indoor/outdoor in their behaviors. When there are, they will look for optimal places to do their business. Dry leaves and soft soil fit the bill.

So how does one keep out feline friends? Here are some tips.

Dried rose branches trimmed the fall before provide an armored deterrent. Just like us, cats don’t like stepping on thorns.

Motion activated sprinklers work really well. Cats hate them, but using them constantly you may run afoul of water usage compliance in your community.

I’ve seen mention of some hot pepper solutions in sprayers. The goal is to put on a healthy dose on the vegetation, and the cats will ignore the area because of the strong odor and the pepper itself. This may or may not work, and even if it did, you’d have to reapply after broadcast watering. Also, many hot pepper products are dissolved in vinegar, which can be toxic to some plants.

One also can use a heavy gauge wire cut in lengths long enough to be shoved in the ground and project above the surface in random patterns. Be sure to include shorter ones too, as they are more of a foot deterrent. And no, kitty won’t get a foot injury.

A word of caution though, any time you put wire where it can get in a power lawn mower, there is a potential hazard.

Consider too, some things we may like to see in a garden are poisonous to cats to some degree or more. According to the ASPCA, baby’s breath, nicotiana, azaleas, and now for Easter, lilies, are some of the most common.

Ingestion can result in anything from mild gastrointestinal upset to seizures, coma and death. This is not presented here to suggest a lethal or sublethal planting for cats. It is presented to perhaps have some gardeners reconsider their plantings.

If you can’t beat them, join them. That is, consider building an outdoor litter box or plant a garden specifically attractive to cats. Cat grass, cat mint/catnip, pansies and others planted in soft soil that is semi-shaded will work well.

I threw together an outdoor litterbox with leftover 2x6-inch lumber and leftover traction sand from the winter. My cat used it some, but I suspect others did, too. Cleaning it once a week was easy and quick. There were fewer surprises in the flower beds, too.

Barriers can work well also, but they are unsightly to some people. Chicken wire is the gold standard. We’ve used it over some raised beds. Alternatively, consider using bird netting. It is easier to work with and may look better to some people.

Chicken wire also comes painted or coated versus the galvanized finish, so it may not be so obvious. Another advantage of the wire, though, is it can help keep out rabbits from the neighborhood. Yep, Moscow and Pullman have plenty of wild rabbits that nest in lots of places, most notably thick low-lying juniper bushes.

The wildlife specialists tell us that junipers are ideal because they provide both physical protection for nests plus an olfactory camouflage for animals’ odor. Makes sense.

I know some people hate to have rabbits around nibbling on their flowers or vegetables. Personally though, I think they are fun to see, and they drive my Boston terrier nuts.

Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email

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