June 22, 2006

Cats in the garden

It amazes me how often gardeners are also animal lovers. Honestly, you think we'd know better. Although we rage about the damage inflicted by squirrels and earwigs and deer, some of the most destructive pests in our gardens are there with our permission.

Cat in the gardenMeet Cleo. As far as cats go, she's pretty sweet. If it weren't for her unfortunate tendency to prefer my flower beds over her litter box, we could cohabit my garden in perfect peace. Well, except for her other unfortunate tendency to hunt anything smaller than herself, but that's a subject for another day.

The very best way to deal with digging cats is to set up a corner where they are actually allowed to do their thing. At a former house, I planted an enclosed square with various invasive plants - ostrich ferns, violets and goutweed - and "seeded" the back of it with offerings from her litter box. She and any visiting cats faithfully confined their efforts to that part of the garden and if a few plants died - hey! I knew they'd all be back come spring.

The problem with my little townhouse yard now is that there is no out-of-the-way corner I can use in this fashion. So if you look to the right of Cleo in the above picture, you'll see a couple of the other methods I've had to resort to. The soil is mulched as heavily as possible with pine cones, which are free for the taking all over the neighbourhood. They break down very slowly, so I haven't had to supplement much since last year. But in places where they are a little thin, a determined cat will fight her way through anyway. So if you look very carefully again at the photo (click for a larger view), you will see that there are short lengths of rose canes emerging from the pine cones. Twigs would have done the trick quite well too, although then I probably would have needed more of them. Rose canes lying on the ground have never been too effective for me; the cats pick right through them. But a small forest of vertical twigs or canes deters them. And the natural colours blend in so nicely, you have to look closely to notice their presence at all.

There are a couple of drawbacks to the pine cone method. Emerging plants can get stuck and it is a royal pain to add other mulch, but at least Cleo won't be killing any more of my prize plants.

1 comment:

Sigrun said...

Cleo - what a cute cat. Today my cats are tired like me - its to warm here.