The world is divided into two camps: those who like cats and those who don’t. If you come across a gardener who doesn’t like cats, you will most likely hear grumblings of their experience with someone else’s cat using their garden as a litter box.
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On the other hand, if you like cats and happen to be owned by one, you enjoy the benefits of a cat who prowls his/her territory keeping out all manner of pests such as chipmunks, mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, birds, etc.
Cat Vs. The Great Outdoors
This is a double-edged sword, and here at Tenth Acre Farm, it is a balancing act. Yes, we have a cat. She’s a crazy ball of energy, which is probably why someone else before us put her up for adoption. I’m the sucker who couldn’t stand seeing this rescue kitty stuck in a cage.
But Molly is an indoor cat, so all’s right in the world. Right? Not so fast. This bounce-off-the-walls cat was apparently not going to be trained to go against her natural instinct and sleep through the night (we tried everything); so that WE could sleep through the night. So out she went.
In-out, that is.
Every indoor/outdoor cat owner knows it’s in-out, in-out, in-out, as long as his/her personal doorperson is around.
Update: We were able to eventually curb some of her enthusiasm. For more details on how we did that, see the post 6 Lessons I Learned from my Cat about Nature.
Cats: A Win for the Garden?
Anyway, back to gardens. So we have this cat that goes outdoors. Is she a win for the gardener or not? Short answer is: if she’s your cat, it’s a win. Cats generally don’t like to use their own territory as a bathroom, or ‘soil their own nest’, so to speak. Frankly, I don’t blame them.
If I didn’t have a magic oval office in my house, I wouldn’t want to go to the bathroom in my house. Remember old-fashioned outhouses? So the question is, where is your cat using the bathroom? If she roams, it’s hard to know.
The Outdoor Litter Box
Recently we had some neighbors tell us that Molly was using their side garden as a bathroom. They’re not cat people, so their announcement of this fact was downright polite compared to the way they were probably feeling. The fact that cats can roam freely is infuriating to the cat-hater.
So we did what a good neighbor would do. We bought this Dog & Cat Repellent spray for them to use. I can’t say enough positive things about this company’s products. They are safe for people, animals, and vegetable gardens, and THEY WORK.
It’s important to note here that we avoided the ‘cats can legally roam’ argument. We don’t want to endanger her life, after all. And we want to remain on good terms with our neighbors. This is not our first incident with cats and neighbors, but that’s another story.
I would be frustrated if somebody else’s cat was going to the bathroom in my gardens where I was trying to grow edible things.
If I did not want a cat in my yard, I would read this article about keeping cats off vegetable beds, and I would make sure to use ground coverings, cuttings from thorny plants (raspberries, roses), and heavy mulch in any bare spots. Apparently cats are finicky about texture and sure footing. Except my cat has no trouble sleeping in the wood chip garden paths, so there’s that.
And for my garden? She’s a win. Sure, she runs through the garden beds sometimes, but cats are so small that she doesn’t do any damage. She’s a bad-ass hunter, and keeps out the high population of rabbits and squirrels that would almost certainly destroy my strawberry and tomato crops.
The happy cat hangs out with me while I’m working, providing me with company, AND I get to sleep through the night. Mostly. Maybe with the exception of just one in-out.
Bottom line: if you have an outdoor cat, make sure s/he wears a bell collar to give the birds some warning. Be good neighbors. Praise your cat for her hunting prowess.
Do you have an outdoor cat? Have you had problems with neighbors?
Note: Everyone is familiar with the debate about whether or not cats should be allowed outside. You are entitled to your opinion, but this post is not about arguing the merits of keeping cats inside. Comments that lecture us about that argument will be deleted.