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I have an issue where a neighborhood cat seems to like to use my yard (particularly the rose bush areas) as its personal litterbox. This wouldn't be a huge problem, except that the cat seems to track fleas in, which then yet on my wife and young child. And it is a huge pain to get rid of recurring fleas in the house when almost anything you use is going to be crawled (and soon walked) though by a child who puts literally everything in their mouth.

So, this raises the question: what can be done to deter the cat and prevent fleas from getting in my yard? I put down some of those spicy-scent things that have pepper and other things that make cats (and me) sneeze a bit. This seems to deter it until it rains a bit, then the poop starts appearing. I'm thinking of putting up a fence for the yard anyway, so the question is: what kinds of fences or toppers would fit all the following criteria:

  • Deter a cat from wanting to visit the yard as much (doesn't need to be 100% cat-proof like a prison, just enough to make it prefer to go elsewhere)
  • Fine for a child to encounter and potentially touch
  • Look quaint in a suburban neighborhood (e.g., things that could work with a picket fence no higher than chest level, since it's the front yard that is the issue)

Currently the kinds of ideas I have in mind are things like a picket fence with some twisty or mildly brambly ivy (e.g., cat feet catch on it or are unpleasant to the touch, but not something that would harm either a cat or a child), a fence or wall with a rotating top (e.g., something that would twist out of the way and mess up balance if jumped on), or even just a plain old picket fence that is thin enough to be hard to stick the landing on if a cat tried to hop on and then over it (maybe with some citrus or other smelly things to make it particularly aversive). Probably leaning toward a vinyl fence, which would make it harder to climb than wood, also. Not considering chain link because it tends to look horrible, but entirely open to suggestions of meshes. Pictures of examples highly welcome on this question.

  • How tall are you planning to make your fence? If it is low enough that you child can touch the top, it is probably low enough the cat can hurdle the fence without touching the top. Depending on where you live there may be local zoning laws that would impact your choices as well. – James Jenkins Jun 4 '17 at 10:26
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    catfencein.com/how-cat-fence-works Something like this is said to prevent cats from climbing fences, but the cat still might be able to get in if there's trees or such by the fence. – Kai Jun 6 '17 at 18:20
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There's likely very little you can do to prevent a cat from getting into a place it has its mind set on getting into. Cats are agile, athletic, and acrobatic. Making your fence unclimbable won't accomplish anything, and a jump into your yard from a high location (nearby tree, or roof) likely won't faze a cat. Considering that cats can walk between sharp, wrought iron palings, squeeze between or under bars, and can easily scale any wooden, vinyl, or mesh fence with their claws, a fence is not a reliable means of keeping a cat out of any yard. A sufficiently motivated cat could even dig enough soft earth to create a crawlspace under a fence, if it was interested enough in getting to the other side. There is very little in terms of a physical barrier that you can create that a can't won't see as a personal challenge to practice until they can overcome it with ease. Your only method of deterrent here would be to make such attempts painful, which you don't want to do.

Instead of keeping him out, you'll have to give him a reason to not want to get in to begin with.

A quick google search brings up that cats don't like the smell of rue, citronella, and lavender. These would be safe for your child to touch, and would not be out of place in your garden. While Lavender is not poisonous, some people are allergic to Citronella, and Rue can be toxic if eaten in large amounts.

You may also consider mulching your garden with citrus fruit peels: cats seem to really hate the smell of citrus.

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    Some good suggestions here. I think we're going to try to mulch with citrus peels, and we also bought a night-only motion-sensitive sprinkler as a deterrent. Any tips about how to properly mulch a garden with citrus (e.g., without having the peels rot/mess with the roses)? I am not much of a green thumb. – Namey Jun 18 '17 at 22:37
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    A quick read says your garden will be fine (if not better off) with a mulch. Chopping up the peel into small bits should do. Probably don't grind or crush it, though - that'll end up releasing too much of the juices which produce the smell you need to keep ninja cat out of your garden. When you've got your mulch, just hand spread it through your garden: no need to bury it. Just sprinkle it around on the top and let nature do the rest. – sleddog Jun 19 '17 at 17:43
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    Lemons in place. Automated sprinkler being installed this weekend. Your move, cat... – Namey Jun 23 '17 at 22:58
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Hey my friend had the problem of cats using her yard (now garden ) as their toilet, she used those wooden kebab kewers and stapled them all along the tip of her fence at around the average height of a cats nose, after cleaning up the following night she's had no visitors and two weeks have passed and no faeces left on her plants or flower beds, give it a try cats are smart, they know a spike when they see one, especially if there's lots of them you could even super glue them

  • This is an interesting idea, but I'm not confident the fence would be high enough to prevent this from being an eye-poking hazard for a child. – Namey Jun 18 '17 at 21:55

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