If you have a garden or raise plants in containers, then you may have experienced the frustration of having a house cat disturb your efforts. Plants are not part of a cat's normal diet, but cats will occasionally be attracted to certain plants and chew on, if not consume, the stems, leaves, or flowers. The good news is that you can reduce or eliminate the destruction of your plants by keeping a few ideas in mind when planning and planting. Here are three such practices that can help.
Keep plants out of reach
Since cats are adept jumpers and climbers, it can be challenging to keep your plants away from them. However, there are things you can do, such as place containers on high pedestals that don't provide any ledge space for cats to stand. Hanging containers can also provide the same benefit of making the plants unreachable. In addition, be sure to keep plants trimmed to avoid dangling stems or leaves that may be tempting.
You may also wish to consider how you can transform your landscape into a preserve for your plants that provides refuge and protection from cats. This can be accomplished by constructing water features that surround plants and isolate them from curious cats. Ponds, waterfalls, and fountains are all appropriate options for water features, but keep in mind that cats can leap great distances, and such water features might not work if they can be easily hurdled.
Another option that can provide maximum protection from cat chewing is to use a greenhouse or sun room for your most precious container-based plants. This involves a significant investment, but your plants will also reap other benefits such as protection from insect pests and climate extremes.
Incorporate dual-purpose irrigation measures
Since most cats hate getting wet, you can also use that to your advantage by incorporating irrigation systems that also create an environment that discourages cats. There are several low-flow irrigation ideas you may wish to consider installing.
Mist irrigation - This system uses a series of interconnected mist nozzles that emit a fine spray of water. By placing mist nozzles strategically, you can provide your plants with a source of water that is both efficient and effective. The fine spray will also prove to be distressing to cats who get too close, and they will soon leave your plants alone once they make the association with being sprayed.
Drip irrigation - This system also may be effective in reducing cat chewing problems by dripping water at a consistent rate. This dripping will prove annoying to cats, but your plants will love the steady, slow water flow.
For help with choosing irrigation systems, your local plant nursery can provide assistance in selecting the right-sized system for your landscape and container plants and may provide installation services too.
Select plants that are cat resistant
While you may not want to make cat resistance your only criterion when selecting landscape or container plants, getting cat-resistant plants is definitely a ready-made way to keep cats from biting and chewing. Plants can be selected on this basis with several characteristics to consider.
Taste - Cats hate bitter-tasting substances, so choosing plants with this characteristic is helpful in keeping cats away.
Texture - Cats are sensitive to touch in both their mouth and paw pads, so using plants that repel cats by providing an unpleasant texture is also useful. You may wish to explore the various succulents that have prickles or look at plants with thorns, such as roses.
Toughness - If you can't find suitable plants that taste bitter or have unpleasant textures, then you may be able to beat cats at their own game with plants with tough, thick stems. These may provide enough resistance to keep cats from chewing through their outer layers or causing permanent damage.
When selecting plants that are cat resistant, you should contact your nursery staff for help. They will be able to make recommendations for plants that can fit the characteristics above as well as those that are suitable for your landscape in appearance and climate-zone characteristics.