Tips: Keep cats from eating plants and keep bees from bothering you

Where the wild things are taken by Sande Barrett of Tonawanda NY
Photo courtesy Sande Barrett

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I had a great time recently speaking to the Silver Creek Hanover Garden Club. What a fun group!

They gave me a some great tips that I want to share with you.

A member has trouble with cats eating her indoor plants. What can she plant that cats won’t eat?

One audience member suggested aloe. Her cat chomped on her aloe plant– but only once. Apparently the cat didn’t like the pointy parts.

Well, the questioner loved that answer because she realized that in addition to succulents, she could plant cactus! That gives her a lot of choices. You wouldn’t want to plant cactus in the same pot as water-loving plants, but perhaps you could place pots of cactus and succulents strategically around other houseplants to protect the vulnerable plants from your cats.

Another club member said that terrariums will keep cats away from plants. A friend of hers created a terrarium effect using a plastic topper that comes with a supermarket cake. She simply set it atop a planter.

While on the topic of keeping pests away, a member suggested using dryer sheets to keep bees away from you. She said you just place a sheet under each strap of your tank top and the bees won’t bother you. She thinks it might work for mosquitoes and gnats, too.

I’ll add a tip for keeping cats away from outdoor plants. I used this years ago when a cat in the neighborhood seemed to be using our yard for its litter box. Take the leg off a pair of pantyhose. (If you no longer wear pantyhose, knee-highs, trouser socks or the leg from tights should work just as well.) Place a few mothballs in the pantyhose and secure it with a twist tie. The pantyhose helps keep children or dogs from nibbling on the mothballs. The smell should keep the cats away.

Update: A reader left a comment noting concerns about using mothballs, a registered pesticide, in the garden, so I talked to John Farfaglia of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. He said that using mothballs the way I described doesn’t set off major alarms for him, but to be conservative, you shouldn’t use mothballs around children, around pets or near food plants such as in a vegetable garden, herb garden or near fruit trees. Using mothballs in ornamental plantings is not as much of a concern for him. He said using mothballs around a perimeter of a landscape was something that was recommended probably 20 years ago (which is when I heard it). There are sprays you can buy in garden centers, but they may contain the same chemicals that are in mothballs.

Having said all that, John also said to read and follow the usage instructions on the package. The only use listed on the package I have is for keeping moths away from clothing; there is no information on using mothballs outside. The package also says: “It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” There are also cautions about breathing the vapors as well as swallowing the product or getting it on your skin.

If cats using your garden as a litter box is a chronic problem, there are ways you can discourage them without using chemicals, he said. Since cats like exposed soil to dig in, he suggested covering the area in stone or laying down chicken wire and covering it with mulch.

 

If you have more tips for keeping cats from eating plants or other tips, please share by leaving a comment below.

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8 Comments on “Tips: Keep cats from eating plants and keep bees from bothering you

  1. My cats eat the alo and catus
    and any other succulent plants you can name.
    They eat fresh cut flowers and dried flowers and grasses.
    I’ve just tried brushing the leaves of my
    remaining house plants (pacasandra), a definite
    no no for cats,with red pepper powder
    with a bit of dish soap mixed in water.
    After 40 years of trying to outsmart more
    than 20, not all at the same time, very determined cats…….
    So far so good

  2. I plant catnip and whatever it is they sell as “cat grass” at pet supplies plus, and they tend to be less interested in other houseplants.

  3. My cats eat aloe and cactus as well as any other plant or flower I bring in the house. I saved my last floral gift by leaving the cellophane around it. It was nice and loose, so I just cut the top off to open it up and left the rest in place. I think the flowers even lasted longer.

  4. Although you are placing mothballs in a stocking, mothballs are a registered pesticide and should be used according to label instructions only. They are not suggested for garden use by any agency that I am aware. I am pretty sure they would be not suggested for use by Cornell. Just remember, if you are smelling the strong odor of mothballs you are breathing in pesticides. I would never put them in a garden because they could easily get into the wrong hands or paws.

  5. My cat wanted to use the large planter I have in my living room as a litter box. I crumpled a few newspaper sheets, put them into a couple of gray plastic grocery bags and laid them on top of the dirt. She can’t find a place to dig and leaves the planter alone.

  6. Wow, I never realized what a problem cats can be for your plants! These are great tips.

    Donna, thanks for giving us the information about mothballs. I was concerned, so I talked to John Farfaglia of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. He said that using mothballs the way I described doesn’t set off major alarms for him, but to be conservative, you shouldn’t use mothballs around children, around pets or near food plants such as in a vegetable garden, herb garden or near fruit trees. Using mothballs in ornamental plantings is not as much of a concern for him. He said using mothballs around a perimeter of a landscape was something that was recommended probably 20 years ago (which is when I heard it). There are sprays you can buy in garden centers, but they may contain the same chemicals that are in mothballs.

    Having said all that, John also said to read and follow the usage instructions on the package. The only use listed on the package I have is for keeping moths away from clothing; there is no information on using mothballs outside. The package also says: “It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” There are also cautions about breathing the vapors as well as swallowing the product or getting it on your skin.

    If cats using your garden as a litter box is a chronic problem, there are ways you can discourage them without using chemicals, he said. John’s tips are similar to Brenda’s tip for keeping her cat from digging in her planter. Since cats like exposed soil to dig in, he suggested covering the area in stone or laying down chicken wire and covering it with mulch.

  7. A friend has 4 cats and they too like to nibble on her house plants and try using the larger potted ones for a litter box. She loosely crumps up foil sheets and puts it around the base anchoring in two of the four sides into the soil with plastic forks. When they jump up onto the foil, the noise scares them and they don’t like the feel under their paws. However, do not crumble it tight forming a ball-like shape as they think this is a new toy and will bat at it until the foil falls out of planter. She does the same thing for vases and indoor plants – places larger sheets and lightly crumbles the outer edge of foil half way to the items sitting in the center
    (doily fashion).

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