Never mind the video game Plants vs Zombies: the new obsession in my household is how to keep neighbours’ cats away from the plants.
I am a cat lover and growing up, my family acted as staff to at least one cat at a time. I never gave the smallest thought to where they might relieve themselves. As it turns out, they use neighbours’ gardens. So, first of all, I would like to issue an unreserved apology to all my old neighbours for my moggies’ toileting: I know now how irritating it must have been to have your horticultural toils toileted on.
We recently moved in to a new house with a garden from a flat. Being very excited about all the things we would do in our new garden, from planting pretty flowers to nurturing a market garden, we set about weeding the borders so we could realise our vision.
That, it turned out, was mistake no: 1: the neighbourhood cats thought these lovely deweeded beds made a perfect kitty-litter tray.
Mistake no. 2 had been committed prior to mistake no. 1. There are a lot of cats in our street, including some very friendly ones who I had made a big fuss of. We had taken pleasure from seeing them and had given them names. Fat Cat is singled out for particular mention: she is a real beauty – and knows it. A huge tart, judging from her generous waistline she has taken advantage of many local cat lovers.
Several cats saw our garden as an extension of their own: one liked to use our shed roof as their personal sun lounger. Who knows, in their mind, they thought the weed clearing was for the benefit of their toilet habits.
Mistake no. 3 was to plant seedlings and leave them unprotected. Cats like to dig before and after they do their business and had dug up some of our hatchling chard. Note to the cats: we did not dig your digging.
Seeing our chard destroyed was frustrating, but this acted as a call to arms. It was time to get serious.
Sadly, unlike in the video game our peas do not shoot fireballs, our lettuces are ineffective when caterpaulted and our chillis do not wipe out a whole line of invaders in one swoop (and of course, not wanting to do any actual harm to the cats). So, defences have had to be creative.
Garlic cloves and citrus peel act as a deterrent up to a point. Large plastic bottles full of water frighten some of the moggies as they see their reflection and think it is another cat. They look untidy, but they are effective. Chemical solutions would not only be harmful to the felines, but to our veggies too.
A brightly-coloured windmill has provided the funniest moment: a skittish one we appropriately call Scaredy Cat stood spellbound in front of it one windy day. As the wind slowed, it got braver and carefully stalked towards it, only for the wind to get faster again – Scaredy Cat scarpered.
The chard is growing back, thankfully. The rest of our salad veggies are growing very well and we can’t wait to enjoy the fruits of our labours.
We are looking forward to achieving a truce with our feline neighbours and sharing our garden in harmony.