How to Keep a Cat out of Potted Plants

Three Methods:Putting Up BarriersExploring Alternative SolutionsCorrecting the Cat's Behavior

Cats frequently dig or urinate in potted plants. They may also chew on plant stems and leaves, affecting your plant's health. If you want your cat to stay out of your potted plants, there are several steps you can take. You can put up barriers to keep your cat out, correct the behavior, or explore alternative solutions.

Method 1
Putting Up Barriers

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    Use stones or rocks. If you're struggling to keep your cat out of potted plants, a barrier method may be your best option to keep him out of the soil. Some owners find using rocks or stones can be a fun, aesthetically pleasing option.
    • Lay the rocks around the base of the plant, making sure not to crush any stems or dig up the roots. When you water, the water should easily slip through the cracks of the rocks and get through to the soil. Your cat will not be able to dig or urinate in the soil as the rocks block her access.[1]
    • You can gather large rocks from outside. You may be able to order decorative rocks or gems online if you're going for a particular style or color scheme.[2]
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    Try seashells. Seashells work similar to stones. You can line the soil surrounding your potted plants with seashell, creating an attractive barrier that water can easily pass through when necessary. You can collect them at the beach or buy them online or at a store.[3]
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    Place pine cones in a plant. Pine cones can also work well for keeping your cat out of your plants. Line pine cones around the bottom of your plant. Like seashells or stones, this blocks your cat's access but allows water to get through to the soil. You can simply collect pine cones outside when you see them.
    • Pine cones may be flimsier than seashells or stones. Your cat may be able to remove pine cones if she wants to get to the plant.
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    Wrap the base of the plant in aluminum foil. Most cats dislike walking on aluminum soil as it's slippery. You can try to lay aluminum foil over the soil surrounding the plant and lift the foil when you need to water. This is a fairly simple method to use. The main downside, however, is that many people dislike the aesthetic.[4]
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    Try double sided tape. Your cat probably won't like getting her paws sticky. If you dislike the appearance of aluminum foil, you could try laying double sided tape over the soil surrounding the plant. The tape might pull up some dirt, but it shouldn't uproot the plant too much. As with the foil, you can lift when you need to water.[5]
    • Some cats are prone to chewing or eating plastic. If your cat has been known to eat or chew on plastic bags or wrappers in the past, this might not be a great method for you. You wouldn't want your cat to eat the tape and get sick.

Method 2
Exploring Alternative Solutions

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    Use citrus smell as a repellant. Many people find their cats dislike the smell of citrus fruits. Soak a few cotton balls in some lemon juice, orange juice, or lime juice. Set them in the soil around the plant. This may deter your cat from going near the plants.[6] Periodically replace the cotton balls when you notice the smell starts to fade or if you cat starts going near the plants again.
    • Always use juice rather than citrus-based sprays containing citrus oil extract, sometimes referred to as Limonene or Linalool. This is found in many perfumes, insecticides, and shampoos. It can be toxic to cats if swallowed so it's best to err on the side of caution.[7]
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    Try foul tasting substances. If your cat is chewing on the plants or the pots, try spritzing them with a bad tasting substance. Cats dislike the taste of hot sauces, aloe gel, cayenne pepper, and bitter apple. Add one of these substances to a spray bottle and lightly mist the plant and pot. Do this a few times a week. Eventually, your cat will learn to associate the plant with a bad taste and leave it alone.[8]
    • It might be a good idea to spray a small leaf of your plant with your chosen substance first. Watch for any negative effects to make sure it's won't hurt your plant.
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    Startle your cat away from the plants. If you notice your cat going near the plants, you can startle him away with an unpleasant sound. You can ring a bell or blow a whistle. You can also add a few pennies to an empty can and shake it. If you see your cat going near the plant, use your chosen to device to make a noise to scare him off. This method takes a bit of vigilance as you'll have to keep a close eye on your cat, but it can be effective when used regularly.[9]
    • You can also use cat-safe booby traps. For example, you could leave a motion detector device near your plants that makes a noise or flashes lights when disturbed. You could put up a tower of soda cans near your plants that will topple over if your cat walks by them.[10]
    • If you have a particularly skittish cat, do not use this method. You want to startle your cat but not scare him. If your cat becomes stressed, this may lead to other unwanted behaviors.[11]
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    Give your cat her own plants. Cats might enjoy chewing or eating plants. If this is the case, it might be more difficult to keep your cat out of your own plants. You can purchase cat friendly potted plants at a pet store or supermarket. These plants are meant to attract cats and encourage them to chew or eat the blades.[12]
    • Put the cat grass in areas where your cat frequents around the house. If you put the grass near her bed or by her food or water bowl, she may make the connection that these plants are for her.
    • If your cat has her own plants to chew, she might be less interested in your potted plants.
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    Hang your plants. If your cat does not seem discouraged by barriers, repellants, or training, you may want to simply keep your plants out of her reach. Stop by your local hardware store and purchase hangers to hang your plants from walls or ceilings. Many people find they appreciate the aesthetic of hanging plants.[13]
    • If your cat is a renown climber, consider buying an old birdcage and placing a plant in their. This can be a fun, somewhat quirky decorating trick that will add some flavor to your home while keeping your cat away from your plants.

Method 3
Correcting the Cat's Behavior

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    Encourage your cat to use her litter box. If your cat is using a potted plant as a bathroom, you need to encourage her to use her litter box. There are several reasons a cat may dislike using her litter. Try to address any potential problems.
    • Keep your litter box clean. Cats dislike having to urinate and defecate in dirty litter. If their box isn't clean to their liking, they'll make use of other objects around the house. Clean out your litter box at least once a day.[14]
    • Make sure your cat's litter box is easily accessible. A box with sides that are too tall may be difficult for your cat to climb in and out of. If you keep your litter box in a space that's often closed off, your cat will not be able to find the box when necessary. Conversely, a cat may be embarrassed or scared to use a box that's out in the open or in area where there's a lot of noise or commotion.[15]
    • If you have a multiple cat household, you may need to get another box. Cats sometimes become territorial about their litter boxes. Another box may encourage your cats to use their litter boxes instead of your plants.[16]
    • Try a different litter. Cats are sensitive about their litter and may dislike using certain brands. If your cat is having litter box issues, try a softer brand of litter. Keep in mind many cats dislike litter that is scented and might go outside the box to avoid it.
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    Reward your cat for staying away from the plants. Cats in general respond better to positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement. When you see your cat leaving a plant alone, reward the behavior.
    • Watch your cat around your plants. If she passes by the plant without digging at the soil, praise her. Call her name in a nice, soft voice and give her a treat or attention to reward her for staying out of the plants.[17]
    • Always reward your cat as soon as she passes by the plant without incident. Animals live in the immediate. In order for your cat to understand what behavior is desirable, you need to praise her in the moment.[18]
    • Be as consistent as you can. While you cannot constantly watch your plants, try to reward your cat every time you see her leave the plants alone. This helps solidify for your cat what behavior is appropriate.[19]
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    Do not punish your cat for digging or peeing in a plant. Cats do not respond well to punishment. Cats do not usually connect yelling, scolding, or time outs with a certain behavior. They may become agitated or scared when punished, which can lead to further acting out. If you see your cat getting into a potted plant, it's better to distract her with another toy or activity instead of yelling at her.[20]
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    Provide more entertainment for your cat. Cats may misbehave due to boredom, which can also cause stress and anxiety. If your cat does not feel engaged enough at home, she may take to digging up your plants. Try to provide your cat with more toys to combat the behavior.
    • Make time each day to play with your cat. Try to schedule 20 to 30 minutes of playtime each day. You can drag a string across the floor for your cat to chase. You can also throw a toy for your cat to run after. Feather toys, which dangle feathers off the ends of strings, are a popular toy for cat owners.[21]
    • You should also get your cat toys she can play with on her own. This way, she won't get bored while you're not at home. Try getting your cat mouse or bird toys, which she can bat around the floor by herself. Interactive puzzle toys can be fun. A small bit of food or a treat is put inside a puzzle and a cat must figure out to get the reward.
    • Some companies sell stimulating or calming DVDs to play on your television while you're away. These keep cats entertained when no one is home.
    • Make sure your cat has access to windows in your home. Cats love to gaze at wildlife and activity outside.


  • Keep plants that are toxic to cats out of reach. If your cat ingests a toxic plant, take her to the vet immediately.

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Categories: Managing Cat Behavior