Most cats that don't use kitty litter trays will develop the habit of doing their business in gardens -- where they can cover their business up afterwards. However not all cats do this or sometimes they use a dirt area but the dirt is just too hard/rocky and they aren't able to cover up afterwards. After a while this can become very annoying, frustrating and smelly -- particularly when it's not your cat that's messing in your yard.
Now I know some people will say they have to do it somewhere, just put up with it, but it can be a problem after a while, particularly when it's right where you walk or beneath the kitchen window.
This article outlines a few suggestions for how to stop cats leaving their business in your yard. Remember, all cats are different and all situations are different, so what works for one household may not work for another. I suggest trying whichever method seems easiest for you and if that doesn't work, just keep working through the list until you find something that does.
1. If it's your own cat, ensure it has access to a kitty litter tray that is cleaned regularly, preferably daily.
2. If you know who owns the cat, speak with them politely and ask if they can ensure their cat has access to a clean kitty litter tray.
3. Where possible, try planting shrubs or placing pot plants or some other item in the area the cat is using as its toilet (e.g. I have an area where I keep my rubbish bins. Every week, on the night the bins go out, the neighbor's cat leaves a 'present' there for me. I now keep some large pot plants in that area and when the bins are out awaiting collection, I spread the plants out to cover the area that would have been left as a bare dirt patch. It only takes an extra minute or so each week.)
4. Fertilise the area with blood meal fertiliser, fresh manure (although this smell could be worse than the cat poop!) or a liquid fertiliser.
5. Fairly heavily sprinkle cinnamon, citrus peel or fresh coffee grounds on the area. You may need to repeat this process every couple of days and after rain.
6. Spray the area with some citrus essential oil -- lemon or orange.
7. Spread a few garlic cloves around the area.
8. Spray the area with vinegar or red wine vinegar.
9. Place a few pine cones around the area.
10. If possible, consider covering the area with some mulch (e.g. wood chips), gravel or rocks.
11. Use a commercial cat repellent available from many pet stores or vets. (e.g. 'Shake-Away Domestic Cat Repellent Urine Powder)
12. Depending on the area, you could also try placing some chicken wire there or pieces of aluminium foil. Hold the foil in place with a few rocks. This may not be ideal long term, but hopefully after a short time the cat will get the idea and find a more suitable place.
13. In some drought-ridden areas (such as where I live) the use of sprinklers is banned. However if this is an option for you, a motion sensor sprinkler works well.
14. You can also try keeping the area damp as cats generally prefer to use dry soil.
15. Keep a spray bottle of water handy and if you see the cat in the area, give it a quick squirt with water. Don't drench the cat -- just a quick one-second squirt is usually enough to deter it. Again, it will eventually get the idea that this is not an area for it to do its business.
16. If you have a sandpit in your yard make sure you keep this covered when not in use as the sand is ideal for cats -- they may see it as a giant litter box.
WARNING: Many people have recommended a heavy sprinkling of chilli powder, pepper or cayenne pepper on the area. While this may well keep the cat away, it actually gets up their nose and in their eyes (via their paws) and burns them. This is extremely cruel and has been known to cause terrible injuries as the cats try to stop the stinging. Please DON'T USE this method!
Similarly, other forms of insect repellents (e.g. mothballs), poisons and laxatives are very cruel and may cause the cat a lot of pain before slowly killing it.
Remember, the cat is only doing what comes naturally. It just needs a little guidance and education and training.