Cats love to dig in soft, loose dirt. They’re attracted to the smell of fresh earth and the feel of the cool, moist soil on their paws. Unfortunately, this often means that your beloved feline friend is digging in your prized flower bed or vegetable garden. While it may seem like a harmless pastime, digging in plants can actually damage or kill them. If you’re finding that your cat is regularly digging in your plants, there are a few things you can do to deter them.

Use a physical barrier

One of the simplest ways to keep your cat out of your plants is to physically block them off. You can do this by placing a row of rocks or bricks around the perimeter of the area you want to protect. Cats don’t like to jump over things, so this will usually deter them from entering the area. If you have a particularly determined cat, you may need to build a taller barrier, such as a small fence. Just be sure that the barrier is tall enough that your cat can’t simply jump over it.

Apply a repellent

There are a number of commercial repellents available that are designed to keep cats away from certain areas. These repellents usually contain strong-smelling ingredients, such as citrus, that cats find unpleasant. You can apply the repellent directly to the plants you want to protect, or to the ground around them. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully, as some repellents can be harmful to plants if used incorrectly.

Provide an alternative

If your cat is digging in your plants because they’re bored or have nothing else to do, try providing them with an alternative. Create a small sandbox or digging area in your yard that’s just for your cat. Fill it with fresh, loose dirt and place a few of your cat’s favorite toys in it. You may also want to bury a few treats in the sand so that your cat has something to dig for. With a little patience, your cat should start using the sandbox instead of your plants.

Use positive reinforcement

If you catch your cat in the act of digging in your plants, startle them with a loud noise (such as clapping your hands) and then immediately give them a treat. After a few times, your cat should start to associate digging in plants with being startled and will hopefully avoid the behavior. Just be sure to only give your cat the treat when they’re actually digging, as you don’t want to reinforce any other behavior.

Talk to your veterinarian

If you’ve tried all of the above methods and your cat is still digging in your plants, there may be an underlying medical condition that’s causing the behavior. Cats can sometimes dig in plants as a way to self-soothe when they’re feeling anxious or stressed. If you think this may be the case, talk to your veterinarian about ways to help your cat feel more relaxed.

Digging in plants can be a frustrating behavior for cat owners, but it’s important to remember that it’s natural for cats to want to dig. By providing your cat with a safe, designated area to dig, you can usually redirect their behavior and keep your plants safe at the same time.

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