Why do cats dig in the garden?

Cat digging the garden

It takes time and effort to keep your garden looking nice and finding your pet has dug up your flower beds can be a real downer. You probably know that cats dig in their litter boxes to hide their poop, but is that the only reason why they dig?

Let’s look at why cats dig and consider some safe ways to deter them.

Protecting your puss when they’re out in the garden is all part and parcel of being a good cat parent, as is having the right cat insurance in place.

What makes cats dig?

Even the most domesticated kitties are still wild creatures with natural impulses. In the wild, digging is important for a number of feline needs.

Most digging occurs at night and it can be related to hunting, playing or territorial behaviour. Let’s look at some of the reasons why cats dig.

1. Hiding from predators

Cat faeces and urine have a strong and distinctive smell to other animals.

In the wild, the smell left behind when a cat has done his or her business could be used by bigger predators to hunt the cat by following the scent. 

Digging a hole to bury their mess helps to throw predators off the trail, keeping cats safe.

2. Better hunting

We all know that cats hunt mice, birds and other small creatures. These small animals are sensitive to scent, and a big, smelly pile of cat poo is a dead giveaway that a predator is around.

Hiding the poop gives cats a better chance of surprising their prey and making a successful hunt.

3. Sharpening claws

Cats need to keep their claws sharp. They might use your scratching post but they also like using whatever they can lay their paws on – furniture, walls, and mud in the garden.

Digging is a natural activity that helps cats keep their claws in shape. If your puss has problems with its claws, your insurance policy for a cat may help cover the cost of treatment.

4. Territory marking

You may have noticed your cat trying to dig into hard surfaces around their food bowl. Digging and rolling is a natural way of leaving scent in an area, giving other cats the signal to stay away.

5. Showing love

When a cat digs into soft bedding or paws at your skin, they are showing sweet kitty affection, mimicking what they would have done to their mother as a tiny kitten. This kind of kneading and digging shows they are happy and relaxed.

6. Amusement

Let’s face it, sometimes cats do things just because they are inquisitive, intelligent animals. Cats may also dig in the same way that they do lots of things – they do it because they can, they want to and they don’t care much what humans think about it!

Cat digging the grass

How to stop problem digging

It is important to remember that digging is a natural behaviour. You shouldn’t try to stop your cat from digging at all, in any place – digging in a litter tray, for example, is natural even if it can be messy sometimes.

Trying to punish your cat for digging could backfire and lead to your cat becoming distressed and not using the litter box anymore.

However, if your cat is digging in the wrong places, there are a few tricks you can try to change the behaviour.

1. Change the texture

Cats prefer to dig in soft, loose earth, which is why they love cat litter. If you have a plant pot or flower bed you want to protect, using a topping could help.

For example, a layer of pebbles or rocks might deter your cat, or you could use chicken wire or matting to keep the claws away. Laying pointy twigs or thorny rose trimmings may also help.

2. Use a deep mulch layer

If an area feels too squishy, cats will avoid it as they think it might be unsafe. A deep layer of leaf mulch on your flower beds could deter cats from digging as they don’t like the sinking feeling of treading on wet mulch.

3. Use a scent repellent

Digging is all about smells. Cats will often avoid digging in an area with a smell they do not like. Try scattering lavender, mint, citrus peels, coffee grounds, or cayenne pepper to keep cats away.

You could also grow strong-smelling plants such as lemon balm, mint, lavender, lemon thyme, geranium and oregano.

4. Create a barrier

Another thing cats dislike is taut string or wire. A simple, low fence with string held tight between wooden stakes around your flower beds could be enough to keep your cat out.

A net covering is also an option, if you don’t mind the way this looks!

5. Use a commercial alarm or spray

There are plenty of products on the market that promise to keep cats out of your garden. These include motion-activated ultrasound alarms, sprinklers, or smelly sprays that imitate predator urine.

However, if it’s your own pet cat you are unlikely to want to resort to these harsh tactics to stop the digging.

Check that whatever spray you use is safe for cats – if not, it could see you claiming on your cat insurance for emergency treatment.

6. Use a gentle deterrent

Some traditional deterrents can keep your cat away from your favourite plants. Wind chimes and shiny mobiles (you can make a DIY one from old CDs) will make cats wary.

Human figures, either in the form of statues or a scarecrow, could also keep nocturnal visitors away.

7. Go with the flow

Why fight your cat’s natural instincts? You open up your home to your pet, so why not welcome them into your garden, too?

Cats love some shelter, comfy sunny spots for lazing, high places where they can look around, fresh drinking water and lots of cat-friendly plants like catnip, catmint, cat grass, honeysuckle and valerian.

Make a cat toileting area with wood chips that you refresh regularly and bushes for privacy. 

8. Don’t chase cats away

You may be able to train your cat to stay away from flower beds, using your usual methods. However, don’t be tempted to chase your cat away – you could stress them out or they might think it’s a fun game!

Cat insurance can help with the cost of advertising if a pet goes missing.

Protect your feline with cat insurance

Whether you choose to make your garden a cat paradise or opt for deterring cats from digging up your prize flowers, you will need reliable cat insurance.

Why not contact Purely Pets for a quote today?

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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