Taming Furry, Friendly Pests

Learn how to manage your garden and keep unwanted furry guests out of it.

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Autumnal Cat

Keeping wild animals out of the garden is tricky at best, but domestic animals can be just as difficult to control. And they, too, can cause considerable damage - unless, of course, they've been trained like master gardener Paul James' dog.

"Years ago I taught Maggie to stop when she came to a mulched area, and since every square foot of my garden has mulch, she's never been a problem," he says. "Unfortunately, however, I need to spend a little bit of time with our latest arrival, Lucky." Yet, although dogs can do considerable damage to the garden, he says he usually hears more complaints about cats.

Paul researched the issue of controlling cats in the garden and found several different gadgets. The first is this medieval-looking device that is basically a mat of spikes. To use, you simply place the mats on the ground in areas the cats tend to frequent and the spikes serve as an attention-getting deterrent to would-be garden invaders. "With all due respect to the folks that make these things, I'm not sure I want to protect my garden with spikes, largely because I'd probably be the first one to step on it," Paul says. "And I wouldn't want my kids playing around it either. But I can see where it might come in handy around a bird feeder, bird bath or even a pond filled with fish."

Repellents have been popular for years, especially granular products that you routinely sprinkle around plants or the perimeter of garden beds. Unfortunately, most such repellents on the market must be applied daily, which can be a huge drag. The active ingredient in them is toxic if absorbed through the skin.

This little gizmo uses the same active ingredient but at least it houses the ingredient in a cute mushroom- or bell-shaped housing. To use, simply fill the perforated post with granules, screw on the lid and place the whole thing in areas where cats (or dogs) tend to be a problem. According to the manufacturer, one of these things offers protection roughly 12 feet in every direction. What they don't tell you is how long the granules are effective. "So I guess you just replace them when it doesn't seem to be working all that well," Paul says.

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