Cat’s the way with problem felines

Protected: George and, below, the berberis branches cover the newly-planted garlic and kale Fizz.
Protected: George and, below, the berberis branches cover the newly-planted garlic and kale Fizz.

EVEN if you’re a cat lover, you can’t deny they can be a complete pest in the garden.

Luckily George, my cat, is a huge ginger tom who has failed to put a dent in the bird population because he’s a terrible hunter.

He can’t help but make a noise like Hannibal Lector (complete with juddering jaw) when he sees a bird.

However, I have threatened to skin him for his love of newly-dug soil – especially if it’s just been sown.

To cats, this is the equivalent of a luxury toilet. So how to stop them?

I did buy an ultrasonic cat scarer, which he became accustomed to, but drove my stepson insane, as he could hear it!

I’m a believer in putting down spiny branches until the plants are big enough. The only problem with at is, if you’re growing leafy veg, their leaves can get ripped.

It costs nothing and seems to work for us.

Here’s some other ideas from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds:

* Surround an area with a fence (such as chicken wire) that leans in the direction from which the cat will approach. The cat can’t climb over such an angle.

* Flimsy plastic roll-up fencing on top of a fence can prevent cats climbing over it.

* Taut wire or string fitted 10-15 cm above a fence-top makes it difficult for cats to balance on it.

* Place half-full plastic bottles in borders, an old gamekeeper’s trick, as the light reflection is supposed to deter them.

* Thread old CDs on twine and string these across beds or hang from trees. Like the plastic bottles, the light reflections deter cats and pigeons.

* Coleus canina, marketed under the names Pee-off and Scaredy-cat, is a plant with a pungent odour that is said to repel cats and other mammals.

* Scent deterrents will either serve to repel (eg. Citronella) or mark a territory (eg. Silent Roar). Alternatively, try orange or lemon peel.

* Water pistols – don’t aim at the cat – the noise of the water hitting a nearby bush should be enough of a deterrent.

THERE’S spiny branches and SPINY BRANCHES – I may have been hit on the head by a 7ft-long Berberis darwinii branch last weekend (no harm done), but broken up, it makes the best cat deterrent. The many-branched, prickly stems interlock to form a mesh over soil.

One thing to note if you’re using dead branches around the garden – watch out for coral spot, which can infect live tissue as well.

If you find any, destroy it, don’t compost it.