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[personal profile] nmg

Of late, there have been two main impediments to our working more in the garden (apart from the perennial problem of too little time at the weekend): the cats, and the rats.

We have a problem with the neighbourhood cats fouling in our garden, including our lawn. At a rough count, there are probably upwards of a dozen cats in a two house radius of us. Ours is the only cat-free house, not because we don't like cats, but because we don't want to bring yet another cat into the area; our garden in contested territory, with frequent fights. Any reasonable suggestions for dissuading the feline vermin from shitting everywhere will be gratefully received. Given that we're having to check the lawn for cat shit before letting the [livejournal.com profile] garklet run around on it, and that I can half fill a carrier bag (a couple of kilos of shit) every few weeks, the definition of 'reasonable' could stretch quite a long way.

The problem with the cats wouldn't be quite so galling if they were actually any use at doing what cats do: eating small creatures, or rather the right small creatures. Right-hand next door's kitten has demonstrated that she's perfectly able to take on slow worms (alas), but they won't tackle anything larger. And this is where the rats come in.

Long story short, we have rats in our compost bin. We don't put meat, bones, skin or cheese in the compost bin, but they turned up nonetheless. To begin with, we weren't too bothered (they only seemed to be infrequent visitors, and were doing a better job of turning the compost than I was), but the veg peelings in the compost were disappearing far faster than microbial processes could usually manage and there was a bit of a whiff by the shed (next to the compost bins).

Bought a couple of rat traps (and warned the [livejournal.com profile] garklet off them), and set them up on Saturday night. This morning, nothing. One sprung but empty, one not even touched. The [livejournal.com profile] garklet was off on a playdate this morning, so [livejournal.com profile] ias and I took the opportunity to do some work on the garden - scarifying the lawn, turning the compost and so on. Reset the traps and got on with the jobs (in the process discovering a rat nest in the compost that consisted mostly of scraps of plastic bags). After a short lunch, headed back into the garden to find that both traps had gone off, one with a mouse and one with a largish rat (14" or so) that had, uh, 'exploded' messily.

A good start, but I doubt that we've caught all of them.

Date: 2010-05-16 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
Not sure what to suggest for the rats (though I'm surprised that they're living somewhere where cats are, um, marking their territory so prolifically. If all else fails, call the council and get them to send a ratcatcher round.

Cats have a few smells they don't like - citrus (particularly orange) and eucalyptus. Putting orange peel or eucalyptus leaves down in the areas they like to mark or where they come into the garden may dissuade them.

Date: 2010-05-16 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
The rats were burrowing under a piece of ground that the cats were using as one of their main latrines. Either these rats are incredibly hard, incredibly dim, or have no sense of smell.

Date: 2010-05-16 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Also - where they like to mark? Is the entire garden. Where they come into the garden? Is all three boundary fences.

Sigh.

Date: 2010-05-16 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_nicolai_/
The rats may have worked out that the cats can't be bothered to start a serious fight with a large, well-armed opponent.
Maybe [livejournal.com profile] nmg should get a small terrier dog?

Date: 2010-05-17 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I have never known orange or citrus to do a damn thing to domestic cats, right down to one demanding a share of a lemon cream cheesecake. They'll build up a tolerance toward eucalyptus soon enough, too.

I wouldn't expect ultrasonic gadgetry to do a damn thing. Your average domestic cat these days is used to the human world being a noisy one.

The only way I know that reliably works to keep other cats out of an area is displacement with a territorial cat of your own, and even then they sometimes get bold while yours is asleep. If a cat wants to be somewhere, it will achieve it through sheer force of stubbornness.

Date: 2010-05-18 12:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lionsphil.livejournal.com
I seem to have carelessly posted as anon and got filtered, but the gist of it was "static defences don't work; cats are stubborn and will eventually put up with them if it's somewhere they want to be".

Date: 2010-05-18 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
I was wondering if that was you...

Date: 2010-05-16 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moral-vacuum.livejournal.com
For the cats, I gather that "Silent Roar" is effective:
http://www.greenfingers.com/superstore/product.asp?dept_id=2235&pf_id=LS3465D&co=fr

Never used it myself, though.

Date: 2010-05-17 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rufusuk.livejournal.com
Can your local council pest control help? Rats are the only pest our local council will treat for free...

Date: 2010-05-17 07:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tlrmx.org (from livejournal.com)
Treatment for rats and other vermin isn't free in Southampton unless you're a council tenant on benefits.

But in any case it's a big city, and it even has freight docks, it will inevitably have some rats. So all you can do is ensure the rats don't live where you live. Keeping them out of the garden is ambitious, eradicating them from the neighbourhood very unlikely.

Traps are effective, the rat population isn't (despite local newspaper scare stories) huge and killing the handful that live in the compost bin is worth a try.

No suggestion about the cats, because people don't think they're vermin you're not allowed to trap them or poison them, which leaves scaring them, never very effective against something that lives among people.

Date: 2010-05-17 07:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kludge.livejournal.com
http://lifehacker.com/5540060/build-an-infrared+triggered-water-gun-to-keep-cats-away

...some kind of active technological system would work for both rats and cats, I'd think.

From my limited experience as a rat hunter, I would also point out that cayenne pepper is not their favourite spice. We got a rat out from behind our oven by a slightly nastier version of the dorm-room flour trick - we lined up cayenne along a gap in the front of the oven block and then blew it in, which effectively tear-gassed the thing. It certainly did not want to stay behind the oven after that.

Date: 2010-05-17 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
I'm considering the IR-triggered ultrasonic devices, they're comparatively expensive and not guaranteed to work.

For now, I've lined the bottom of one of the compost bins with chicken wire (it's a twin bin) and will do the same to the other when I transfer its contents across. We've got enough spare chilli powder in the house for it to be worth trying that (and hey, there's an International Foods in Portswood that sells chilli powder dirt cheap).

Date: 2010-05-17 08:01 am (UTC)
ext_5856: (Default)
From: [identity profile] flickgc.livejournal.com
Be cautious about the ultrasonic things: A Mutual Friend bought on, and now has deaf mice....

I have it in my head that cats prefer to use undisturbed ground as a toilet: lots of gardening?

Get a goose?

Date: 2010-05-17 10:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
No, the cats prefer disturbed ground. The mean time to defecation following the tilling of a veg bed is slightly under a day.

Date: 2010-05-17 07:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnommi.livejournal.com
my mother, who lives between about 8 cats) swears by numerous slim sticks (the more bifurcations the better) to be placed over disturbed ground with orange peel until vegetation appears. cats prefer a comfortable latrine, sticks they hate picking round and will go somewhere easier if available.

In my garden, this approach, along with a solar-powered motion-sensing plastic frog that more or less barks when disturbed seems to have got rid of our cat poo prob...

Date: 2010-05-17 10:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Hmmm. A goose isn't that bad an idea, but a) they're vicious creatures and b) our garden isn't quite big enough for chickens, let alone geese.

Date: 2010-05-17 08:21 am (UTC)
ext_15862: (Default)
From: [identity profile] watervole.livejournal.com
Ah, I was about to suggest chicken wire. Clearing out the shed is also good as it removes potential nesting sites.

Try getting supersoaker to discourage the cats. It's only partially effective, but it doesn't hurt the cats and does make them vanish at high speed whenever they see you coming.

Date: 2010-05-17 09:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Alas, they're under the shed, not in it.

Date: 2010-05-17 08:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
Wire wool is good for plugging small gaps they might be getting in/out through - they can't chew through it as it cuts their mouths.

Makes me grateful all I have to contend with is ants.

Date: 2010-05-17 07:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Also: the infrared squirty thing is neat, but we're talking about an entire garden here...

Honestly?

Date: 2010-05-17 07:40 am (UTC)
ext_8947: Bronze age Kronos face with Evildrem written in corner (cylon kitten)
From: [identity profile] evildrem.livejournal.com
Your best bet to solve both these problems is to get a dog. Jack Russells are particularly good with rats, small, intelligent good with kids and will see off the cats as well without being unduly dangerous. My parents have one should you wish to meet one first and introduce the Garklet :)

Re: Honestly?

Date: 2010-05-17 07:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
The thing is, I don't like dogs. :(

(and, it turns out, I also have an mild allergy to them - vindication!)

Re: Honestly?

Date: 2010-05-17 08:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clarehooper.livejournal.com
Can you get a really hard cat? If you went for an adult, you could hard-pick the most bad-ass lookin' guy. Then you'd hopefully only have the one cat messing up your garden, and (hopefully) fewer rats.

Re: Honestly?

Date: 2010-05-17 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frostfox.livejournal.com
As it happens, I have just such a really hard cat, available right now for sale or hire.

Several carefull owners, has only hospitalised me once.

When I got him, he'd been handed over to Cat's Protection as 'He ate too much', he certainly did. The au pair, the granny, several postmen...

Going cheap (well, usually going "grrrrrrrrrrwl")

FF

Re: Honestly?

Date: 2010-05-17 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Unfortunately, Max's reputation precedes him (that is, we've seen pictures of him). You don't get rid of the Demon Cat of Northwich that easily.

Nice try, though...

Re: Honestly?

Date: 2010-05-18 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frostfox.livejournal.com
Bugger. Busted.
Oh, well, it was worth a shot.

FF

Bugger!

Date: 2010-05-17 09:07 am (UTC)
ext_8947: Bronze age Kronos face with Evildrem written in corner (Default)
From: [identity profile] evildrem.livejournal.com
Well that blows that idea out fo the water. I see someone has mentioned the citrus smell idea but with the number of cats you have in that area then I doubt that will have much effect.

As far as the rats are concerned, Most domestic cats are too well fed and lazy to take on a rat. The only other option I can think of is you get two bruiser size male cats preferably from a farm or somewhere similar who will reduce the rodent population and keep the other cats out of your garden. I know that you don't wish to add to the cat population but the only way I can see you reducing the cat crap problem is by acquiring something to frighten the other animals off.

My parents have huge burmese cat who kills rats and squirrels and cheerfully sees off large dogs so its really a matter of picking the right type of cat.

Re: Bugger!

Date: 2010-05-17 09:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
The problem with introducing another predator is that there is a population of slow worms in the area (very useful for keeping the slugs down) that will probably suffer as a consequence.

If there are that many cats

Date: 2010-05-17 09:31 am (UTC)
ext_8947: Bronze age Kronos face with Evildrem written in corner (Default)
From: [identity profile] evildrem.livejournal.com
..already in the area then I'd say the slow worms were pretty stuffed already!

Sorry I can't think of another solution to your problem short of entirely closing your garden off in a wire cage. I suppose you could take some days off and spend all day crouched in the bushes and squirt any cat that comes into the garden with a hose?! Otherwise you could try some of these products and see if they help?
http://www.deteracat.co.uk/index.htm

Re: If there are that many cats

Date: 2010-05-17 09:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmg.livejournal.com
Indeed - apparently right-hand neighbour's ginger tom brought down a magpie last week.

I'd almost considered the garden-sized wire cage (bird netting strung from fence to fence), but [livejournal.com profile] ias objected on the grounds that we wouldn't be able to use the washing line any more.

Re: Bugger!

Date: 2010-05-17 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnommi.livejournal.com
very true, sadly...

Date: 2010-05-17 09:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] quercus.livejournal.com
Electric rat frying box. If you're dealing with a bulk problem rather than the odd one, these seem more effective.

Also a pressure washer for bulk de-ratting of traps (this is market-gardener scale ratproofing). Most traps lose effectiveness if they smell of terrified rat. Exploded rat seems to be OK (rats will even eat a dead rat), so long as it was too quick to scare it first.

Date: 2010-05-17 10:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cabd.livejournal.com
The cats are competing to see whose it is.

So... Get on top of removing cat poo, and on each location put down half a lemon/orange/etc. Expect this campaign to take a while.

For the rats, try urinting daily on your compost bin.

Solutions...

Date: 2010-05-18 08:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ah-see-argh.livejournal.com
My parents have a lot of trouble with neighbourhood cats, solutions so far have included supersoakers, ultrasonic guns, coffee grinds, orange peel, and charging at it head long screaming "p*ss off you furry ba*tard" (My personal favourite.)

Something that would be feasible in your size of garden is a small electrical fence. You can get a grid mesh (Approx 4 inch squares.) laced with copper wire, at a low setting this would put the cats off, and you could quickly make the region garklet safe just by turning it off.

The problem with ultrasonics is that they have to be used sparingly and in concert with other techniques. Cats are natural stalkers, they quickly learn to creep slowly and leave the PIR untriggered. Also the tone given off seems to be mildly irritating rather than immediately distressing, when ultrasonics do trigger the cat normally slinks off as if it's bored rather than hurtles off as if it feels unwelcome. Cats also become accustomed to the din unless they get the idea that something else will follow it up. Coffee grinds and citrus peels haven't been very effective, but we do have a long perimeter to deal with.

Date: 2010-05-19 08:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaveypie.livejournal.com
Pete's sis solved similar problem several years ago by getting her own (bruiser of a) cat and it did the trick, but then she didn't have a little one so was a different kettle of fish. Or cat.

Have heard you can put cats off coming near by consistently soaking them with high velocity, hard-hitting water gun/ hose every time you see them. This apparently does work if consistent but may be difficult to do given you're both at work a lot so they may learn that they can avoid the water cannon treatment by fouling only during the day.

Dunno.

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Nick Gibbins

August 2010

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