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Humans 2, Rodents 0

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 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 garklet off them), and set them up on Saturday night. This morning, nothing. One sprung but empty, one not even touched. The garklet was off on a playdate this morning, so 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.

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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.

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.

Also - where they like to mark? Is the entire garden. Where they come into the garden? Is all three boundary fences.


(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
For the cats, I gather that "Silent Roar" is effective:

Never used it myself, though.

Can your local council pest control help? Rats are the only pest our local council will treat for free...

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.


...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.

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).

Also: the infrared squirty thing is neat, but we're talking about an entire garden here...

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 :)

The thing is, I don't like dogs. :(

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

(Deleted comment)
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.

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.

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.

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.


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