can cat urine somehow kill a plants roots?

Lynn NevinsApril 30, 2004

I've come to discover that my darling little "(semi!) Tamed Beast" (as I affectionately refer to him), has been digging up the rocks and soil in the containerized draceana tree in my apartment... not for "fun" as I'd initially thought, but to apparently pee in. While I apparently need to be more diligent in spraying a harmless but smelly "critter" deterrant on the soil each day, I wonder if the peeing he's already done could somehow do harm to the roots. Anybody know?


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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

Urea (present in urine) is nitrogen, and it can burn roots, and kill a plant if it is not diluted. If you suspect that the cat has been peeing in the soil, then you should probably give the plant a really good watering to dilute the urea.

I keep my cats out of my containers by covering the soil with large pieces of bark mulch - it looks ok, and is too big and heavy for the cats to bother with. I've used cheap bamboo skewers poked in the soil to keep them out in the past. Anything that will cover the soil, or make it difficult to pee in the pot should work. Also, once you make the pot unappealing, no matter how clean you keep your cat pan, keep it even cleaner!


    Bookmark   April 30, 2004 at 3:45PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Is this light enough you could take it to the sink and really flush the container? Fill with water several times until water is freely running out of the drainage hole? Then wait to water again until it needs the moisture.

The skewers as mentioned above should keep kitty from your plant....or if you have a very persistent cat, there is a spray repellent called Boundary that you can purchase at pet supply stores that is effective for most cats. Spray the outside of your container. (my cat used to go in the fireplace every so often...when I would see ashy footprints on the hearth, I knew it was time to burn a few newspapers)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2004 at 11:01AM
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Maybe you should change the litter to something they prefer. If you don't clean it out everyday, consider it. Cat's appreciate a clean, comfortable place to go just as much as humans do.

Cat Deterrents for your Garden:

Keep in mind that each cat is different (like people), what works for one may not necessarily work for another. On the plus side, most cats will keep pesty squirrels, moles and other critters out of your garden. They're great for keeping out moles, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters which can do more damage in your garden than a cat ever will. Birds aren't stupid, they watch for cats and stay away. Sometimes natural law comes into play and the quicker animal wins, it's natural law.

If the cats have owners, talk to them without being confrontational. The cat owner who allows his cat to damage other peoples' property is as guilty as the cat hater who kills the cat for trespassing. Remember, cats will be cats, and it is unfair of us to blame them for being what they are and how nature intended them to participate in this world. After-all, we praise them when they catch mice or rats or other creatures we deem to be 'pests'.

* amonia soaked (corncobs, etc)
* aluminum foil
* bamboo skewers
* black pepper
* blood meal fertilizer
* bramble cuttings
* Carefresh - "recycled" wood pulp
* catnip - donated into your neighbor's yards (so they'll stay in their own yards)
* cedar compost
* chicken wire (metal or plastic)
* cinnamon
* citrus peels
* citrus spray
* cocoa bean shells
* coffee grounds -fresh & unbrewed, not just a light sprinkling (highly recommended by MANY Gardenwebbers!)
* dogs
* electric fence for animals
* essence of orange. essence of lemon, lime (citrus essential oils)
* fresh manure(ditto)
* garlic cloves
* gumballs from the Sweet Gum Tree
* gutter covers
* hardware cloth
* heavy bark mulch
* holly leaves
* keep the area damp, they like dry soil
* lavender
* liquid manure (good for your garden too)
* motion sensor sprinkler
* pennyroyal
* pinecones
* pipe tobacco
* plastic forks
* predator urine
* red wine vinegar
* river rocks over the exposed soil
* rocks, crushed
* rose bush clippings
* rue, an herb (Ruta graveolens) (highly recommended in plant form only)

Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler

(do a search or

Shake-Away Domestic Cat Repellent Urine Powder

(do a search or

* short twigs throughout the planted area about 6" apart
* six-inch bamboo skewers (pointy side up)
* Spray on your leaves (not the cat): fill a spray bottle with 1/2 t chili powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 1 t dish soap and water
* squirt gun with water
* talk to your neighbors
* tansy
* thorny berry, lilac, hawthorn, rose clippings
* toothpicks
* upside down vinyl carpet
* vinegar sprayed on areas where they roam
* water bottle on "stream"

*** chili powder, red crushed pepper, cayenne pepper (NOT recommended), it gets on the cat's paws then they wash themselves and they get it in their eyes, beware cats have literally scratched their eyes out because of this. Even if it's one cat out of 500 infected in this way, that's one too many for me.
*** Don't ever use mothballs or flakes. Those little toxic waste pellets destroy cats' kidney function, could seriously harm people who handle them, and yes, contaminate your own garden soil. Their packaging even warns against using them this way.

Give them their own areas:

(To keep them out of where you don't want them)
(If you don't mind them protecting your garden from other critters)

+ pick the cat up and bring it to eye level with the plant to see and smell it up close. She noted that once her cat has seen and sniffed at the plant, she usually doesn't bother with it later.

+ give them their own plants - i.e., pots of grass for her to chew on and a place in a large planted container on her balcony with some miscanthus grass in it (the cat likes to curl up in that for some reason)

+ if the cats are strictly indoors and attracted to your houseplants, grow catgrass for them. If someone forced you to remain inside one enclosed structure all your life, you might be attracted to the plants too.

+ Barley Grass
+ Any type of "catgrass" from the pet store
+ Carex elata 'Bolwes Golden' but put it in some shade
+ Catmint Nepeta mussinicultivars (Simply put, Catmints are Catnips without any culinary or feline use. In any case, they are, however, phenomenal, long flowering, hardy perennials that belong in every fairie or flower garden.)
+ Catnip Nepeta cataria (in your own yard) The oils of which also work as a mosquito repellent that works 10 times better than Deet! Catmint is the common name for all varieties of Nepeta. Catnip is the common name for the specific variety of Nepeta called nepeta cataria, which is the variety that cats are most attracted to.
+ Cat Thyme (Teucrium marum)
+ Flax
+ Oat Grass
+ Jacob's Ladder
+ Lemon Grass
+ Loose soil and mulch like small bark mulch
+ Mints
+ Purple Fountain Grass so the cat lays in the long leaves all day. Maybe put something in that the cats really like and - you know cats won't winky were they like to hang out.
+ Sandy area
+ Silver vine (Actinidia polygama)
+ Striped Ribbon Grass (can be invasive)
+ Sweet grass
+ Trificum aestivum (type of cat grass)
+ Various Varieties of Cat Mints (Catnips)
+ Wheat Grass
+ Wheat Berries
+ Valerian

As a gardener, grow your indoor cat some catgrass and catnip. They're healthy alternatives for your houseplants and they'll much prefer them.

This list compiled by Violet_Z6, email at for comments and suggestions regarding this list.

1 Like    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 3:46AM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

My potted rubber tree started smelling VERY VERY bad. I discovered the cat had dug up an buried here feces in the pot. I scooped it out, replaced the soil, wattered well outdoors, then put some decorative river rock on top, to cover the soil but allow water in. She leaves it alone now. By the way, the cat is twelve years old and NEVER did this before. I attribute it to temporary insanity or an intestinal infection of some kind.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 4:02PM
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This is all well and good, for male cats who dig more.
What about females who spray? I suspect my tomatoes plants have fallen victim to this. I caught her in the act last year. She spends 75% of her time outside. Is there any way to keep her away from the garden? I could then take that variable out of the death equation.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 2:19PM
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There are two places in my garden where my cats have peed and pooped, and now plants don't want to grow there. Is there any way I can treat the soil? I have been told cat pee is acid -- would it help to use some bicarbonate of soda to restore the soil PH? If not, is there any other treatment that works? Thanks! :-)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 2:41PM
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I also very much want to know this. I live in a courtyard with big planters but nothing grows in them. We have lots of cats. I used to think that it was because they are always digging up the soil. However I have created a fence round one to plant some tomatoes and they have gone yellow on the lower leaves. ANy help would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:50PM
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Hi, is cat urine and feces really that bad for plants? I think they would help keep away voles and moles which can be far more damaging. There's a lot of coyote and bob cat feces on my property anyway, I figured it'll just become compost and they too should keep away small mammals. I found my cat peeing near my flowers the other day, but the flowers seem fine. I do keep my edible garden in a protected area where the cats (and deer) cannot enter. But I wonder if the danger to flowers are so great... Anyway, I do mulch around my more precious plants with leaves etc and these pokey covering discourages the cats.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 2:44PM
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