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Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Posted by Buckeye85 5 (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 12, 12 at 19:20

I've read several threads on here regarding neighborhood animals treating gardens like a toilet, and can see that there is some controversy, but I thought I'd throw this situation out there and see what everyone says.

I have very young potatoes (just coming up through several inches of soil) in three smart pots. A week ago, I noticed that some soil had been shifted around, but the potatoes seemed to be in place and I just shrugged it off as wind or an animal that got chased off before it did anything.

Today, I saw a pile of soil by the pot, and a seed potato on the ground next to it. I grabbed a pair of disposable gloves and found cat feces in addition to this greenish glop (bleccch) where the potato had been. I removed those things as best I could (like I said...it was goopy...I'm sure I missed some) and replaced the soil without much thought, but then it occurred to me that I might have reason to worry.

So what's the deal, here? Should I dump that container (sadly, containing all but one of my Peruvian Purple plants) and cut my losses? Forget about it and not worry?

Mainly, I am trying to determine if there is a chance of issues with consideration of 1) me, a young woman who would like to have children in the next several years and 2) my cat, who is strictly indoors and minimally vaccinated.

If I knew who owned the cat, I'd probably say something, but it's clearly and outdoor (scruffy) cat who is well-fed, but wanders a lot...I've seen it all over the neighborhood.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

I was dealing with a similar problem, I tried many of the natural remedies to get them to stay out of my garden, and was unsuccessful. The only things I didn't try, that you might want to try, are A. Motion activated sprinkler (walmart here has them, so they shouldn't be too hard to find) B. thorny plants (like rose stems) laid over the top soil, or C. Chicken wire. Apparently walking on chicken wire to cats is the most irritating thing ever and they will avoid it all costs.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

For the record some of the things I tried were ground thyme and cayenne pepper with flour as a filler (you sprinkle it on the soil you want them off of), vinegar, and the shake away cat repellent. I also tried moth balls (which were just as ineffective as everything else). Basically you can probably just skip passed anything that is smell based, and move onto the physical side of things.

I know you said you were asking if these potatoes were safe now, but you'll have to deal with this problem somehow or it will just keep coming up. No sense in even worrying about starting over until you find a way to fix the problem itself.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

The chicken wire sounds like an ideal solution - the smart pots are folded down low right now (litter box height, apparently), but once the plants get a bit taller, I'll add more soil and raise the sides. I doubt the cat will try to climb up into them. Thanks!

I became really furious when I realized what it was...wandering cats are one of my pet peeves (ha!), and this is coming from someone who is a total squish for animals. I don't blame the cat, of course - just the owners.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

I got lucky and the cat (female) that was attracting the other two (males) to my yard, I know for a fact was a stray and fed solely on what it could hunt/catch. I just relocated it (since it already eked out it's survival on what it could catch anyways, it seemed more humane than taking it to the pound where it'd just get put to sleep eventually). I took it to some nearby woods (rather than just dump the problem on someone else). I still occasionally will see those other two in passing, but now that the female is gone, I don't really see them anymore.

My next step was going to be the sprinkler. I really doubt any cat would stick around long enough to dig in the garden after getting squirted. I only have a small plot though, so one sprinkler would have easily covered it, I can see how that would easily become uneconomical or impractical for the average gardener.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Buckeye, our two new kittens were climbing in my potted plants and digging in them. I bought a bag of pebbles at Home Depot and put them over the plant to prevent this. Since you are using smart pots (I am too!) you can put pebbles over the soil to discourage the cat from digging in there. Chicken wire would work too. I had to put some over my garlic in a smart pot because of something that was stealing my bulbs.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

The pebbles sound like a good idea. We were having the neighbor's cats (they had about 20 strays that weren't fixed) wander over to our yard and hang out under the bird feeder. We put out our Havahart trap with some wet cat food in it. After the cat was trapped, hubby squirted it alot with the garden hose. Only one dumb one came back for more. Thankfully they moved and the cats are gone.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Like the pebble idea, too. I am going to pick up some chicken wire and pebbles tomorrow...I just put some lemon peel on the soil for now since that's all I have around and a couple of people have said it was effective.

I also just had a close encounter with the culprit...I was sitting in our living room and caught motion outside the window - I yanked open the door and made a loud noise and chased it a bit - hopefully none of the neighbors saw that hilarity, and perhaps it will deter it from coming around until I get the wire set up.

Supernova - I'm glad that worked out. I do love animals very much; I feel sad that this one has been left to roam the neighborhood. It's scruffy enough that it is probably exclusively outdoors. I unfortunately don't have a hose connection - my husband and I are renting an apartment to which we have exclusive use of a big driveway, garage, and grassy areas - hence the containers-only setup.

I'm still waffling on dumping the plants. I mean, they get boiled/baked/steamed, but then there is the handling and bringing inside...ehhhh.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

The chance that it could adversely affect you or your pet(s) is probably pretty minimal, but you never really know. There are parasites that adversely affect humans (can't think of them off the top of my head) that use cats as a delivery method (through their feces) so, the chance is there. Too many variables to be anything close to a certainty, and if it were me, I would probably risk it. But I'm a lot braver than the average person.

If you go with the chicken wire, make sure you leave enough room for the plant to grow. If possible, then feed the plant through one of the spaces (and cut it as the plant grows/is necessary) otherwise do your best to wrap it around the plant growth while still allowing room to grow (like you would when tying plants off to a stake).


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

It's a shame you have to deal with this in the first place. Cats are a non-native animal, bred for use as house pets. In my opinion, under no circumstance should a cat be left to roam outside, unless leashed or fenced in, including farm cats. Cats do serious damage to songbird populations, and nothing bothers me more than to look outside and find a cat stalking my feeder birds. Worse yet, finding dead birds scattered around. Cats kill for fun, and prefer birds.

As for a solution, well, they are limited. Unfortunately, they can't be dispatched, so my preferred control is to live trap them, and hand them over to the local animal control/humane society. This way, the owner has a chance to get it back, and pay the fine, or maybe someone will adopt it. But, as you know, many cats are feral, being born and raised in the wild, so they'll end up being euthanized. Heck, you can legally dispatch feral pigs; pigs that are supposed to be caged in, because of possible damage to native wildlife, but for political reasons, not cats, who are equally as destructive.

Joe


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 12, 12 at 23:08

Cats kill for fun.

That is only your opinion.

Robins have decided they like my raspberries so I gave their eggs to the local chipmunk-- that was for fun.
I am sure we both enjoyed it.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Toxoplasmosis is the disease that can be contracted from handling cat feces, if they are infected. However, many people (and warm blooded animals) are already infected and the parasite doesn't cause any issues. It's only dangerous if you are newly infected while pregnant, or if you have a compromised immune system. Still, it's a good idea to avoid cat feces and wash your hands well after cleaning the cat box.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

When we lived in W WA there were trap, neuter release programs in place. The very rural area where we lived was a dump-off ground for pets. Most of the 'ferals' were drop-offs. We trapped, neutered and released some, adopted others(that were obviously former pets).
Here in NW WI, in this rural town, there are several colonies of cats that are fed by many folk, but there are no TNR programs and the cats go un-nuetered due to the high cost of the procedure. The vets refuse to take in or examine any 'stray' for fear no one will pay the bill(I'm not saying they are the problem, but contribute to it).
I don't mean to get on a soap box at all and I'm not arguing with anyone, but I'm just saying that roaming cats don't always belong to someone and some roaming cats are just trying to survive. It's a complicated issue. People are the problem. We bring in non-native species(animals, birds, fish reptiles, plants, etc)for our own benefit then when they get out of control, people take sides and chaos ensues.
Our cats are allowed outdoors during the day, but not at night and not at all during the winter. We also have a suet cake on a shepherds hook for birds year round and grow flowers for hummingbirds and others. Our youngest cat used to be able to catch birds, but after the first time I discovered him with one, a bell was put on his collar. It didn't completely solve the problem, but drastically reduced his efforts. He has since started hunting voles along with the other cats. They are so fat they couldn't catch birds now if their lives depended on it. In fact the larger birds often chase the cats back inside.
My neighbor just took in a tiny kitten that she got from a relative that she visited. He had allowed his cat to have a litter and said he would be getting rid of them soon. She told me that he has a history of shooting them for disposal, so she grabbed one kitten. She already has two cats and couldn't take the whole litter. I would have grabbed the whole litter and taken them to the shelter where kittens stand a much better chance of being adopted.
Our local shelter is a no-kill and we have trapped strays that have come around repeatedly and taken them in, but there are lots more around.
I try to keep shredded or chipped wood mulch around my plants. The cats don't like digging in it(although the skunks still will). I have also used the chicken wire to surround pots, but use welded wire fencing pieces over boxes until plants get to a decent size. I worry that they will get their legs caught in the chicken wire and pull up the wire or hurt themselves.
Sorry for the long post. I usually try to stay away from this issue(both sides have merit), but I used to work for a veterinarian and my heart always goes out to the animals.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Toxoplasmosis is a big concern. There was a study just published and in the news suggesting that toxoplasmosis may cause 'cat ladies' to commit suicide at a higher than normal level. That's very tentative, but there's a researcher who's looking into a possible link between toxoplasmosis and schezophrenia as well.

When I first plant, I put down chicken wire to deter the cats from the smooth soil they like so much. Anything that bothers their feet will keep them out, so nylon netting would probably do just as good.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

I have a few other thoughts to share (busy busy busy right now) - thanks for all of the replies, everyone - but just wanted to note re: mulching (which I have heard suggested in other threads) - I didn't make enough of the 5-1-1 mix, so I just dumped some of my extra pine bark mulch on top, knowing how resilient potatoes are. The cat evidently didn't care (in total contrast to my indoor cat, who is really fussy).

I also didn't consider the possibility that the cat is feral, but a "fed" feral cat. He just seems used to people...I have caught him sunning himself in our driveway.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

put a kitty litter box next to it. never hurts to try. i have chickens and my cat gets on top of the chicken coop lined with chicken wire. doesnt bother him at all.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Cats kill for fun.
That is only your opinion.

Robins have decided they like my raspberries so I gave their eggs to the local chipmunk-- that was for fun.
I am sure we both enjoyed it.

I'm not sure if this is a joke or not, but if so, it wasn't a good one, and rather immature. Robins are a native species, and belong here doing what they do, so your analogy has no merit. As for the cats killing for fun, it is indeed my opinion, and also a fact for most, but not all, cats. I know farmers who obtain cats for rodent control, and most say that the cats couldn't care less about rodents, that they go after birds instead. Then there is my parents, who live in a very rural area. The nearest farm building is over a mile away, yet they keep getting the farm cats killing birds at their feeders, which I've witnessed while there. Pretty easy to form an opinion when you have actual facts, but then again, facts don't matter when you don't agree, right?

Noinwi makes a good point that humans have created this problem. Sure, it's not fair to the cats to suffer the consequences, but it's not fair to the house sparrows, starlings, asian carp, feral pigs, emerald ash borer, or any other non-native species that gets killed or trapped either. Yet, nobody will defend those species, or post sarcastic remarks in their defense. All in all, I don't care which way people choose to deal with cats, but passive methods will usually end in failure, as they have for me over and over. The problem never goes away until the PROBLEM goes away.

Joe


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 13, 12 at 17:47

I have three cats, and have had about a dozen cats over near thirty years, three were stolen, and gee I have never found all these dead birds under the bird feeder.*On occasion one would bring a gift and we would find a dead bird next to the bed.)
I did have one bring a very alive and not very small bunny in the house once, which was smart enough to run out the front door when opened.

We do not have mice because of the cats, we have song birds despite the catsm which makes your facts bs.

Our two youngest now, three years old never even attempt to kill birds and Ringo who is fourteen, kill one sparrow or finch each spring.
I guess to see if he can still do it and that is it.
Your bias is bs and yes I did give the eggs to the chipmunk.
My dad had a better way to deal with Robins, birdshot .22 shells.
If it gets any worse, I will use version of his method.

At my mother's house nature had a better way to keep the Robin vermin under control, a hawk set-up residence in the middle of town.
Got to see one snuffed, no regrets.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Robins are not vermin

Have you ever had starlings or grackles? Now those are vermin.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

RpR,

I have no bias against cats, just against feral cats. I am fine with them as house pets, and if all cat owners were responsible, this topic wouldn't be happening.

As for you removing robin eggs from nests and destroying them, well, you are breaking federal law. Killing them is also illegal, and I find it quite interesting that you run your mouth about that, confessing to destroying eggs, and possibly resorting to killing them. Do tell us when you start shooting them. So do I care about the robins? Sure I do, because I enjoy native wildlife and respect it. I won't lose sleep over your actions though, but I find it intersting that you get so fired up over feral cats, yet you are destroying actual native wildlife because it is eating it's native foods. You'd fence things off to resist cats, but no fencing for birds; just destroy eggs or kill them. I believe there is a word for that: Hypocrite.

Joe


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 13, 12 at 23:17

Buford I have dispatched dozens of grackles and starlings over the year because they nested over a sidewalk and we got tired of checking for incoming.

The tree they loved so well is gone and starlings seem to be far fewer than they were, so it has been a long while since I dispatched one.

Joe, I build fences for nothing, period.
Quite some time back, when we got our first cats, we would leave the door open in the morning for them to go in and out.
A little neighbor wiener dog would come in the kitchen every morning to greet us.
He and the cats got along fine, our cats were bigger, and we missed him when he went to the big fire-hydrant in the sky.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Cats don't kill for fun, they kill because hunting is in their nature. It's pure instinct. The argument that they are destroying songbird populations lacks credible evidence, and most studies done on it have been performed by biased sources. I do agree though that people should have their cats fixed to prevent stray populations.


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

The evidence that cats affect songbird populations isn't an argument, it's a series of facts collected by scientists. The collected data shows that owned cats significantly impact small mammal and bird populations, but the degree of those effects vary by ecosystem type. Shall I post a dozen academic articles proving that, or will those all be "biased?"

Here is a link that might be useful: Landowners and cat predation across rural-to-urban landscapes


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

And more recently, that hotbed of academic radicalism, the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, noted that:

* Cats kill an estimated 480 million birds per year.
* The economic costs of these bird losses is $17 billion.
* Estimates from Wisconsin indicate between 500,000 and 8 million birds are killed by rural cats each year in that state.
* A wildlife rehabilitation facility in California reported that one-third of all birds (36 species) requiring treatment had sustained cat-related injuries.

Here is a link that might be useful: OC Register


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RE: Neighborhood Cat Violates My Potatoes - What Now?

Humans are the problem, not the cats. We're the ones destroying the natural habitats of all wild animals, which has a much greater impact on populations than cats ever could. Also, that data is all based on a survey given to homeowners with quite a bit of assumption made as to their intelligence and honesty. I question it's accuracy. I am not saying that cats don't have an impact on songbird populations as I'm sure they have some, but we are the greater problem. DDT when it was in use was devastating to the reproductive systems of many wild animals, and I find it interesting that the usage of that coincides with the timeframe that songbird populations were observed to be declining.


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