Every garden related publication I read at the moment seems to be full of hints and tips for keeping cats out of gardens. I never realised there was so much animosity from gardeners towards our little furry friends.
The main issue seems to be poop and the health risks to humans. Contact with cat poop can be a serious health hazard to pregnant women due to the presence of toxoplasmosis. Poop should be kept away from compost and also vegetables destined for human consumption. The digging necessary to hide the poop can also disrupt and damage seedlings and flower beds. But are cats getting a bad press?
When I trained to become a lawyer, my vision was one of courtroom dramas, wigs and gowns, fighting injustices and righting wrongs done to my fellow human beings. It soon became very apparent that I could not argue my way out of a paper bag so I turned my back on dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize for justice and became a property lawyer!
However, for once I am prepared to stick my neck out, get off the fence and make a case for the defence of my little furry friends. I do have to admit I am slightly biased in their favour, being the owner of two.
Playing devil’s advoCAT (sorry!), yes the outdoor toileting can be a bit of an issue. The clumps of earth that are not clumps of earth at all are my pet hate. Dennis the Menace, the youngest, feels compelled to mark his territory every time any earth has been remotely disturbed, let alone dug (when he is totally beside himself and does not know where to park his bum first!). Once we were filling a wheelbarrow with soil, turned around and there was Dennis doing the toilet in the wheelbarrow.
We have had cats rolling around in between the onions, inevitably breaking some stems and playing football with seed potatoes that they have managed to dig up.
All these things can be overcome. I always wear gloves in the garden, mainly because I’m a girl but it means you don’t touch anything you shouldn’t. It is quite easy to keep cats off veggie patches by using twigs and sticks which make it hard for them to get in, roll about or dig. Seeds and seedlings can be protected by covering them with netting of some kind which prohibits cats from digging them up, allowing successful germination.
Last week I discovered the rows of beetroot seeds I had planted had been disturbed so Mr Mac made a cover from clear plastic and some wood to place over the seeds until they have germinated.
It is common sense really and I would argue that the benefits of having cats in the garden far outweigh the disadvantages.
When we moved here 4 years ago, almost every surface in the garden was covered in rabbit droppings. Rabbits are indiscriminate in the destruction of a garden. Rabbits find most of their favourite foods in the vegetable garden. They will also munch flowers and chew the bark, buds and stems of woody plants.
We no longer have a problem with rabbits. Neither does our neighbour who used to be overrun with rabbits and squirrels. He goes out of his way to encourage our cats to hang around his garden.
Our boys are the ultimate in biological pest control taking care of rabbits, mice, birds, squirrels, a weasel (I had to look it up in a book because I had never seen one) and, best of all, moles. As soon as we have a mole hill on the lawn, we sit Dennis on top of it, let him have a sniff and soon after, one dead mole.
So, admittedly we do suffer the occasional loss from having cats in the garden but we are more than prepared to live with it. I would much rather lose one or two seedlings because they have been disturbed by a cat than lose a whole crop to rabbits and mice.
The verdict? Not Guilty!