Deer, Dog, Cat, Mother-in-law, and Other Varmint Repellents and Barriers

QUESTION: I am looking for a natural product that is not harmful to animals or plants that will keep cats from using my yard, flowers and shrubs for a kitty litter pan. Please help!

Wouldn't it be great if cats were controlled (or controllable) like most dogs are? But we know that isn't going to happen. What you ask has probably resulted in more wasted time and space in every gardening news group that I have periodically subscribed to and I have yet to see a solution posted other than drastic measures such as trapping and bringing in the animal control people. Cats do not like to be inconvenienced or discomforted so anything that you can do to cause one of those things will reduce the problem. Mulch that hurts their feet or is too large to easily dig through deters them. Chicken wire (or something similar) laid on the surface of the soil makes it impossible for them to dig.

There is a motion detector/water sprayer called the 'Scarecrow' on the market that should send
them packing. However, its range is somewhat limited so you might need several. You can read
about this apparatus and locate local dealers at this web site:

QUESTION: Are there any outside plants that deer will not eat? Is there anything that can be put on them to keep deer away?

There are many lists of deer resistant plants. Unfortunately, the deer in one locale are not likely to have the same taste as do those in another area. Unfortunately those lists are really just starting places, giving you some things to try. This is a frequent question and here is a previous answer:

"Here are a couple of Parson's Archive articles listing deer resistant plants. I would emphasize that these are only "deer resistant".

I have found from painful experience that deer will eat almost anything when they are hungry. Those landscape plants that have been given water and fertilizer are good and succulent. I have had good luck with most of the gray leaf plants, those with highly fragrant foliage, all of the salvias and most of the lantanas. All smooth barked trees and shrubs are in for annual damage when the bucks are in rut and marking their territory. I have had to protect these with a physical barrier such as a circle of fencing wire. Below is a listing of plants which I have compiled through experience here in south Texas.

SHRUBS: Agarita, Boxleaf Euonymus, Elaeagnus, Gray Cotoneaster, Japanese Boxwood, Japanese Yew, Nandina, Oleander, Pineapple Guava, Pomegranate, Primrose Jasmine, Reeve's Spirea, Soft Leaf Yucca, Sotol, Texas Mountain Laurel, Texas Sage, Yaupon Holly (regular and dwarf).

PERENNIALS: Ageratum, Amaryllis, Angel Trumpet (Datura), Silver King Artemesia, Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), Bearded Iris, Blue Plumbago, Candytuft, Dusty Miller, Four O'Clock, Garlic Chives, Goldmoss Sedum, Green and Gray Santolina, Hummingbird Bush (Anisacanthus), Indigo Spires Salvia, Jerusalem Sage, Lantana, Mallow Hibiscus, Marguerite, Mealy Cup Sage, Mexican Bush Sage, Mexican Hat, Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), Mexican Mint Marigold, Mexican Oregano, Ornamental grasses (Inland sea oats, Maiden Grass, Gulf and Lindheimer's Muhley, Pampas Grass, Purple Fountain Grass), Oxeye Daisy, Prickly Pear Cactus, Rock Rose (Pavonia), Roman Wormwood, Rosemary, Split Leaf Philodendron (P. selloum), Texas Betony, Wedelia and Yarrow.

ANNUALS: I plant very few annuals, but those that I have observed little damage to include; Larkspurs, Marigolds, Periwinkles, and Zinnias.

Here is the recipe for a deer repellant that one of our Master Gardeners has formulated and swears by:


"Get the hottest peppers available, I use dried Habaneros as they are readily available in the local Supermarket.

Bottle of a commercial product called Hinder.

Palmolive Dish Washing Liquid

Two one Gallon Plastic Ice Cream pails with covers or similar containers.

Put a couple handfuls of the peppers in each container, fill with water and let stand in the sun for 7 days, just like making sun ice tea.

After 7 days or as soon as it really begins to smell bad, strain off about 2-3 quarts of the liquid and put it in your pump up sprayer, refill the bucket with water and after the second or third time you use it add some more peppers, don't bother throwing the old ones out just keep adding to the mixture, the worse it gets the betters it works. Add 1/4 - _ cup of Hinder and a couple of tablespoons of Palmolive liquid. Fill the sprayer with water.

Spray all the plants you want to protect to the point of run off once a week or after a heavy rain. . I also use this on vegetables with no noticeable taste once they are washed. I usually just give them a light misting but it still works. Things like tomatoes can be sprayed heavily on the foliage with out any concern. As a side benefit, some organic solutions for common garden pests include the same pepper ingredients. I have used this on everything in the yard and garden with no side effects to me or the plants, except when standing down wind and spraying and then it will take your breath away.
Switch from one bucket to the other every week and you will always have a supply of spray."

QUESTION: Do you know of any tricks or natural way to keep deer out of a corn field (such as putting a piece of hose pipe in a grape vine to make birds think it is a snake so that they will leave your grapes alone). Deer in corn fields is a real problem around here.

I don't know how big your field is but for small areas there is a motion activated water sprinkler that has worked well in my yard. For more information on the 'Scarecrow' see this web site:

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Cooperator: Bill Lende
Location: Boerne
County Agent: Bob Bailey
Purpose: To evaluate 3 wire electric fence for the purpose of keeping deer out of grain sorghum and small grain fields.
Evaluation: Spring, Fall and Winter of 1990.

Farmers and Ranchers in the County have an ongoing problem of keeping deer from grazing certain small grain and grain sorghum fields they wish to keep for livestock grazing or for harvesting for feed. With this in mind, Mr. Bill Lende constructed a 3 wire Snell Power Fence around a field of Milo for the purpose of keeping the deer out. The fence was designed with the theory that the deer would not jump a low wire fence.

The specifics and cost of constructing the fence were as follows:


1. Build two fences, one inside the other, 30 inches apart. Space posts 20 feet to 25 feet apart.

2. Use Snell Power Fence components listed below:
Post #330 T-Post $1.57 each
Insulator #632 Slip-on Insulator $.33 each
Wire #620 Poly-Wire 1640 foot Roll $41.50 equals $.03 per foot
Energizer #104 E-12 12-Volt Callagher/Snell Energizer $164.50
Battery Any 12 Volt Battery.
Labor Approximately 3 man-hours.
3. Fence can be disassembled in one man-hour and re-used as often as needed.


diagram of deer-proof fence
Approximate Cost: Field of Milo (Total 1.6 Acres)

Rectangular shape, 400 feet (requires 16 posts per side) x 175 feet (requires 7 post per side)
Wire 400 feet

400 feet

175 feet

+ 175 feet

1150 feet x 3 equals 3450 @ 2 1/2 cents per foot equals $86.23

Posts 16



+ 7

46 x 2 equals 92 posts @ $1.57 equals $144.44

Insulators Inner fence has 2 per post46 x 2 = 92

Outer fence has 1 per post+46

128 x $.33 = $45.54

Total Cost: $276.23
Cost Per Acre: (Not including energizer or battery or labor = $172.64)

Conclusion: The 3 wire fence was considerably cheaper in cost than conventional deer proof fences. There has been no evidence of the deer jumping the 3 wire fence and entering the field. It was concluded that the fence worked and saved the producer a considerable amount of money.

Here is what has been used with success to protect peanut plots:

Inside line of posts: one wire 12-14 inches off ground, second 32-36 inches off of ground.

Outside line of posts: about 32-36 inches from first line: one wire 30-32 inches off ground.

Apparently, this is why this fence works:
1) deer do not like electricity; growers tell me that they generally avoid areas near electric fences.

2) the low wire prevents them from crawling under.

3) the two lines of posts give the fence a three-dimensional effect that seems to intimidate the deer.

The low wire is vulnerable to grounding by wind-blown debris and weed growth. There are solar panels available to keep a 12-volt battery charges overnight.

A few years ago, we had problems with badgers in peanut plots. On the inside line of posts, we stopped them with 5 lines of wire, the lowest about 5-6 inches above bare soil. The second from the bottom was not hot, but grounded (I don't think this made much difference from another hot wire). This arrangement might be good for stopping raccoons and opossums.
Dr. Mark Black
Extension Plant Pathologist
Texas Cooperative Extension
Uvalde, Texas