It is often said that a weed is only a plant growing in the wrong place. The location and context factor can be applied to some of the creatures we call garden pests.

A cat sitting purring on your knee isn't a pest, but it could be seen as one when you see it crouching in your newly dug flowerbed with that tell-tale look of concentration on its face.

Those little presents in your flowerbeds . . .

I've had to include cats as pests because I know many people see them as such. On occasions even someone like me, who loves cats, thinks that it's a bit tedious finding cat poo in the flowerbeds. Particularly when you've just put your hand in it while trying to plant something.

There are all kinds of products designed to deter cats from doing their business in your garden. I have no idea if any of them work. What works for me is covering all the ground with plants, as cats look for bare ground to go in, and in my garden, for most of the year, they can't find much bare soil.

If there are bare areas of soil, for instance where I've sown seeds, I use a few twiggy branches laid on the surface to deter cats, and find this works. If you like a tidy neat garden you might think this looks scruffy. (But if you like a tidy neat garden you're unlikely to be enjoying this website . . . ) Prunings from shrubs are useful for this. They don't need to be thorny, just branched enough to cover the soil area, leaving no gaps large enough for a cat to get comfy in. They only need discouraging, then they'll go off somewhere else - your neighbour's garden, probably. After all, we all have to go somewhere.

Territorial spraying

The other problem is the spraying of territorial urine. This, I used to believe, was done only by unneutered tom cats. Unless the vet lied to us and pocketed the fee without doing the deed, we know Spike to have been a neutered male, theoretically then disinterested in scent-marking by spraying his urine about. Spike may have been "in denial" about his neutered state, as he marked various parts of the garden freely, at least once daily. He tended to have favourite areas, which I tried to hose down every now and then. It's less easy to hose down the curtains in the house, which he also had phases of spraying, to mark his patch.

After Spike died in 2003, Rosie, neutered female, took over the task of territorial spraying, presumably in an effort to keep up local cat traditions. In various corners of the garden Rosie can be seen often in that strange ritual which involves lots of tail-shaking and paw-treading, which is quite entertaining to watch until you notice the stream of urine appearing horizontally from her carefully angled back end.

When we had a new bathroom put in, Rosie had to be discouraged from adding her scent to the newly constructed shower cubicle wall. I only recently noticed that there's a suspicious stain on the bedroom curtains. These have been washed since dear old Spike left us, so there can only be one culprit. Rosie has obviously felt the need to continue Spike's full programme of territorial scent marking, at times when she's felt threatened.

So "think on", as we say in Yorkshire, if you have problems with other people's cats doing their doings in your garden, at least they're not doing it up your curtains.

Spike the cat

Above: Spike the cat
Top left: Rosie the cat