Cat Pee Can Kill Plants and This Is How to Save Them

Cat pee can kill plants if the cat frequently urinates in the same area. It affects potted plants more than it does those in the ground.

To save your plants, wash away the cat pee away with plenty of water and then use a humane deterrent to keep the cat out of your plants in the future.

Sometimes, cats and plants just don’t get along. Whether your cat is peeing in your plant pot, or your neighbor’s cat is doing their business in your garden, you might be worried about cat pee and its effects on your plants.

We cannot expect cats to know not to urinate in potted plants or flower beds, because they naturally like to bury their waste. Soil makes a great litterbox!

To keep cats out of your garden or houseplants, you’ll need to make use of humane deterrents, which I will discuss more in-depth below.


Cat Pee can Kill Plants in High Amounts                       

While a cat peeing in your garden or potted plant once probably won’t kill it, continued urination will eventually kill most plants.

This is because cat urine acts as a fertilizer of sorts. It contains minerals that aren’t bad for your plant but, in excess, can harm plants the same as fertilizer burn. If the roots are burnt too badly, the plant may not be able to recover.

One way to help your plant is to rinse out the cat pee from the pot. Do this by watering the potted plant until water is coming from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Repeat this a few times to ensure it’s been thoroughly rinsed.

Outdoors in the ground or in garden beds, use a hose to saturate the soil thoroughly to dilute the urine and wash as much of it as possible away from your plants.

If you’re grossed out by the thought of keeping the old soil, or it smells even after being rinsed, you can replace your plant’s soil and throw the old stuff in the trash.

Even if you’re washing away the urine, you’ll probably still want to take measures to prevent the cat from peeing in your plants again. Below, I’ll discuss some ways to do this.


Potted Plants are more likely to die from Cat Urine

Different plants will suffer in different amounts when peed on by cats. In addition to this, plants grown in containers are more likely to die from cat urine than those in the ground or raised beds.

This is because the pots have limited amounts of soil in them, so the urine won’t disperse the same as it could in other situations.

The urine will be contained to that one space, and so will have a greater effect on your plant.


Cat Pee can Ward off Other Garden Pests

While cat pee isn’t particularly good for your plants, some gardeners like the way it chases off other garden pests that are too afraid of the cat to approach. Any animals who fall prey to cats will be wary of your garden if they smell cat urine in the area.

That said, you may not like the smell much either! And, as I stated above, it can be detrimental to your plant’s health in high amounts.


Follow these Steps to Save your Peed-Upon Plant from Dying

1.      Rinse the Soil Thoroughly

If your plant is outdoors, use a hose to spray down the entire area. This will work to dilute and remove the cat urine from the plant, and should work to save the roots if it’s done quickly enough.


2.      Introduce Humane Deterrents to Keep Cats Away in the Future

I encourage you not to use any deterrents that hurt cats in any way. I promise, there are options that allow you to treat cats humanely while keeping your garden intact.

It is important to deter cats from your plants, though, because if you don’t they will just keep urinating in the same spot. They chose it because it’s convenient, so you have to make it less so.

Check out the options I outline below, and choose whatever is easiest and most cost-effective for you.


If You are Pregnant, You Should Avoid Soil Peed on by Cats

It’s recommended that if you are pregnant, you avoid soil that’s been urinated on by cats. This is because pregnant people and fetuses are more prone to serious symptoms of toxoplasmosis, which is a parasite that can be found in cat feces.

If you are pregnant and can do so, have someone else handle the gardening and wash any fruits and vegetables for you rather than handling them yourself.

You may want to avoid eating any produce that’s been urinated upon or near cat urine as well to be safe, but most gardeners seem to agree that washed produce is okay for consumption.

9 Ways to keep Cats out of your Garden

1. Talk to Your Neighbor

If the cat peeing in your garden belongs to a neighbor, try speaking to them calmly about the situation.

Without a doubt, they should be keeping their cat inside, or at least contained and supervised when outdoors—but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to convince them of this fact.

Instead, ask them what they’re willing to do to keep their cat out of your garden. Explain what is happening and ask for help finding solutions.

Because your neighbors are already doing a selfish thing by allowing their cat outdoors unsupervised, you might find this step unhelpful—but it can be worthwhile if your neighbor does decide to help.

After all, they’re the ones who can contain and control their cat most easily.


2. Keep your own Cat Indoors

If your own cat is peeing in your garden, or the neighbors, the most basic thing to do is to keep them indoors.

Cats may get upset at not being allowed outside at first if it’s something they’re used to, and saving the garden may seem like a small reason to keep them in the house.

However, you’re not just saving the garden—keeping your cat inside makes them happier and healthier in the long run, and drastically increases their lifespan.

With all the benefits to your cat and the environment, saving a few plants is just an added bonus.

If you do insist on allowing your cat outdoors, cat patios, leashes, and cat-proof fencing are great ways to do so without causing harm to your cat, the environment, or the garden.

You can also train your cat to stay near you and supervise their outdoor time.


3.  Add Skewers to the Soil

Placing skewers, stakes, or sticks in the soil will deter cats from crawling around, and will also make it uncomfortable for them to squat and urinate on nearby plants.

Try placing the skewers around 6 inches apart, and cover the entire area the cat likes to pee in. If you find that the cat is navigating around the skewers, try adding more and placing them more closely together.

You can also try other things that are uncomfortable to walk or squat on dispersed on top of the soil, such as aluminum foil, pine needles, or crushed rocks.


4.  Create a “Cage” for your Plants using Chicken Wire

Cage your plants in with chicken wire to keep cats, as well as other pests, out of the area. If they cannot get in, they won’t be able to urinate there.


5.  Cover the Soil with Mulch, Rocks, or Other Materials

Sometimes, if a cat cannot get to the soil, they’ll stop urinating in it. Try covering the top of your pot or garden bed with heavy mulch, rocks, or other materials. Plastic also works well for potted plants, but may be less plausible onthe ground or an entire raised bed.

Keep in mind that the cat might just go on top of whatever you put down. It’s best to choose something uncomfortable for cats to walk on, as this will deter them further.


6. Use Smell Deterrents

There are many smell deterrents for cats and other pests on the market, but keep in mind that not all of them are actually cat-safe.

For example, citrus scents are incredibly popular as a deterrent—but concentrated citrus oils are toxic to cats, and they shouldn’t breathe them in.

Cayenne pepper and other similar spicy irritants are never recommended, as they can seriously harm cats.

Similarly, mothballs are toxic to more than just cats and should never be used in your garden.


7. If Possible, Keep the Soil Damp

Some plants cannot have their soil drenched frequently, but if yours can, it might be worth a try to give them a daily soaking.

Aim for the time the cat typically does their business in your garden, if you’ve caught them in the act. They will likely not want to get their feet wet or urinate in wet soil, and will go off to search for a drier area.


8. Put a Litter Box near the Plant

This one is super annoying if you’re not dealing with your own cat, but it might work to give kitty another nearby option to use instead of your planter or garden.

Simply place the litter box nearby and scoop daily. You’ll want to shelter it in the rain so it doesn’t all clump together, but otherwise this can work well.

If you’re already rinsing cat pee from your garden, scooping a box might not be that much more work.


9. Purchase a Motion-Activated Sprinkler

In the same vein as the suggestion above, cats do not like getting wet. A motion-activated sprinkler that turns on when they’re near your garden will almost positively keep them away.

This is a pricier option, though, so I don’t recommend it unless you need a sprinkler anyway or have already tried the options above.


9 Ways to Keep your Cat out of Your Houseplants

1.  Keep Litterboxes Clean

One of the biggest reasons a cat will pee outside of their litterbox is because it is dirty. Like us, they don’t like filthy restrooms!

I recommend that you scoop each litterbox in your home at least once or twice daily, and replace the litter once a week. If the litterbox is dirty when changing out litter, give it a scrub before refilling.

Keep in mind that some cats may be fussier than others. If your cat is especially finicky about cleanliness, try scooping more often or purchasing an extra litterbox.


2. Visit your Veterinarian for a Check-up

Inappropriate urination can be cause for concern in some cats. While cats do naturally eliminatepee and poop in dirt and soil, it may be worth getting a check-up if this is new behavior.


3.  Cover the top of the Soil

Covering the top of the soil can be a simple solution to make it impossible for your cat to pee in your houseplant.

You can use aluminum or plastic for this, or cover the soil with rocks, bark, or another material. If your cat doesn’t like walking on it, this is an added bonus.

If you choose to try this option, be aware that it will keep the soil wet longer by stopping some of the evaporation process. Depending on your houseplant and the material you choose, this could keep the roots waterlogged and kill your plant via root rot.

For example, you definitely don’t want to cover a cacti soil with plastic wrap that’ll hold in too much moisture. But doing the same for a Fittonia (Nerve Plant) might work out fine, since those plants love moisture anyway.


4. Use Skewers to Deter your Cat

You can place skewers around your plant so that your cat can’t get comfy enough to crouch down and pee in the soil. Try placing them a few inches apart, depending on the size of your pot.


5. Place Double-Sided Tape or Aluminum Foil in the Surrounding Area

My cats don’t pee in my plants (thank goodness!), but they do sometimes try to eat them. To prevent this, I line my plant shelves with double-sided sticky tape.

Cats hate the feeling of having their paws stuck on the tape, and so they learn to avoid jumping up onto the area.

Aluminum foil can work in the same way.

I haven’t personally tried this trick for plants that sit on the ground, but I’m sure you could line the floor or the pot with one of these materials and it may deter some cats.


6. Place a Litterbox near the Plant

If your cat has decided where they want their bathroom to be, it might be easiest to give in to their desires. Try placing a litterbox beside your plant, or even switching out the plant for a litterbox in the same place.


7. Purchase a New Type of Litter

If your cat is using soil instead of litter, it’s possible they don’t like the kind you currently purchase. There are a variety of litter types on the market, so it may be worthwhile to switch it up and let your cat decide what they like best.

But just like you can buy your cat six cat trees and they’ll still prefer an empty box, they might decide that soil is still their favorite, no matter what litter you buy them.


8. Block Access to the Plant

If you can, block your cat’s access to the plant they are peeing in. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Personally, I keep many of my plants in a room with the door closed so that my cats can’t get to them. I also have a lot of hanging baskets that hang too high for my cats to reach. Shelves can also accomplish this so long as your cat can’t jump onto them, or you can deter them from doing so.

All of these can be more difficult for large planters, and for plants that need to sit in a particular spot in your home to get the light they need.

But if you can move your plant or block access to it in some way, it can be a great solution.


9. Use Smell Deterrents

As stated above, be careful when using smell deterrents as many can poison your cat either through breathing them in (in the case of citrus and some other essential oils) or if your cat happens to eat them rather than actually being deterred.

Be sure to do thorough research before purchasing any product to ensure it’s actually cat-friendly. This includes if things go wrong and your cat doesn’t behave as planned.

For example, citrus peels will deter most cats and aren’t as dangerous as essential oils because they’re less concentrated. But if your cat eats them, they will be poisoned.


Writer: Katelynn Sobus

I am a freelance writer who specializes in the pet industry.  My full bio