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Do Cat Spikes Work? What Alternatives Are Available?

6 min read

Do Cat Spikes Work? What Alternatives Are Available?

Cats are naturally curious and when allowed to roam freely outdoors most domestic cats explore as far as about a  quarter-mile away from their home, although there are reports of some cats traveling as far as  two miles! Generally preferring to explore their own neighborhoods, cats climb trees and hunt in wooded areas nearby, hang out with other neighborhood cats, and most certainly explore their neighbors’ yards and gardens - even though some neighbors may not care for cats wandering in their yards. There are several cat containment solutions available from cat fencing to cat rollers, and even catios. However, these solutions typically work to keep cats safely contained inside a designated space rather than deter them from entering a specific area. 

Cat Climbing in Tree

Cat Repellent Spikes

One common solution that people turn to for keeping cats out of their garden or other areas of their yard is cat spikes. Some people may line the tops of their fences with cat spikes in an attempt to prevent cats from climbing into their yard entirely. Others may place cat spikes on the ground to prevent digging or in more specific areas where they don’t want roaming paws to enter, such as underneath bird feeders, inside flower beds, or around vegetables. Some cat owners may even place them indoors in areas like countertops and furniture to show their cats that these areas should be avoided.

Scat mat Cat Repellent on Chair

Cat spikes are designed to create a physical barrier that is unpleasant for cats to step foot on. In theory, this should prevent them from walking over the spikes into areas where they shouldn’t be.

While the term “cat spikes” may conjure up images of sharp metal points that could harm cats or other animals, they are actually most often made of plastic or rubber. There are two main types of cat spikes:

Cat Spikes on Fence near Bird Feeder

  • “Cone” spikes: This option features a strip of material with a series of plastic or rubber cone-shaped spikes attached. The spikes have a blunt tip design so they don’t harm the cat, but do make the surface uncomfortable and difficult to walk on. Each strip of spikes can be secured to a variety of surfaces from concrete to metal and wood, and easily cut to specific lengths making their applications quite versatile.

Scat Mat Cat Repellent around Plants

  • “Scat mats”: These are similar to cone spikes in utility but have a slightly different design. Scat mats are larger and made with a series of small plastic spines (think: the underside of a plastic desk chair mat, enlarged). A scat mat is capable of covering a much larger space both outdoors and indoors. For example, a scat mat can be placed in a garden where a neighborhood cat prefers to use the bathroom. The mat covers the ground so the cat is not able to dig or do their business comfortably. Scat mats can also be lined up on a countertop or table to prevent a cat from jumping up and making themselves comfortable. The plastic spines feel strange under the cat’s feet and should prevent them from exploring these areas deemed “forbidden.”

Cat Spikes Reliability and Effectiveness

Based on our analysis of thousands of product reviews from various retailers, the consensus is that most cat spike products are effective on approximately 50-60% of cats. The most commonly cited issue is that the spikes don’t bother or deter cats. As you may surely know, all cats are different and have unique personalities. For just about every cat that cannot stand the feeling of the spikes under their feet and will avoid the cat-proofed area altogether, there is another cat who is completely unbothered by walking on cat spikes or scat mats - or perhaps they are just too stubborn to be discouraged! For these cats, the rate of effectiveness drops to essentially zero. Interestingly, many of those cats who avoid the cat spikes initially, will slowly get used to the spikes and become less bothered by them. This ultimately reduces the effectiveness significantly over time for the majority of cats.

Are Cat Spikes and Bird Spikes Legal?

The laws, rules, and regulations regarding the use of cat spikes vary from one location to another, so it’s always best practice to check with your local regulatory authorities before installing these types of deterrents.

Unsuitable Alternatives

Metal Bird Spikes on Wooden Fence

When considering the other options for keeping cats off fencing, and out of flower gardens and other areas, a third option is other various versions of spikes designed for other animals such as fox spikes, squirrel spikes, chicken spikes, and bird spikes. Bird spikes in particular are commonly used with cats. These are typically made of thin skewer-like metal rods meant to deter birds, such as pigeons and crows, from landing on a fence or building ledge. This type of spike does tend to be sharp, as it is meant to replicate thornbush and is intended for use with birds only.

Bird Spikes on Wooden Fence

The skewer-like rods can cause injury to soft kitty paws. Because of the potential injuries cats could experience, they should never be used as a deterrent for cats or other animals like raccoons and squirrels. Only cat spikes made of plastic or rubber, with blunted tips should be used as a cat repellent option.

More Effective Alternatives

When it comes to deterring cats from entering your gardens or yard, there are several other, more effective options. A good place to start is simply communicating with your neighbors. Many cat owners are likely not aware of the troubles their cats might be causing for you, so calmly approaching them with your concerns might lead to a productive conversation and some resolution.

Another option you have is to be conscious of your landscaping and gardening choices. There are many plant options that can help repel cats and deter them from entering your flower and vegetable gardens. Acat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than most humans. Because of this, they are far more sensitive to scents, and might even be able to smell things that we can’t! So planting flowers or other plants that have a displeasing scent to cats can actually help prevent them from entering your garden. These plants include:

  • Coleus Canina - Also known as the "Scaredy Cat Plant", it is said that this plant actually smells like urine, which causes cats to avoid the area where it is planted.
    Coleus Canina Scaredy Cat Plant Cat Repellent Plant
  • Geraniums - They have a scent that cats tend not to like, but most humans do!
    Geraniums Cat Repellent
  • Citronella - A plant in the geranium family, this one has a citrus smell that cats do not enjoy.
    Citronella Plant Cat Deterrent
  • Lavender - Another plant that smells great to most humans, although cats avoid it.
    Lavender Plants Cat Deterrent
  • Even some fragrant herbs like lemongrass and rosemary have an unpleasant smell to cats!
    Rosemary Herb Plant Cat Deterrent

Other planting options that can help deter cats would include anything thorny or prickly - roses, holly, barberry, cactus, bougainvillea, and blackberries, for example. These types of plants work best when planted along the perimeter of your garden to prevent cats, and other animals, from entering the garden.

Cactus Cat Deterrent


One of the most effective options is to install cat containment systems such as cat fencing. There are a variety of cat containment options available from full-height fence barriers, to cat-proof fence toppers and even cat rollers (sometimes called coyote rollers). Admittedly, most of these fencing options are designed to keep cats contained within a yard or specific area. However, many of them can also be used “in reverse” to humanely and effectively prevent cats from entering an area.

Purrfect Fence Cat Proof Barrier Fence Topper

TLDR; There are a variety of cat spike options available to deter cats from entering a specific area. Spikes should be made of plastic or rubber and have a blunted point when used to deter cats from entering a specific area - never use spikes made of metal or spikes that are sharp and could cause injury to cats or other animals. When installed properly, cat spikes are effective approximately 50-60% of the time based on various product reviews. While some cats avoid stepping on cat spikes at all costs, many others are unbothered. The majority of cats will likely become used to the spikes with prolonged exposure, reducing their overall effectiveness over time. More effective deterrent options include communicating with neighbors, cat repellent landscaping, and physical barrier containment solutions like cat fencing.

To learn more about the many ways Purrfect Fence can help you exclude or contain cats safely outdoors, please visit PurrfectFence.com.


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