Cats are domesticated predators, with natural prey-chasing, capturing, and killing instincts. They have the potential to impact local wildlife populations by reducing the number of prey items for native predators. Free-ranging pets can serve as a reservoir for human and wildlife diseases such as ringworm, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, distemper, and rabies, and may be an important factor in introducing these diseases into susceptible wildlife populations.

Cats do little damage to lawns and gardens but can be a nuisance. Cats are attracted to bare soil and as they carry out their normal toilet habits, they can damage seed beds and seedlings.

Dogs like to mark their territory and in doing so, urinate on the base of trees. This acid eats through the bark and cambium zone to the wood zone, destroying the tree’s defense system. Be aware of this problem and train your dog accordingly.

The most common complaint from dog owners is brown urine spots on the lawn; however, there are also other problems including chewing, digging, running paths, and possibly wild or stray dogs.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Brown spots in the lawn surrounded by a green ring are an indication that dogs have been using your lawn for a bathroom. Since their urine is high in nitrogen, it burns the grass in areas where concentrated and fertilizes it where it is diluted to the correct concentration, therefore, the green ring. This is not true with fungi or other diseases.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

1. Local animal control agencies. Use an agency to report stray cats and dogs or other troublesome animals.

2. Fright. Scare tactics such as scolding, hand clapping, loud noises, and hurling small objects may be effective in chasing cats away.

3. Water. Cats hate water, so you may be able to discourage a cat from entering your yard by spraying it several times with a garden hose. This may also work for some dogs.

4. Protection. Cover small garden areas with seeds or transplants by using floating row covers or fruit-tree netting. Large areas can be protected by building a wood frame and covering it with window screening.

5. Responsibility. Responsible pet ownership is the best solution including spaying/neutering and confining. Keeping your cat indoors will also protect it from being hit by vehicles, reduce exposure to diseases transmitted by wildlife and other pets, and prevent injuries from fights with other cats (or dogs) or attacks by wildlife predators. If you have an outside cat, place two bells on its collar to make it easier to determine their location. 

6. Training. Training the dog to urinate on command in a selected location may be a tedious training progress but once accomplished, the results are rewarding.

7. Fences. If allowed by ordinances, a fence can be built to protect a portion of your yard from casual animal use.

8. Repellents. Naphthalene flakes (moth balls) or camphor chest rubs are said to repel cats; however, these scents are not long-lasting and must be replaced. They are best used to protect single, prized specimen plants or objects. Hot and bitter-tasting products are more likely to be effective for dogs than odor repellents, which could encourage overmarking.