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12 Ways to Keep Cats Out of a Sandbox: Easy & Useful Tips

cat playing in the sandbox
Image Credit: Marie Charouzova, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Sand is among a cat’s favorite hangout spots, and if you have an outdoor sandbox, you know how quickly cats can turn it into their restroom of choice.

Without a doubt, you wouldn’t want your kids sharing their sandbox with a kitty, especially if they are feral. But you all know that figuring a way to keep the animals out of sandboxes can be challenging.

The good thing is, there are a few helpful solutions that can help to keep the kitties out of your sandbox! Keep reading for valuable insights.

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Why Do Cats Love Sandboxes?

Cats love sandboxes because it offers a natural outlet for felines’ instincts. In the wild, cats naturally excrete in sandy soil because they like the soft texture. The looseness and softness of sand allow cats to paw and sweep the sand in a backward sweeping motion to cover their mess and hide their scent.

Yes, this is why the most popular types of litter in pet stores often appear grainy and gritty to imitate the outdoor ground. Although the sand is generally safe for cats to play in, cats defecating in the sandbox exposes both your family, the cats, and other animals to parasites.

For instance, a cat’s feces harbor toxins and parasitic diseases like roundworms and toxoplasmosis that can spread to humans, especially the kids playing in the sand. So, it is best to keep cats out of the sandbox, even if they are healthy.

It’s vital to keep in mind that your kitty or your neighbor’s cat isn’t eliminating waste in a sandbox because it’s difficult or problematic. Instead, it’s following its nature, so any means you use to stop it should be humane and safe to the animal.

cat defecating in the sandbox_Shutterstock_HalynaRom
Image Credit: HalynaRom, Shutterstock

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The 12 Ways to Keep Cats Out of a Sandbox

1. Cover the Sandbox

One of the most straightforward solutions to keeping cats out of a sandbox is always to cover the box whenever no one is playing in it. This solution is not only helpful with felines but also prevents foreign objects from getting in the sand.

The good thing is most sandboxes come with covers for keeping rain and animals out when it’s not in use. Better still, you can DIY your lid using material like shade fabric, lattice, or wood. These lids should be easy for you to put back on and off and so heavy that wind and animals cannot remove them.

2. Fence the Sandbox

You can fence the sandbox area to keep cats on the other side. It’s vital to remember that this option may not work unless you cat-proof the bar because kitties are renowned wall climbers.

You can use chicken wire because kitties dislike the feeling of walking on such wires. A rabbit-proof fence or garden fencing can be a great option as well.

chain link fence
Image by: Free-Photos, Pixabay

3. Clean the Sandbox

Another great trick to use is to remove existing waste by emptying a dirty sandbox. Felines have an acute sense of smell and can smell one another’s excretion. This is a signal that the sandbox is open for business. Remove all waste from feral and neighborhood cats and change the sand frequently.

4. Plant Cat Deterrent Plants Near the Sandbox

Although plants won’t generally repel cats, they often find some shrubs’ scents and textures distasteful. Try landscaping the area around the sandbox with such vegetation to cut down on kitties wandering into your sandbox.

Some of these plants include the scaredy cat plant, lavender, rosemary, rue, pennyroyal, lemon balm, and thorny bushes.

5. Keep Your Cat Indoors as Much as Possible

If your cats are using your sandbox, the simplest solution would be to keep the pets in the house. Yes, it is humane, safe, and recommended by vets and cat experts.

Don’t worry if your kitty was more of an outdoor pet; it can still adjust to the indoor lifestyle. All you have to do is provide your cat with lots of play toys, perches, and shelves for it to climb. You can even train it to adapt using a leash.

By so doing, your cats won’t have access to the sandbox, and they’ll be safer indoors, safe from attacks from other cats, dogs, and wild animals. You’ll also prevent them from damaging your garden or killing other animals like birds.

cats reflection_Taya Ovod_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Taya Ovod, Shutterstock

6. Create a Cat-Friendly Zone Near the Sandbox

Prevent felines from spending time in your sandbox by taking their mind off it. You can do it by creating an alternative area a few meters away from the sandbox where they’ll enjoy playing in.

You can place cat litter over a patch on the ground and mix it with some sand. Cats may discover the new place and keep off your kid’s play area. If the animals still don’t use it, try tricking them with treats like catnip by sprinkling some on the patch to draw their attention.

7. Keep an Ultrasonic Cat-Repellent Device Near the Sandbox

Felines have a top-notch sense of hearing and may hear sounds that even their owners cannot. You can employ motion-activated ultrasonic equipment near the sandbox by sticking it in the ground or attaching it to the sandbox’s wall.

This device will produce an irritating sound upon detecting the cat’s movements and scare it away. You can get these devices in pet stores or home improvement retailers.

8. Install a Motion-Sensitive Water Sprinkler Near the Sandbox

One thing you can be sure of is that kitties typically hate water. Therefore, putting an automated water sprinkler near the sandbox should help you get rid of the animals.

water sprinkler
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

Though pricey, a motion-activated water sprinkler can scare away the cats up to a distance of a thousand feet away. There’s no need to set up a whole system since one head can work as long as you point it towards the sandbox.

Plus, you can also use these devices as lawn sprinklers.

9. Spray Commercial Scent Deterrent Around the Sandbox

You can get a variety of cat-repellants from pet stores to deter cats from your sandbox. Spray the repellant around the sandbox’s perimeter when it’s dry or right after it has rained to prevent the chemicals from washing away in rainwater.

Also, remember to spray once a week or as soon as it stops raining. However, commercial repellants have chemicals that could be harmful to humans, especially the children who directly contact them in the sand. Always purchase non-toxic commercial repellants from certified local pet-supply retailers.

10. Deposit Foods That Cat Hate Around the Sandbox

If you can’t find or afford commercial repellants, make scent deterrents from your home. It would be best to try these options one by one because their success depends on your animal as not all find the pungent smell unbearable. Additionally, placing the foods outdoors dissipates the scent quickly because of the wind.

You can liberally scatter foods that cats hate in and around the sandbox to discourage them from reaching the sand. Such home remedies include coffee grounds, orange peels, onions, vinegar, eucalyptus oils, lavender, cayenne pepper, citronella, and citrus peels.

Since the scent dissipates within days, re-apply the food’s aroma at least twice a week.

orange peels
Image Credit: esudroff, Pixabay

11. Supervise Your Cat’s Playtime

If predators and feral cats from the neighborhood can’t access your yard, you can let your kitty companion outside periodically. However, you should only do it if you can supervise its activities or engage it.

By so doing, you’ll be able to control how far it reaches the sandbox.

12. Train Your Cat

Always refrain your cat from reaching the sandbox. You can start by picking it and moving it elsewhere if you notice it heading for the sandbox.

Sometimes, simply saying “NO” may not work. You may need to use the reinforcement trick by finding an alternative behavior you want your cat to adapt to instead of the sandbox and reinforce it.

For instance, you can try clicker training, playing with toys near the sandbox, encouraging it to use toys other than the sand, or using a disciplinary tone if it heads towards the undesired area. The cat will gradually learn what you like and dislike and may keep off the sandbox.

cat training
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

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Summary: How to Keep Cats Out of Sandboxes

Allowing cats to access the sandbox is potentially dangerous, especially for the kids that handle the sand during playtime. Thankfully, keeping the cats out of your sandbox shouldn’t be difficult anymore now that you have many solutions to choose from.

You can even try all the options before you find the most effective solution. However, while at it, ensure that you don’t harm the cats.

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Featured Image: Marie Charouzova, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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