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Will Moth Balls Keep Cats Away? Facts & Better Alternatives

Written by: Matt Jackson

Last Updated on June 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

moth balls on wooden scooper

Will Moth Balls Keep Cats Away? Facts & Better Alternatives

Placing mothballs around plants is an old tactic to keep cats away from those plants. However, whether effective or not—and there are a lot of people who claim it isn’t—mothballs are toxic to plants, dogs, cats, and people, so they shouldn’t be used in this way.

Below, we take a closer look into why you shouldn’t use mothballs to keep cats away, and what alternatives to use instead.

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What Are Mothballs?

Mothballs are balls made up of chemicals and pesticides. They have been used, traditionally, as a means of killing moths and other insects that attack clothing and fabric. The balls are solid at room temperature, but they slowly give off a gas and deplete over time.

moth balls in a hole to deter rodents
Image Credit: Peggy Hazelwood, Shutterstock

Are Mothballs Toxic?

Mothballs look innocuous, but they are toxic. They contain pesticides and chemicals that are slowly released into the local atmosphere, and if you can smell a mothball, it means that you are inhaling the fumes. The proper way to use mothballs is to put the item of clothing in a sealed container with the mothball and leave it until the moths are dead.

The clothing should then be thoroughly washed, and the mothball disposed of or stored properly. Mothballs are controlled and their use is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. In some areas, the use of mothballs in any way other than their intended use may be illegal.

As well as being harmful to people, mothballs are also potentially toxic to dogs, cats, and other wildlife. They should not be used to try and ward off cats or other animals.

One of the ways that mothballs are commonly used incorrectly is to place them around flower beds to prevent neighborhood cats from destroying the flowers. As well as being toxic to cats and wildlife, the chemicals in mothballs can get into the soil. If you use them around fruit, vegetables, or other edible plants, you could do yourself a lot of harm.

What To Do If a Cat Has Eaten Mothballs

Even inhaling the fumes from mothballs can be very dangerous for cats, but the problem is exacerbated if a cat eats one. Quick treatment is essential in these cases, and you should contact a vet as soon as possible to give the cat the best chance of survival.

Signs of mothball poisoning include gastrointestinal problems, weakness and lethargy, problems breathing, and even tremors and seizures. It can even lead to kidney or liver damage which, untreated, can prove fatal. Although there is no treatment for mothball poisoning, the prognosis is positive, if you get the cat to a vet as soon as possible.

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The 5 Humane Ways to Keep Cats Out of Your Flower Beds

If you do need to keep cats away from flower beds, there are safer and more effective methods.

1. Add Prickly Plants

Image Credit: Delia_Suvari, Shutterstock

Plant roses, holly bushes, and other prickly plants around the flower bed. It should be enough to deter all but the most determined cats. If you don’t want these plants, you can add other prickly deterrents like wood mulch or even some of the branches you have left after pruning the rest of the garden.

2. Use Water

sprinkler watering the lawn
Image Credit: Hadrian, Shutterstock

Some cats like swimming in water, but most hate the feeling of being sprayed by a water sprinkler, and you can buy sprinklers that include motion sensors. The water won’t harm or damage the cat, but it should be enough to spook them and scare them off. You may even find that wet soil will deter some cats from making the trek across sodden ground.

3. Use Floral Wire

garden fenced with wire
Image Credit: Nicole Kandi, Shutterstock

Floral wire is sharp and strong enough that it won’t be too easily damaged, but it won’t cause any real damage to cats. It can act as an effective means of preventing cats from curling up in your favorite flowers, and it is relatively inconspicuous, so you don’t have to stare at your makeshift cat deterrent whenever you’re in the garden.

4. Install Bird Netting

garden and pond covered with bird net
Image Credit: Stefan Werner, Shutterstock

If you have very small and fragile seedlings and young plants, they need extra protection. Installing bird netting not only prevents winged diners but it can also help keep furry four-legged pests away.

5. Use Smells Cats Dislike

close up orange tree
Image Credit: Barbara Ash, Shutterstock

Cats dislike some odors more than others. They love the smell of catnip, for example, but many cats dislike the smell of citrus. You can grow citrus plants or create your own citrus spray using lemon juice and water. You can even add a little vinegar to the mix, because cats tend to dislike this smell, as well.

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What Is the Most Effective Cat Repellent?

Every cat is different, and while some repellants will work well with some cats, they won’t work for others. A lot of cats dislike the smell of citrus, for example, but others either don’t mind it or will put up with it if the potential payoff is attractive enough.

Vinegar will keep some cats away, but this isn’t necessarily true of all feline visitors. Mix a little vinegar with some water, and add lemon juice, to create your own repellent. Start with a small amount to determine whether it works. You can always mix more later if it proves effective.

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Cats are inquisitive animals, and many enjoy chewing on plants or rubbing against them. While the cats might not intentionally mean harm to the plants, it can be frustrating for the gardeners amongst us to have to keep replanting.

While the use of mothballs is an old tactic used by some to deter cats, it is ineffective, and the chemicals and pesticides used in the creation of the mothballs can be toxic to cats, dogs, people, and wildlife. Using them in this way may also be illegal, and there are safer and more effective techniques to help prevent cat damage.

Featured Image Credit: Faizal Ramli, Shutterstock

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