The best answer to this question is, unfortunately, sometimes. Red pepper is an irritant to most mammals, including cats. However, some cats don't seem to mind it. Often it is a matter of how you use crushed red pepper, and not whether you use it, that determines its efficacy in keeping cats out of the flower garden.
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What Attracts Cats
Flower garden soil tends to be softer and more interesting to dig in than hard-packed soil or soil covered with a thick mat of weeds or ground covers. Cats may also be attracted to the flowers themselves, chewing on them for their texture or flavour. First, determine what's attracting them. Then try sprinkling the crushed red pepper on the specific areas of interest: the soft-turned soil for diggers and the cats that toilet in the garden, and on the plants themselves if they're being chewed.
Fresh Is Best
Crushed red pepper decomposes in the garden. The Berkeley Parents Network suggests reapplying the peppers every three to four days. Rain speeds decomposition, so reapply after a rain. Growing the red pepper plants themselves as a border to the garden often produces the longest-lasting means of repelling cats.
In "A Queen for All Seasons: A Year of Tips, Tricks, and Picks for a Cleaner House and a More Organized Life!," Linda Cobb recommends mixing crushed red pepper with mothballs for a truly repugnant-to-cats deterrent. If you're growing your flower garden for scent, however, this might negate the point. Try using a physical barrier around establishing plants while using the crushed red pepper around more established plants. It leaves less of a gamble for the life or death of small plants, without requiring you to wire- or fence-off your entire flower garden. Using multiple methods may produce the best results.
Sometimes red pepper just doesn't work, or runs the risk of injuring cats and kittens if it gets into their eyes. Upturned plastic forks in the garden frustrate digging attempts by cats, as well as the ease of their navigation to their favourite floral treat. Pointy bamboo spikes are a more recommendable remedy from Dr. Micheal W. Fox, as they tend to be a more aesthetic compliment to a flower garden. Sensors that spray water are particularly aggravating to cats, and don't run the risk of injuring them. Planting cat nip well away from your garden draws cats away from your flowers.
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- "Pets and the Planet: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Pet Care"; Carol Frischmann; 2009
- "A Queen for All Seasons: A Year of Tips, Tricks, and Picks for a Cleaner House and a More Organized Life!"; Linda Cobb; 2001
- Berkeley Parents Network: Neighbors' Cats - Keeping Them Out of the Yard
- "The New Animal Doctor's Answer Book"; Michael W. Fox; 1989
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Garden Wise - Keeping Cats Out of the Garden