How to Keep Cats out of a Child's Sandbox

Barriers, Natural Deterrents, and Chemical Repellents

Photo of Persian Cat in Garden
Persian Cat in Garden. © Getty / Andrea Kamal

If cats are using your child's outdoor sandbox as a litter box then you have a few options to stop the behavior. You can put up a barrier, use cat deterrents, or if your cat is the culprit, consider removing your cat from the outdoors.

The one thing you do not want to do is ignore the problem. There is a possibility that children can be exposed to toxoplasmosis, which is a parasite disease that is carried in cat feces. Most cats that have it do not show any symptoms. And, even if your cat is healthy, you cannot account for stray cats that may be carrying this common cat disease. 

Why Cats Use the Sandbox

In the wild, cats naturally excrete in soft or sandy soil for easy burial. They use their paws in a backward sweeping motion to cover their feces.

Defense or Offense

You can defend the sandbox from unwanted critters by covering it every day. 

Another way to keep animals away is to install a motion-sensitive water sprinkler. If you put a sprinkler right next to the sandbox, then cats will certainly get the message. Although, the downfall of this method is that it makes the sandbox wet, too.

Several Natural Deterrents

There are several natural deterrents that you can use around the sandbox to deter cats from entering it. Any of these natural substances either alone or combined can make for a great anti-kitty cocktail. Reapply frequently.

  • You can spray a vinegar-water solution around the perimeter. Cat's dislike the smell of vinegar. 
  • Likewise, you can save orange, lemon, or other citrus peels and sprinkle them around the box. You can grind the peels in a blender and mix with water. Like the vinegar solution, cats are not a fan of the smell. 
  • Another natural deterrent you can use is coffee grinds or cayenne pepper. Cats can't stand either substance. 

Store-Bought Repellents

There are a variety of commercial sprays designed as cat repellents. They contain preparations that are offensive, but not harmful, to cats. Apply these sprays around the border. Rain and sunlight will dissipate the spray over time, so reapply frequently. 

Transition to Indoor Only

If your cat seems to be the cause of the sandbox mess, then this might be the reason you are looking for to transition your cat to be an indoor cat. To start the process, provide the cat with enough litter boxes inside the house and train the cat to use them. The rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one extra in the beginning. Once the cat is trained, then you can drop down to one box per cat.

Supervise Outdoor Time

If your yard is safe from your cats escaping, and predators and other cats can't enter, then you could still let them outside periodically, as long as you could supervise them. Similar to their canine counterparts, some cats love to play fetch, too.

Whenever you notice your cat heading to the sandbox, pick it up, and move it elsewhere. Use your discipline tone. Eventually, your cat will learn to keep away from the sandbox.