It’s never pleasant to see cats terrorising your feathered friends. Perhaps you’re a cat owner yourself, and feel saddened when your furry pet brings home its prey. Luckily there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of the garden birds being hunted.
Fun fact – cats only bring their kills back to you because they think you can’t catch your own food. They occasionally bring back live prey to teach you how to hunt.
You can warn the birds to your moggy’s presence by adding a bell to their collar. Make sure that it’s a quick release collar though, as if a collar gets caught in fences or branches you can do more damage to your cat.
You can still do your bit to make sure that the birds are safe even if you own a cat. Keep your cats indoors during the times that the birds will be most vulnerable; at least an hour before sunset, and an hour after sunrise. This will be particularly helpful during the winter, and the breeding seasons throughout the year – this can vary from bird to bird, but tends to be between March and July.
Keep your cats well fed. Though it might seem a tad obvious, a fed cat is a happy cat, and is less likely to go out and about killing innocent birds. Once your cat has eaten, the likelihood is that they’ll curl up for a kip. So not only will the birds be safe to peck away at the feeders in your garden, but your cat will be happy too!
You can out fox cats with where you place your feeders. Avoid ground feeders and low hanging ones that will encourage birds to be within easy reach of prying paws; make sure to clear up any spilled feed too. Try to keep nesting boxes at least eight feet off the ground to stop cats jumping on them. It’s also a good idea to place nesting boxes away from where a cat can lurk underneath or near it, as they can prevent parent birds from reaching their nests.
Thwart prowling predators by moving feeding tables, bird baths, and feeders away from any shrubbery that cats can hide in. If you place them at least 10 to 12 feet away from any cover that a feline can use to hide, you’ll be giving those birds more of a chance to react in the event of a cat attack. If there’s nowhere for the cat to conceal itself, they will be less likely to get a successful kill.
Cat-proof your garden; this might be tricky if you own a cat yourself, but there are still one or two things you can do to safeguard the birds that flock to your feeders. Hang feeders from a free standing bird feeding station so that the cats can’t climb them to get to the birds. You can also try greasing the pole with vaseline to make it even trickier.
By adding a downwards-facing cone, baffle, or biscuit tin to the pole underneath the bird table or feeder, you can stop the cats reaching for the birds.
Why not add things that will be detrimental to hunting, but will be beneficial to the garden birds? Thorny bushes aren’t the best form of cat cover, and the berries that the bushes produce will be a tasty treat for all those birds! Sharp mulches will help to stop Felix from prowling nearby. Spiny plants like holly is a good choice, or make the surface around the base of the feeders uncomfortable for cats to settle on; you can do this with clippings from your new greenery! Prickly bushes and thick climbers will also give the birds the cover they need to hide from any predators.
One of the more obvious ways to prevent cats from making your garden their hunting ground is to take a look at cat deterrents. There will be no guaranteed way to stop cats entering your garden completely, however with deterrents you can make their visits less likely. If you’re after a more natural cat repellent, try planting some citronella or lemon grass in your garden. Alternatively try scattering lemon or orange peel, as cats don’t like the smell of citrus.
Another way to deter cats from your garden is to use an ultrasonic repeller. The device will emit noise at a frequency that only cats can hear, and will discourage them from lingering in your garden.
Before you go…
No matter how frustrated you get with the cats invading your garden and skulking around, it is never okay to physically harm them. It’s important to remember that birds only make up around 20% of the animals that cats kill. Most of their prey tends to be mice and voles, but because those are nocturnal animals you’re less likely to see this happening. While it may look like birds are the main victims, this is only because it happens in the day, so you are more likely to see it.
Cats are opportunistic hunters: they won’t set out to hunt specific species. As unpleasant as it is to see them catching birds, it’s unlikely that cats are impacting on the bird populations. In fact, your windows are more likely to be the cause of death of a visiting garden bird. Luckily, there are steps you can take when a bird hits your window.