Cats make wonderful companions, members of the family and friendly but one downside of them can be the threat they pose to your garden birds. Instinct isn’t something that can be overridden, no matter how sociable and friendly your cat is and their instinct tells them to chase and catch birds.
Across the world, cats kill millions of birds every year and with some birds in some areas declining in numbers due to other factors, this extra loss would be great to be avoided. But there are some measures to put into place that can help ease this problem.
Controlling your cat
Training a cat in the way people train a dog just doesn’t happen – they are too strong willed for it and too stubborn! But there are some tricks that can be put into place to help persuade them against doing what you don’t want them to do.
However, the best trick is to keep them indoors and only let them out when you are there to supervise them. This can be beneficial on a few levels because outdoors cats are at greater risk of an accident, an injury or contracting an illness.
Spaying or neutering your cat can help reduce their urges to defend their territory and go hunting and a bell added to a collar can also help make their stealthy approach a thing of the past. This gives the birds a better warning that they are closing in and lets them get away. Some people advocate trimming cat’s claws so they cannot climb trees but this could cause more stress for the animal than any benefit in solving the problem.
Feral cats can be another big problem and being that they aren’t your pet, are harder to regulate. Firstly, avoid feeding them so that you don’t have a garden full of hungry cats that are always looking for their next meal.
If you have a large feral cat population in your neighbourhood, it may be worth working with a local animal shelter to get some humane traps. Once the cats are caught, they are sprayed or neutered to help control the population.
On the turn side of the coin, managing where you feed your garden birds or where you place nest boxes can also help reduce the problem. Make sure feeders and bird baths are around 5 feet away from shrubbery where cats can hide in wait for a bird.
Choose birdhouses that have steep roofs that cats cannot sit on and that don’t have perches on them where baby birds can sit. It may seem a nice idea to learn how to care for baby birds but it is a job for a professional and isn’t easily done. It is better to make sure that the little birds fledge successfully and safely than have to start running a bird clinic.
Finally, use plastic or metal poles to hold the feeders as opposed to wood ones as the cats cannot climb up these to get at the birds above.