Cats at the Feeder
Keeping Fluffy from grabbing a feathered snack
Cats are wonderful pets - they purr, they're nice to pet and they're good company. However, cats are not nice animals when it comes to birds, and for serious birders, it doesn't matter how much they like cats - they don't want them anywhere near their feeders or nesting boxes. Cats are the cause of many bird deaths since a lot of feeders are hung too close to bushes or sheds where cats can hide. Birds don't have a chance to fly away when there isn't enough distance between the feeder and the cat, and the result is an unfortunate pile of feathers for you to find later on - not the nicest thing for you or your children to stumble across in your backyard.
The best way to prevent a cat from raiding your feeder is to keep it inside. There have been studies showing that cats that live indoors can live up to twice as long as cats that spend most of their time outdoors. Cats that eat birds can get digestive problems, diseases and parasites, so it's really best that they not be allowed to indulge in that particular snack. You will see fewer birds at your feeder once word gets out that a cat's around, so your birdwatching will suffer, too.
Fortunately, there are several ways to keep cats away from your feeder that won't harm the cat. What you'll have to do is figure out if it is your cat killing birds or if the fatalities can be attributed to another cat. If you don't have a cat and your neighbor does, you might want to consider talking to your neighbor about confining or putting a bell on his cat. If he gets defensive or angry, don't push the point - there are other ways to prevent cats from preying on your wild birds.
- Hang your feeders at least 10 feet away from any bushes, sheds or trees. The fewer places a cat can hide in, the safer your birds will be.
- Buy items that prevent cats from catching birds. These include things like CatStop, which is an electronic device that emits a high-frequency sound that will startle a cat and keep it away from an area; or CatBib, which is a colorful neoprene bib that attaches to your cat's collar. These prevent the cat from catching birds, but still allow it to enjoy its time outdoors.
- String chicken wire or thorny branches around your feeders. Cats can't figure out how to get through the wire or thorns, so they'll stay away from your feeders. This may work to prevent other animals, like raccoons or squirrels, from raiding your feeders and nesting boxes as well.
- Tack down a square of wire mesh on three sides over nesting box holes, with an opening at the bottom. This will prevent the cat from reaching in and stealing eggs, while still allowing the birds who live in the box to get in and out.
- If you want to, get a dog. Dogs will scare cats and other animals away from your yard, but don't bother birds as a rule.