Encyclopaedia of Birdcare
CatsDomestic cats are major predators of garden birds, especially ground feeders and inexperienced fledgelings, and so it is important to avoid increasing the birds' vulnerability to attack when they are feeding on artificially provided foods or using nest boxes. Methods of tackling the problem of cats can be grouped as follows:
- Reducing the possibility of attack by careful siting of feeding stations and of nest boxes. feeders and bird tables should be placed at least 5 metres (about 16 feet) away from cover where cats might lurk, or trees or structures from which they could leap. Mounting of feeders on slippery garden poles or the use of ranging feeders will obviously help, and some of the precautions which can be taken against squirrels also apply to cats. For nest boxes, a height of at least 3 metres (10 feet) above ground is desirable, and possible access routes along ledges or fences should also be considered. Barriers below the boxes are effective, such as the wire belt for fitting round tree trunks which is offered by Jacobi Jayne & Company.
- Discouraging visits by cats to the garden, although no method is likely to be completely successful. Among possibilities are putting down substances such as pepper (soon washed away by rain), making loud noises (unpopular with neighbours), throwing objects such as soft balls (good aim required) and installing ultrasonic sound producing equipment (effective but expensive). Water is a useful aid, as, for example, a squirt from a hosepipe. Although the effect of such action is obviously short-lived, cats do learn where they are not welcome.
- Keeping a dog or cat oneself. Dogs are good deterrents when they are around, but one's own cat is better than a dog in that it will keep out neighbours' cats at times such as the early morning, when birds are active but dogs are not. A neutered male would be the best choice of cat, and if fitted with a bell it will be less able to catch birds unawares.