Gardening with Cats: Creating a Safe and Happy Habitat for All
If you are the proud owner of a cat, then the likely hood is that you have had the unpleasant experience of your feline friend bringing you home a gift in the form of a dead bird or small mammal such as a mouse or a vole. Don’t be concerned! Hunting is a usual behaviour in cats, as today’s cats are natural hunters, descended from generations of cats used for pest control by our ancestors. Cats mainly hunt to feed themselves, which can be a bit confusing when you know you provide food for them regularly.
However, this behaviour can be a concern for the green-thumbed and the bird lovers among us. Between spring and summer, the RSPCA estimates that cats in the UK “… catch up to 100 million prey items, of which 27 million are birds.” Obviously, this number is even greater in the US. There are concerns that the influx of cat ownership may be disturbing the natural biodiversity of our gardens, towns and cities. Here is some helpful advice on how you can make your garden a safe and happy habitat for all.
Attaching a Bell to your Cat’s Collar
Although it seems silly, putting a bell on your cat’s collar can prove effective at keeping birds and other mammals safe. Cats are very agile and quiet and like to stalk their prey before attacking them. The bell will alert your cat’s prey, hopefully giving them a chance to escape. But don’t rely on this method alone. Reportedly, cats quickly learn to hunt with a bell on their collar.
You may also consider getting your cat a Birdsafe collar. These collars are bright and colourful, making them easily visible to birds. They have proven to be over 85% effective at reducing bird deaths!
Keeping your Cat Indoors
Keeping your cat indoors during certain times of the day and year will help maintain its prey’s safety. Birds are most active at dawn and dusk, so you should restrict your cat’s outdoor access during these periods.
Also, consider starting to keep your cat indoors more as the climate in your area gets warmer. Birds will nest, and then as their chicks begin to leave their nest, they become vulnerable. This is known as fledging season.
Ensure your Cat’s Diet is full of Meat and Protein
You can reduce your cat’s urge to hunt by ensuring their meals are varied and full of protein to resemble their natural diet.
Also, try to feed your cat small, regular meals throughout the day. This is not always easy, with most people working 9-5 jobs. However, doing this closer simulates your cat’s natural feeding pattern, again; reducing their urge to hunt.
Opt for Thorny Bushes in your Garden
There are some steps you can take to make your garden safer for wildlife. For example, having thorny bushes in your garden gives birds a place to nest while also protecting them from predators such as your cat. If you like, you can also invest in a wire fence to be placed in front of bushes and shrubbery, as it would hide birds, mice and other mammals from your cat.
Install Tall Feeders and Boxes With Safe Designs
Finally, try to place your feeders in areas where your cat can’t reach them. Aim to keep your feeders and bird boxes at least two and a half metres off the ground, one and a half metres from shrubbery and well away from ledges and windows.
Purchasing feeders with metal or plastic poles will eliminate your cat’s ability to climb them, making them safer for birds. Furthermore, attach a downward-opening cone to the pole where the feeder sits.
Also, make sure to clean up any seed spillages regularly to avoid birds feeding from the ground, as this is where they are most vulnerable to your cat.
How to keep Foreign Cats out of your Garden
It’s hard enough to protect wildlife from your own cats, let alone from strays and cats belonging to neighbours.
To deter other cats from entering your garden, try planting Coleus Cania, which is a plant with an aroma said to prevent cats and other mammals. You can also try surrounding your garden with chicken wire, ensuring your fences are highly maintained.
Its imperative to remember that it is illegal to capture cats or harm them in any way. It is possible to strike a balance and make your garden safe for all wildlife!