Cats And Birds. Can’t We All Just Get Along?
We know many people who love birds. Most of those simply have a soft spot in their heart for all animals. My adult daughter is one such person. She belongs to a Sea Turtle rescue organization and also rescues feral cats. Living out in the country as I do 5 feral cats have ended up in my backyard. They are spayed and neutered of course, and get regular vet visits and are well fed but still they are in my back yard and hunting is natural for them. How can I enjoy my birds and yet still care for cats that are also dear to me and my daughter?
You can search the web and find organizations that promote keeping cats indoors. This is a great idea but not practical for the feral cat population that we all know is already too large to begin with. If you live in a neighborhood with neighbors close by you’ll also have to deal with those that have no issue letting their cats out to come stalk in your yard. There’s not much you can do about this either. So what do you do when you can’t really keep cats out of your yard and you want to attract birds into it?
All birds have a height above the ground they prefer to have their nests in. I call this their habitable zone. As an example the Indigo Bunting’s habitable zone is 2 to 10 feet above the ground while the Violet-green Swallow’s zone is between 5 and 15 feet. To put as much space between your birds and any cats you should put your birdhouse as high in this zone as you can. Placing your birdhouse on a post 15 feet tall would be perfect for a Violet-green Swallow.
Many people place their birdhouses on a post purchased from one of the large, sell everything under the sun, hardware stores. This is a good option in many cases because it can be made to discourage cats from climbing. Putting your birdhouse in a tree provides too many ways for cats to get to your birds. If you purchase a 4″ x 4″ post from a hardware store also purchase an 8 foot section of PVC drainage pipe 5″ in diameter and a can of expanding foam sealant. One you have the post in the ground, assume at 10 feet high, put the PVC pipe over it and into the ground about 6 inches. Seal the top of the pipe with the expanding foam and trim and paint it to match your landscape. This will prevent water from getting into the pipe and also stop the pipe from becoming a hazard to any chick falling out of the birdhouse. The pipe can also be spray pained and once in place will provide a great deterrent to cats and squirrels from attacking your birds.
Even with the best precautions you’re going to have fatalities. Be prepared for them. While we don’t like it it’s a fact of life and there’s only so much that can be done to prevent it. We all love nature and most of us don’t flinch when an Eagle or Osprey snatches a fish from the water. Yes, they are hunting and no one is feeding them like they do domestic cats. However cats cannot ignore their nature. It’s what they do. Take all the precautions you can and be satisfied that you are doing your best to help our feathered friends survive and thrive. When you do have the unfortunate loss see if there’s more you can do to prevent it, maybe put up another birdhouse. Do not dwell on it because you are doing all you can.