You have several options when trying to keep cats away from birds. If you don’t own a cat, using a cat deterrent spray is your best option. For cat owners, your best option is to use an ultrasonic fence to keep the cat away from the bird.
What You'll Learn
Nothing puts a damper on bird watching like a predatory cat. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping cats at bay so birds will stay.
Odors and Sprays
The most natural and budget-friendly cat deterrents are easy to get if they are not already in your home.
Citrus peels and white vinegar are both known to be off-putting to cats who need to be dissuaded from roaming where they’re not welcome, birds or not.
Simply sprinkle some citrus peels or spray some white vinegar around your bird feeder or favorite trees to establish your “no cats allowed” zone.
You may find some sources indicating that other common items such as coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, and garlic can be used, but it’s important to understand that these things are all known to be toxic to both birds and cats if ingested.
Similarly, essential oils should be avoided, except lavender oil, which can be effective and safe when used sparingly and in the proper concentration.
Store-Bought Sprays and Drops
A quick internet search will also bring up a variety of pre-made sprays and drops that you can purchase if you prefer a more standard formulation.
Some of these sprays are advertised as also being effective at keeping other perceived nuisance animals, such as dogs, skunks, squirrels, and other rodents out of your space.
Reviews indicate that some of these sprays can unfortunately also be too odiferous for humans and/or require frequent reapplication to be effective, so be sure to read some product reviews before buying a bottle.
For those with domestic cats who insist on going outdoors, putting a bell on the cat’s collar can help warn nearby birds that danger may be incoming.
Similarly, a colorful 2-inch collar cover made by Birdsbesafe was designed to warn birds of approaching cats.
In a 2015 study published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, it was determined that cats killed 19 times fewer birds while wearing the collar cover than without it. As a bonus, if the cat will tolerate a wide, silly looking cloth around its neck, it affords some entertainment value to owners!
If you have an indoor bird and a curious kitty that won’t leave it alone, you can look into an indoor radio fence transmitter that sends static and tone signals to a collar worn by your cat. Use it to create an invisible fence around your bird’s cage area. It will begin emitting irritating sounds, effectively signaling to your cat when they have gotten too close to the border and training them to avoid the area lest they get an unpleasant earful.
Motion-Activated Ultrasonic Sounds
Like the invisible fence mentioned above, you can find motion-based sensors that will emit an unpleasant audio signal (inaudible to humans) and/or lights to dissuade cats from invading your space.
These can come as plug-in devices for indoor use, or solar-powered stakes you would insert into the ground for outdoor use.
Motion-Activated Sprinklers and Sprays
There are a handful of motion-activated sprays that can sense and dissuade encroaching felines, from the traditional lawn water-sprinkler to cat-specific formulas meant to curb bad kitties. Some sprays are self-contained, battery-powered, or plug-in bottles designed for indoor use, and others are stake-in-the-ground styles for the outdoors.
Strategize Your Bird Feeder Placement
Fence Your Feeder In
The more boundaries you place between cats and birds, the better your chances of keeping them apart.
Creating a literal physical barrier around your bird feeder or favorite birdwatching tree in the form of a short gardening fence can also be an excuse to add some cute decor to your yard.
Placing your bird feeder away from shrubs or other places where cats might lurk can help avoid sneak attacks. They even create plastic mats with a pointed surface (imagine a plastic carpet runner turned upside-down) that cats won’t want to walk on, which you can use to encircle your busiest birdwatching spots.
Manufacturers claim these are not harmful and only cause a startle response similar to pulling your hand back as if from a static shock.
However, if the mat doesn’t suit your needs, you can also try a pourable granular cat repellent formula that allows for more placement flexibility.
The granules employ a scent-aversion method similar to sprays and drops. They are typically created with the urine of predatory animals like foxes and coyotes to scare cats off.
Remove Other Cat-Attracting Elements
Are there things in your yard that might attract cats other than birds? When barbecuing or dining outside, make sure you don’t leave food unsupervised and be careful to secure any garbage containers in the vicinity. Keep your grill and grilling tools clean and free of any charred-on food.
Contact Your Local Humane Society or Animal Rescue
If stray and feral cats are what’s plaguing your neighborhood bird buddies, give your local rescue group a call. These animal welfare professionals are trained to manage colonies and reduce these populations through trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs.
Animal rescuers are happy to work with their communities to protect birds and other wildlife populations from free-roaming cats and are typically very willing to help educate the public about best practices for managing them.
While cats can pose a threat to bird populations, there are thankfully many tools available to help broker a peaceful co-existence between them. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you determine the best options for your needs. Once you have found the most effective method to keep cats from interfering with your birdwatching, you can sit back and enjoy without worry!
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.