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Can you create a bird friendly garden with a pet cat?
Monday March 24th 2014
There is some evidence that cats were first domesticated almost as many as 10,000 years ago, but domesticated cats still share many attributes with wild cats, and the desire to hunt is certainly one of these. Many cat lovers are also big bird fans, which means their pet's remarkable hunting skills can often be cause for concern, as birds are all too regularly dragged into the home.
Can make your garden a safe place for birds with a pet cat then? You could make it much safer by keeping your cat indoors, but this might not be practical and if your cat has grown accustomed to going outside it is unlikely to take kindly to these new limits on its freedom. However, there are some ways you could make your garden safer for birds without turning Felix into a house cat.
Attach a bell
A ringing bell used to mean dinner time in school, but fitted around your cat's collar it can warn birds that they're about to be had for lunch. A study by the RSPB found that a bell on a collar could 'reduce predation of birds by 41%', making it a simple and effective way to help keep birds a little safe.
Keep your cat well fed
As many as 3 million cats in the UK are considered obese, so it's obviously important that as a responsible cat owner you don't over-feed your pet. However, if your cat is underfed he or she is much more likely to go searching for food elsewhere. If you're unsure about how much you should be feeding your cat talk to your vet.
Choose dinner time wisely
As well as how much to feed your cat, you should also know when to feed your cat. Since birds are most vulnerable during sunset and sunrise, as this is when they are most likely to feed, if you can feed your cat at these times they will be less likely to catch birds. Depending on the time of year this might not be possible, of course, but keep your cat indoors at these times one way or another can help cut garden wildlife casualties.
Keep bird feed above ground
If you enjoy a garden full of birds you probably feed them – if you want to make your garden as safe as it is nutritious you should think carefully about where you put food. Avoid leaving food on the ground – this is inviting cats to pounce on them. Instead place food boxes where cats will have trouble getting to them. If you use feeding stations or have a bird bath consider placing spikey plants such as holly around them to keep cats at paws length.
While some people might wonder if cat owners should do everything they can to discourage birds from their garden altogether, the RSPB suggests that birds and cats can live together if the proper precautions are taken.
When things go wrong…
Without keeping your cat indoors it will always be impossible to make your garden a 100% safe space for birds - but that doesn't mean you can't make it less dangerous if you want to. If your cat does bring an animal into the home it's important to react appropriately, even though it can be distressing. Remember that it's in your cat's nature to hunt and attempting to discipline or scold the cat will have little effect but to upset it. Instead try to find out how your cat managed to catch something - was it due to the time of day, or because of where the birds were feeding for example - and take extra measures to combat this specific problem and make your garden as safe as possible.
This article was written on behalf of helpucover. helpucover is a trading style of Pinnacle Insurance plc, an insurance company who offers pet insurance.