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cat row

MYTHBUSTING - Myth 1 - I can't feed my garden birds because I have a cat...

By Rob 4 years ago

In his younger days our cat Noah was a keen hunter... He even caught and dealt with a Fox Cub once! However, we imposed a strict cat curfew to reduce his impact and now aged 18 and nearly blind - he is now no threat to anything... except maybe Marj - the Cairn Terrier who he is determined to keep in order! Thanks for Mark Eccleston for the fab Photo!

Simon Sherlock on the CAT astrophe podcast

By Heather 12 years ago

I am pleased to welcome Simon Sherlock to The Wiggly Blog. He asked a perfectly valid question on cats and set the whole row off. Here's his attempt to sort the whole sorry tale out. From my point of view - sorry about podcast 68 - we lost it! thats all I can say. If you haven't listened to the show and are in a good mood - dont! And if you are in a bad mood - definitely give it a miss!!

"Podcast 68 shows that the battle of the cat’s still rages on at Wiggly Wigglers and, highly amusing and interesting that I find said battle, I think it’s maybe time it was put to bed once and for all. But before it goes I’d like one last stir of the pot and to give a list of instructions, suggestions and products that can help both sides enjoy their garden and/or their pets.

Firstly though, I’d like to address some of the points made in the podcast as, try as I might, I just can’t keep out of it, especially as my name was mentioned more than once as the person to blame for starting the whole thing off (even though I’m quite proud to say I did).

The cat discussions always start with the killing of birds by cats, which is of course the extreme. And the RSPB get quoted as saying that cats mostly take old and sick birds that would die anyway. I would disagree slightly and say that cats take ‘vulnerable’ birds, so not only old and sick but also young and fresh out of the nest birds with the rest of their lives ahead of them (Oo, Must. Stop. Sounding. Like. Richard). Cat owners must be made aware of this and do their best to stop it happening whether by supplying their cat with a decent collar or bib (see list below) or by keeping them inside early morning and early evening (again see list below).

From my side it is not so much the actual killing of birds that annoys me (though I’d prefer none to be taken) but the frightening away of the birds leaving me with a lovely colourful garden, bereft of the sound of wild life and the sight of birds flitting from branch to branch and hedge to hedge, with young birds in the nest demanding their next meal etc, etc. I’ve tried hard to make my small patch wildlife friendly and encourage birds, bees and other insects into my small garden on the edge of a rural Cheshire village; not only for my own enjoyment but also partly to try and teach my young children the wonders of nature at work and how you don’t have to live on an expansive farm or have a massive garden to do your bit and see the lives of other creatures unfolding around you.

I agree with Heather that cat owners should not be expected to keep their cats inside all day. I would go as far as saying that this is cruel to the cat and if you intend to do this you should question whether you should be keeping one in the first place as, to me at least, it’s on a par with keeping a Killer Whale or Dolphins in a swimming pool.

Heather is also right in that (most) cat owners do not set out to upset their neighbours by keeping cats. But just like when they buy a dog, or even have children, it is their responsibility to learn enough about their cat and it’s behaviour to try and stop it trespassing next door and running amok amongst the neighbours gardens. I liked the quote from somebody who said having a litter tray is a great way of stopping your cat from messing in your garden – in my experience they *never* use their own garden but instinctively know the neighbour who likes them the least and uses theirs!

On the vermin control issue I agree with Richard; the majority of cat owners do not get cats for keeping the mice and rat population down, especially in urban areas but rather as an “easy” pet that takes less looking after than a dog or other pet because they are so independent. I don’t dispute that people love their cats but believe that much as they should bear some responsibility for their children and their (possible) collection of ASBO’s, so should they bear responsibility for the actions of their feline friend(s).

So on that note, here’s the promised list of things that people can do to keep cats in or out of gardens, stop them attacking birds even if they do wander and things that the bird lovers can do to stop other people’s cats from sitting under bird tables and taking babies from nest boxes. There are bound to be products and ideas missing from this list so please add comments to the blog so that we can try and make this /the/ place to come for information on how to have a wildlife garden AND a cat (but only if you want one of course….)

For the cat owner

- Do try and keep your cat indoors early morning and early evening as that is when birds are most active and feeding in the garden.
- Do fit a decent collar either with a bell or a bib (see http://www.catgoods.com/TESTIMONIALS.html). This site ships free throughout the world but maybe Wiggly Wigglers would consider stocking it in future?)
- Make sure your cat is well fed and looked after as this may stop it wandering too far a field (though it’s unlikely to stop it taking wild life)
- Do try and fence your garden. It is hard to keep a cat in even with a properly fenced garden but a strand of electric fence wire along the top of a fence (solar powered of course) will discourage them from walking along the top and jumping into next door. Of course they will find a way but this will at least make it slightly harder.
- Unless you intend to breed cats have them neutered to discourage wandering (at least during the healing stage!) and stop the tide of unwanted kittens.

For the rest of us (I mean non-cat owners)

- Get an ultra-sonic cat deterrent such as CatWatch from the RSPB (http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/rspb/R0123) though be warned these will also send your dog potty.
- Fence your garden to the best of your ability
- Grow plants that cat’s dislike such as holly (under the bird table) and 'Scardy Cat' (Coleus canina), which gives off a right pong to cats but only affects humans when they touch it.
- Position feeders and bird tables to make it harder for cats to get at i.e. high off the ground and far enough away from things so that cats can’t jump to them.
- Position nest boxes where cats cannot reach them or sit close to them (preventing the parent birds from getting to the box).
- Use nest boxes with a pointy roof as cats will sit on a flat roof and take the parents as they leave the box leaving you with a nest of dying chicks (this from personal experience)
- Avoid putting food on the ground where stalking cats can be a problem.
- Buy a Jack Russell. Jack Russells love cats! Unfortunately they also like yapping and tearing your house to pieces, but if you can stand that, they are excellent pets.
- Use a children’s soaker gun such as a Super Soaker to frighten away trespassing cats. To be honest though, you have to spend hours waiting and cats are intelligent enough to wait until the nutter with the toy gun has given up and gone back inside before sashaying smugly through your garden. It will also just add to your anger when do spot them and you don’t have the gun or it’s empty. So best not to go there in the first place.
- The same can be said for catapults, which brings me to the following item on the RSPB web site: “Domestic cats are protected by law and it is an offence to trap, injure or kill them.”

I’m sure I’ve missed a few so please leave (sensible and law abiding) suggestions in the comments."

Simon