Wild Bird Seed - cat scaring
Cats have always been a problem for birds. Despite being fed daily by their doting owners, they are still compelled by their 'hard-wired' nature to hunt birds and kill them. Then, when they aren't moving any more, they lose interest, so don't even eat their kill. Cats are guilty of killing tens of millions of wild garden birds every year, and are probably implicated in the decrease of many wild bird populations in cities as this article in the NewScientist suggests. And this website.
The first defence, if you have a cat, is to fit it with a collar and bell so it can't move without noise. This will give birds an early warning and hopefully prevent your cat from harming any of your wild bird friends. Never leave your cat in the garden; escort it to do its business, and then back into the house. Cats are not wild animals feeding themselves, unlike feral cats who eat everything they kill, and don't need to exercise much so don't need to be left in the garden for hours. Keep the cat in at night; as nocturnal killers, they are are quite capable of climbing up to a birds' nest in the dark. There's also a collar you can fit to your cat which will warn birds, called the CatAlert Collar, it can be bought online here for £19.99. Surveys have found that using this cut bird predation by two thirds.
Cats are sly and can learn to creep along so that the bell doesn't sound much, but bells do give birds and other wildlife some warning, so they are better than nothing. Bells don't prevent stealth attacks – no bird will be able to react to the sound in time, but they do alert feeding birds to fly up into the trees. Another tip is to keep your cat's claws trimmed, especially in spring, this hampers it in climbing fences fast so slows down it's attack speed. If you own a cat and want to let it outside, get it to come in for a main meal in the evening and then not go out again till next morning. Dawn is a particularly dangerous time for birds, they are hungry and looking for food, and the light is still not good enough to spot a hiding cat. Dusk is also a danger time for the same reason, and the birds are hurriedly feeding up before nightfall, so may be less vigilant.
So, what if you don't have a cat, but cats from the neighbourhood come into your garden? If you have a dog, he or she can be utilised to scare them out; letting the dog out when you see a cat in the garden will usually result in a short chase followed by the cat jumping onto a fence and disappearing out of the garden. If this is done every time a cat is seen in the garden, they will usually become nervous and get the idea that this garden is not a good place to be, and will stay away. My dogs are trained and willing to launch themselves into the garden when I whisper 'catssss' to them. Despite having lived with a cat for years, other cats are fair game [despite which they have never caught one and I'd be horrified if they did].
This site has some information on cat scaring. There are various cat scares available to purchase, or, if you're at all handy, you might like to have a go at making one yourself. This site has one which should be easy to copy if you can't afford the very reasonable price.
Or you might wish to opt for the ultrasonic method, although this is said to deter dogs and foxes as well, so if you have a dog [or fox] be careful not to alarm or scare them. Another method of deterrance is smell, cats are said to be averse to the smell of citrus [lemons] as well as several other substances, and crystal or gel products are available, as well as sprays, although some report they can be less than effective.
Amazon have a range of devices to scare cats, as does Primrose, and then there's the Scarecrow although it should really be called a scarecat as crows aren't bothered by it! There actually is something called a Scare Cat which costs just £5.99.
If your neighbour's cat makes a habit of visiting your garden and sitting around staring, like the one in the picture above, you could try suggesting they put a bell on its collar, explaining politely why. Some people just don't know the damage cats do; I have witnessed – a great tit with both legs bitten off, he had little chance of survival and will have starved to death; a blackbird with just one leg, and though managing ably to feed and fly and hop, life can't be easy for it. And those are just two survivors. If all this fails to convince your neighbour, just mention that there's a risk of their cat catching bird flu, the deadly strain H5N1 has been found in lots of cats in Indonesia so can clearly make the species jump from birds. If their cat catches an infected bird it could become ill and die. That might do the trick.
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