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While birds seem to love birdbaths on or near the ground, neighborhood cats see them as an opportunity to hunt. I have two strategies to keep cats out of my birdbaths: 1) Set up a simple “all natural” birdbath defense for low birdbaths and 2) Get birdbaths up away from cat hiding spots. It is working very well.
Neighborhood Cats In The Yard
Our neighborhood has a horde of cats. Some are most definitely either feral cats or are never brought inside by their people. Others are house cats that roam the neighborhood during the day. They all find our yard infinitely appealing and interesting because so many birds visit the feeders and birdbaths.
Interestingly, the cats that are currently the most aggressive hunters in the yard are the cats that I’m pretty sure are well-fed house cats and not feral. They probably eat some of the birds they catch and carry some of them home to present to their people. Sigh.
Keep Cats Away From Feeders
I can’t practically do a lot about keeping cats completely out of the yard. So I try to at least keep cats away from feeders and birdbaths as much as possible. For feeders, I have four strategies to keep cats away:
- Place feeders up on poles.
- Or hang feeders from tree branches out of the reach of cats.
- In summer, a Yard Enforcer sprinkler keeps groundhogs and cats out of a garden in the middle of my back yard.
- Place feeders away from spots where cats can hide.
And yes, even with all this, I still have to chase various cats away. I imagine the neighbors have probably decided that the nutty woman they hear loudly and repeatedly saying, “Go Home! Go Home! Keep Moving! Keep Moving!” ought to be locked up. Sigh.
(For the record, I do like cats. Our four indoor cats were born to a feral cat in our garage. We got momma cat fixed, gave two kittens away and kept four. When another feral had a wound on his leg that wouldn’t heal, we took him to the vet. And one of our previous cats was also a feral kitten. I wish people would keep their cats inside but they don’t, so that is reality.)
Stop Cats Hunting At Birdbaths
One bird hunting strategy cats try is to sit right next to a birdbath. They count on inattentive birds to fly quickly to the water without scouting it out first. This feline behavior drove me nutty because I didn’t want to draw in birds to what amounts to a cat trap.
Pine Cones Keep Cats Out
My first solution has been surrounding the birdbath with pine cones. We have a couple very large pine trees that yield a good crop of very prickery ones. I gathered several buckets of them and scattered them around the low birdbaths. This creates a buffer zone of about a foot around each. Cats can no longer sit right next to the birdbath waiting for birds to come to them.
I originally wondered if they would just sit a bit further away, but the pine cone buffer seems to have done the trick. Cats sitting there are now more exposed. Even if a bird did come to the water, the cat would have to walk or jump through the pine cones to get to the bird, something not comfortable to a cat’s paws. So they’ve stopped.
There are still cats around every day, but at least they aren’t lurking right at the water source, so I feel that I may actually have won this part of the battle. We’ll see what they try next . . .
A Tall Birdbath Keeps Cats Out
So far in this post I focused on keeping cats away from birdbaths on or near the ground. Another option is to use a higher birdbath placed strategically.
I have a Studio-M Birdbath Artpole (above) that both I and my backyard birds love. It is tall enough that cats can’t sneak up on them when they are on the birdbath. (The trick is to place it away from anything a cat could hide and jump from.) I don’t have to put pine cones around this birdbath and my neighborhood cats have never hunted around it. It’s just not a good hunting opportunity for them.
A Railing Birdbath Keeps Cats Out
Another possibility is a deck-mounted birdbath. I originally had a DIY birdbath on a table on my front porch but the only way to keep cats from lurking around it was to surround it with the pinecones. I don’t mind a this defense in the garden, but it can be awkward on a porch.
So I eventually replaced this birdbath with an Erva Clamp Mount Bird Bath that hangs off the outside of the porch railing. If cats try sitting up on the railing by the birdbath, birds see them and stay away. And if they sit below the bath on porch, birds can fly before the cat could jump up on the railing to get them.
I am happy to say, that while an occasional cat will hop up on the railing to take a drink, they stopped camping out on the front step, giving the birds (and me) a bit more peace.
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