Keep Cats Out of Birdbaths

Last Updated on August 12, 2021 by Nancie

DIY Ground Birdbaths surrounded by pine cones keeps cats out
DIY Ground Birdbaths

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.

"Orange" cat stalking a squirrel in the brush pile.
“Orange” cat stalking a squirrel in the brush pile.

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.

Cat Chasing

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.

"Harry" cat sitting on a log
“Harry” feral cat in the back yard.

(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 around one of the birdbaths keeps cats out.
Pine Cones around one of the birdbaths.

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.

Pine cones around one of the birdbaths keeps cats out.
Pine Cones around one of the birdbaths.

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.

Don’t have pine cones? Try something else prickery. One particularly stubborn neighborhood cat was getting into every possible hiding space. Not having enough pine cones to fill in all these spaces, I used cuttings of bramble sticker branches tucked here and there to discourage him.

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 . . .

This Tall Studio-M Birdbath Keeps Cats Out
This Tall Studio-M Birdbath Keeps Cats Out

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.

Evra Deck Mount Birdbath
Evra Deck Mount Birdbath

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 pine cones. 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.

My Favorite Birdbath: Studio-M’s Birdbath Artpole

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13 thoughts on “Keep Cats Out of Birdbaths

  1. Thank you for posting this great idea! I have 4 cats outside, feral cats who have been neutered. They live here, and so do the birds. I have feeders on poles, but didn’t know what to do with the bird bath/water. I have pine trees with plenty of cones! Brilliant! I’m going to try it!
    I love cats AND birds. Now, maybe the birds will be safe! Thank you!

    1. Hi Jane, It’s definitely something worth trying and it’s nice that it doesn’t cost anything either. Our yard is full of bird feeders and bird baths and so we have lots and lots of birds. That seems to mean that every outdoor cat in the area, whether feral or a neighbor’s cat, loves to hang out in our yard which drives me a little crazy at times. (We have four indoor cats, so I do like cats too!) The pine cones really helps in our yard. There was one particular cat that found some way to move pine cones out of the way so he could settle next to the bird bath a few times. I added more cones to the area to add more challenge and that solved it. Good luck! Nancie

  2. I am sick of cats killing my birds at my birdbath. I have pine trees nearby (plenty of cones) so this idea sounds terrific! I will try it tomorrow!

  3. I think we might have the same little black and white cat patrolling our yard! Thanks for the pinecone idea. I also love cats (we have indoor kitties), birds, and Mother Nature’s!

    1. Hi Mary Pat,

      I hope the pine cones do the trick for you. I’ve got another cat who just decided to stake out the area under my suet feeders. So I’m going to gather pine cones for that today too!

      I’m a big Mother Nature’s fan. One of my favorite places. Great people. Great stuff!


  4. Great ideas! We have 2 cats who we can’t keep inside, because they are used to and love their freedom to roam outdoors. Which was fine when we lived in a rural area, but less so in our current neighborhood. Cats are predators who will hunt no matter how well fed they are, and unfortunately birds are irresistible prey. I’m always trying to minimize the risk for the birds (although I’m pleased my tomatoes have “body guards”), so this was an excellent post.

    1. Hi Kerstin, I’m glad it was helpful. I wish cats could curb that impulse but that’s not who cats are. Our cats have been indoor cats since they were kittens so they are content with their indoor domain, but they still get very excited when a squirrel or bird comes to the window sill and would hunt them if they could.

      Putting feeders and birdbaths up high or surrounding them with pine cones does help tremendously with stopping cats from hunting around those areas. Of course, it won’t keep them from chasing birds in other parts of the yard. But you can try to observe that too. I’ve also used my pine cone trick in some garden areas to keep neighborhood cats from lurking in cover in other spots where birds congregate.

      Good luck!

  5. If a property changes hands after many (say, over 10) years, and the new family doesn’t provide regular food and water year round, I suppose bird ancestral groups (I call multi-generation say, Cardinal families or other repeat seasonal visitors who return from the north ever year to same yard) will potentially suffer loss of food/water sources that may be serious to those unique groups?

    1. Hi Jan,
      I think it depends. Birds have to be somewhat flexible to survive. If we are just talking about one family’s home feeders, I think it is likely that birds would search out other food and water sources in the area. In some areas and environments, that might be difficult for them but in others they might just need to find someone feeding birds down the block.

      Now if we are talking about many families stopping their feeding so that there are no feeders or easy water sources in the area, the local birds *may* need to move on to find what they need. BUT, it is also important to remember that in most cases, the food we provide in our feeders supplements a bird’s diet. It is usually not their whole diet. Many feeder regulars also eat many, many insects for example. Our feeders help them out, especially in the winter months, but they are not usually their only source of food.

      BUT that said, it is also fair to think about the impact that humans have had on available resources for wildlife. With all of our building, the birds have lost forests and ponds and meadows and grasslands and wetlands where they can find food and water. I think each person who provides food and water for birds is helping, in a small way, to provide at least for the types of birds that come to feeders. And arguably more important and helpful is for homeowners with a yard to provide an environment where birds can thrive. Planting flowers and other plants, shrubs and trees native to your area can provide food for birds and food for insects that birds then eat (especially food for caterpillars that birds feed their babies.) So if someone is not able or interested in providing food in feeders or keeping birdbaths clean, they might still be helping birds tremendously by planting a bird friendly yard.

      Hope that helps.

  6. Bird feeders are hung from a tree .. so why can’t a birdbath hang from a tree… Cats won’t be able to get into it all..

    1. Hi Karen,
      There are definitely birdbaths that can hang from a tree limb. I haven’t personally tried one so I can’t comment on them from experience. I actually considered one recently for my yard but the area where I wanted the birdbath didn’t have a suitable limb. One option might have been to hang it from the arm of a pole but the weight of the hanging birdbaths I saw gave me pause. My soil tends toward loose and sandy, so hanging something really heavy on a pole can cause the pole to lean. (I move feeders and poles around a lot so don’t want to cement them in place.) My thought is that a hanging birdbath might need to be a bit on the heavy side to keep it from blowing too much in heavy wind. And water itself can be heavy. But again, I haven’t used one myself so I’m speculating.

      But anyway, I agree that a hanging birdbath could be an option if you have a strong tree limb or could hang it from a porch or something similar. If you placed it right, it would keep it out of reach of most cats, although of course other critters like squirrels or raccoons could get in. (Although I’m stingy with which critters eat the birdseed I put out, in my yard, I’m fine with whoever needs water drinking it.)


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