protecting birds and cats

Too often, the debate about feral/free-roaming cats and Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) becomes a debate about whether feral/free-roaming cats should be killed en masse to ensure the safety of another species. 


The debate shouldn’t be about 'who' gets to live, but how to ensure the well-being of both species to the best of our human ability. Being a cat lover doesn’t exclude the desire to ensure the safety and well-being of the birds that nest in our yards, or grace our porches. But being a cat lover does give us important insight into cats’ behavior and how best to try to manage their natural instinct to hunt and their need to eat. 


Humans, as the primary architect of the growing feral cat population, need to collectively come together to humanely manage the population until its numbers are reduced through the efforts of TNR.


While some may not agree with what I have experienced, and I would be foolish to say that something will work 100% of the time, I’ve found the following points important to the process of maintaining a balance between a predator cat, and a non-hunting cat:


1) A ‘fixed’ cat (one that has been altered) is less likely to roam (staying relatively close to its food source) and therefore is less likely to stumble upon nesting birds. 


2) A fed cat (in a managed colony) is much less likely to hunt as their food source is already being provided to them on a consistent basis.


3) Cats can be kept away from yards or areas where birds are nesting through the use of cat-repellents such as:


  • Shake Away® which has been extremely effective in deterring cats.  Shake Away® is a 100% natural, non-toxic product made from the urine of natural predators that cats fear (such as coyotes). 


  • Products such as Havahart Spray Away® Motion Activated Sprinkler or the Scarecrow® by Contech are both motion activated sprinklers that spray water at yard ‘intruders’.


  • Plants that give off smells that cats dislike will also deter cats from yards. One such plant, Coleus canina, goes by the common name, "scaredy cat plant" and can be planted around boarder areas of yards to help keep cats away. Citronella plants, and lemongrass can also be helpful deterrents. 


  • Water will usually always deter cats from yards.  A quick spray of water at a cat in your yard will usually have the cat hightailing it out of there in no time at all.


  • Loud noises such as pennies in an empty can shaken loudly will usually scare a cat and keep it away.  Done consistently for a period of a day or two whenever the cat is seen in the yard will usually keep the cat away for a while.


  • Citrus and lemon peels scattered in the yard will deter cats from entering, as well as spraying orange oil around the boarders of your yard or garden. This needs to be refreshed frequently so the scent stays strong.


  • Contech CatStop Ultrasonic Outdoor Cat Deterrent is a motion-activated device that emits a burst of ultrasonic sound that startles cats and keeps them away.  The sound cannot be heard by humans.  While other animals such as dogs may be able to hear the ultrasonic frequency, they do not hear it at the same frequency as cats, therefore are not typically bothered. Birds are not affected at all.


In the end, it’s about collectively caring for all beings in a humane manner.  Yes, some of the solutions might be an inconvenience, but an inconvenience shouldn’t lead to the mass killing of feral and free-roaming cats – the product of which is mainly human irresponsibility.  The efforts of TNR have produced results in the reduction of the feral cat population.  Given time, and implemented on a larger, community-wide basis, Oakland will also see a dramatic reduction in the feral cat population due to birth reduction and colony stabilization.  The sooner we start working together, the sooner we’ll see the results we ALL desire.

Interested in attracting birds to your yard? The kids at the The Bird Watching Club in Arizona sent us this great link for making bird houses out of materials you might have around your home! We recommend always putting bird houses in a high, safe area away from cats and other pets.


For more information about the feral/free-roaming cat debate, please visit the blog Vox Felina.  Vox Felina, written by Peter Wolf, contains excellent information about the studies done on feral/free-roaming cats and those studys' findings regarding the population's impact on birds and wildlife.  Feral Change encourages anyone interested in this topic to read Peter's blog for the 'other side' of the story and a good critique of the process by which some of these studies were conducted.

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© 2019 by Feral Change