How to keep cats away from birds

How to Stop Cats Killing Wildlife
Cats have two roles in human society, to be pets and to control pests.  Cats are very good hunters, hunting rodents, insects, birds, small rabbits and so on.   You may want them to kill rodents; but most people do not want them to kill native birds.

Interestingly, research has shown that –
  • Cats with kittens will catch prey around every 1.5 hours
  • Cats without kittens will catch prey around twice a day
  • 40 – 65% of outdoor cats will have prey in their stomach
So cats are natural hunters, but this can cause distress to their owners, when they see their beloved pet chasing and killing birds and smaller creatures.  Cats are not cruel; they are only doing what it is natural for them to do.  Cats do look cruel when they appear to “play” with their food, but researchers have argued that this is actually displacement behaviour, as when the cat catches the play, they may then start to believe the prey may fight back.  Hungry cats are less likely to play with their food, but this could also be because their hunger is greater than their fear that the prey will fight back. 

Some cats appear to hunt more than they need. Some suggest that ensuring the cat has enough to eat will stop them from hunting, but hunger and hunting do not appear to be related in cats.  Some experts believe this is because cats require variety in their diet, so they are motivated to hunt, even just after eating their prey.    But should we and can we stop a cat killing prey?

The most efficient way to do this is to keep cats indoors. But if the owner does this, then they will have to provide sufficient indoor exercise and mental stimulation. 
If the cat is not kept inside, owners can try walking them on a lead or build an outdoor enclosure.

It can be very hard to prevent a cat from hunting and killing, so it has been suggested that owners can approach this in a different way – rather than trying to change the cat’s behaviour, change the prey’s behaviour –

  • Do no put out bird tables or baths or anything that entices birds to the garden.
  • If you do put out areas for birds to feed; place them where the birds can clearly see cats approaching; and consider using clear shielding on the side a cat might approach; to stop the cat getting the bird; while allowing thew bird to see the cat.
  • Use deterrent devices that scare away birds (eg. wind chimes)
  • Put a bell on the cat’s collar, so prey can hear it coming
  • Get a collar with a sonic alert. This mimics a bird’s alarm call.

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