I love feeding wild birds but how can I make sure my cats won't hunt them?

A perennial question for a cat owner and bird lover is "I love feeding wild birds but how can I make sure my cats won't hunt them?" One veterinarian advises to lock your cat inside the home while you feed the birds. Not great because once cats are used to using the cat flap, they become confused when it is suddenly and inexplicably locked. They might even harm themselves trying to force their way through it and damage the device.

I love feeding wild birds but how can I make sure my cats won't hunt them?
Image: MikeB

Perhaps the best way to do it is to feed the birds when your cat is almost guaranteed to be asleep and/or have a bird feeder which cannot be accessed by a domestic cat.

Asleep

The question is based on the fact that we are discussing indoor/outdoor cats with cat flap access. These cats, being crepuscular and night-time hunters are going to be tired and sleepy in the middle of the day or whatever their personal body clock dictates. Their owner will know of these moments as cats are creatures of habit. 

That's probably the best time to feed the birds. Birds will know when you feed them and wait. 

Inaccessible bird feeder (for a cat)

You can also use hanging bird feeders as opposed to bird tables which are all but impossible for a cat to get at. That is the answer, I think. But there is one more, albeit expensive solution.

Diet

Apparently, studies indicate that cats fed on wet meaty diets are less likely to want to hunt birds compared to cats on a dry kibble. Scientists from the University of Exeter in the U.K. have revealed that domestic cats on a 12-week diet rich in meat without plant protein and grain killed 36% fewer animals than those who were on a dry kibble diet.

The same researchers also showed that playing with your cat for 5-10 minutes a day reduced killing behaviour by 25% and puzzle feeders reduced killing behaviour by 33%.

Personal

I feed the birds, squirrels, foxes and badgers. I very rarely have a problem with my cat (a great hunter) attacking birds. He has attacked pigeons from time to time, but the feeder is protected from my cat and if I see him preparing to attack a pigeon I intervene. I can do that because I'm retired.

When you feed squirrels, you attract and feed pigeons. This exposes them to a cat attack. I feed the squirrels behind a fence which is a barrier for my cat.

Cat confinement (containment) fence?

That's another possibility: build cat confinement fence around a bird feeder. A cat can't access the feeder at all. This would protect birds 100%. However, this may be too pricey for many. These fences are made by businesses like ProtectaPet in the UK. 

Confinement fence: a possible solution for protecting birds feeding
Confinement fence: a possible solution for protecting birds feeding. Image: MikeB

They are designed to keep cats inside the backyard. They can be used for other purposes as they present a near guaranteed barrier to even the athletic domestic cat.

Colourful collar

The colourful collar has been proven to be fairly effective in protecting birds from a cat attack as it warns them of the approaching cat. Click this link to read more. This method is far more effective (around 50% effective) than bells on collars as cats learn to stop the bell ringing by stopping it moving.

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