The cat next door!

Hello everyone, I am new here and this is my first post - I am after some general advice please about garden birds.

I always keep food out for the birds that visit my garden, and love seeing the sparrows coming to raid the bushes for insects and have a communal bath. I have blackbirds who visit, too, and I’ve even grown to love the pigeons who clumsily raid the feeders. My problem is that my next door neighbour has recently got a cat, and it turns out he is a keen hunter. At first he wore a bell, but she took it off him because she doesn’t want him to wear a collar, for his safety (which is fair enough, I love all animals).

A few pigeons have had near misses with this cat, as there are lots of bushes where he can hide, and I’ve seen him bring home a sparrow from another neighbour’s garden (and I’ve learned that they are category red?)  I stopped putting food out then, because I was afraid I was just creating a complete playzone for him. But since then, the birds have been coming as usual to the table and where the feeders were, but of course just finding them empty. I’m conscious that it’s breeding season and they will have young to feed. A local bird rescue posted about young starving birds being brought in to them and I just feel so much guilt.

I’m wondering really if anyone has advice on what I should do? Am I wrong to put out food when I know there is a predator around? Or is it wrong to not provide food when it has been so readily available? I’ve put ground coffee along the places the cat was hiding to try to deter him, and I’ve not seen him in a few days now. I’d love to hear what other people think as I’m torn completely on what to do for the best. 

Here’s some pictures of some of my visitors (Though I’m not great with a camera) Thank you for reading, Kath x 

  • Our back garden has bushes around a lot of it and we did lose a few birds to local cats. To prevent more losses we moved the bird table well out into the lawn, away from the bushes, so that the birds have a better chance of seeing the cat. Also, I bought some green plastic covered fencing wire and fixed it just inside the bushes at places where the cat used to suddenly rush out of hiding. The same effect could be done by placing small branches and twigs. Cats like to stalk, then make a sudden dash, they can't do that if there's obstacles. I've also bought a number of rigid plastic snakes that are fixed in the strike positions. These I've placed at points where the cat patrols and I keep moving them - the cats avoid them like the plague.
  • Thank you so much for this. The bath is in the middle of the lawn(ish) and the feeders are to the sides because we used to have the odd Sparrow-hawk years ago. What does the green fencing wire look like please? I want to be subtle because I don’t want to start a war with my neighbour but I’ve left the garden grow pretty wild for the sake of the birds and the bees and as lovely as her cat is, I don’t want him hanging around here!
  • You could also ask your neighbour if they could put a bell on the cat so the birds know if she's there.
  • In reply to Ladybarefoot:

    It's just the type of wire mesh fencing you would use in a garden. It's covered with a green plastic to make it easier on the eye than silver. I bought a small roll at a garden centre and cut off the bits I needed. The whole idea is to put something in place (whatever it may be) to prevent cats suddenly rushing out of the bushes to catch birds. I used the wire mesh in parts of the garden and it isn't really noticeable as it's concealed just inside the foliage. In other parts of the garden I've used small branches pruned from bigger shrubs and just pushed them into the ground. It's trial and error really. Cats like to patrol the same route, so any interruption of their routine, they don't like it. We still get the odd cat in the garden, but there's been no bird kills in the last year or two.
  • You could get a sonic cat deterrent. I've had very mixed results at best, but might be an option. The only one that worked at all was the RSPB recommended one, but that only worked when on mains. Battery power didn't seem to do very much, at least not after a short while.

    Another option is to ignore sparrowhawk predation, which is far more sustainable than cat predation. The feeders need to be away from ambush sites, as others have said. Sparrowhawks catch what they need to catch. Cats will keep catching each and every day whatever they can. (unless it's wet, when they seem to prefer to stay warm and dry).

    I personally would speak again with the neighbour about the bell on the collar. If they still don't want to use one, I would put the corpses on their side of the boundary, so they better understand the destruction that they're deliberately causing.

  • Ladybarefoot said:

    Hello everyone, I am new here and this is my first post - I am after some general advice please about garden birds.

    I always keep food out for the birds that visit my garden, and love seeing the sparrows coming to raid the bushes for insects and have a communal bath. I have blackbirds who visit, too, and I’ve even grown to love the pigeons who clumsily raid the feeders. My problem is that my next door neighbour has recently got a cat, and it turns out he is a keen hunter. At first he wore a bell, but she took it off him because she doesn’t want him to wear a collar, for his safety (which is fair enough, I love all animals).

    A few pigeons have had near misses with this cat, as there are lots of bushes where he can hide, and I’ve seen him bring home a sparrow from another neighbour’s garden (and I’ve learned that they are category red?)  I stopped putting food out then, because I was afraid I was just creating a complete playzone for him. But since then, the birds have been coming as usual to the table and where the feeders were, but of course just finding them empty. I’m conscious that it’s breeding season and they will have young to feed. A local bird rescue posted about young starving birds being brought in to them and I just feel so much guilt.

    I’m wondering really if anyone has advice on what I should do? Am I wrong to put out food when I know there is a predator around? Or is it wrong to not provide food when it has been so readily available? I’ve put ground coffee along the places the cat was hiding to try to deter him, and I’ve not seen him in a few days now. I’d love to hear what other people think as I’m torn completely on what to do for the best. 

    Here’s some pictures of some of my visitors (Though I’m not great with a camera) Thank you for reading, Kath x 

    Hi Kath, we also have cats that frequent our garden here, and thankfully, damage to birds and squirrels is extremely limited to just a few feathers in the successful attempts to get away from danger.

    The birds and squirrels have got our local cats sussed out, so hopefully any that do suffer would probably be at the end of their life, which I know seems hard, but that is nature and if it isn't the cats, then other predators will get and do their job.

    However, it does provide endless amusement watching these birds and squirrels taunt the cats.

    As per suggestions already made, plenty of cover in the form of bushes and shrubs, which we have plenty of here, along with trees and one garden border is a privet hedge which many birds fly in and out of.

    All feeders are high enough for cats not to get to, while low enough for us to view and easy access to top them up.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • Thank you all so much for your advice. Cats have never been a problem here in the 7 years I have lived here, so the birds seem completely oblivious to any danger and merrily poke about every nook and cranny without seeming to be on their guard at all. Maybe they will suss out this one with time.

    I’ve raided the shed today and put old plant pots under the bushes the cat has been hiding under. I’ll definitely pick up some of that mesh fencing and run it along a length of bushes where the bird table is (which is sadly now fixed in cement, because the pigeons and magpies were knocking it over... seemed a good idea at the time eh).

    I almost ordered the sonic cat repeller device the other day, but the reviews were so mixed, and since it’s only 1 cat I’m dealing with, if it doesn’t work on him then it’s completely useless. I’m going to speak to the owner again about a bell being worn, and invest in a pole stand for feeders that I can put in the middle of my lawn. I’m relieved that the general consensus isn’t to stop feeding altogether, truthfully, as I thought I would have to leave them try to search for food elsewhere. Looks like I have a lot of cat-proofing to do!
  • Sorry, I didn't see the bit about the bell that used to be on him.
  • Is there a chance you could speak to your neighbour about putting the bell back on?
  • Would be interesting to know what the neighbour said in response last week.