Nature is nature, but I’m sure many cat owners feel a little guilty if their pet kills a bird. But cats and birds can live relatively harmoniously in our gardens with a few simple measures, says The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Baby birds in particular are vulnerable from predators like cats, but with some minor interventions, the number of chicks killed can be minimised.
The wildlife charity is keen to tell cat owners what they can do to avoid chicks being caught and is offering the following advice:
- Put a bell on the cat's collar. An RSPB study shows this can reduce predation of birds by 41%. The collar should have a quick release buckle and fitted properly.
- Make sure cats are well fed and cared for. This may encourage them to stay close to home and be less likely to wander
- Keep your cats indoors around sunset and sunrise and after bad weather – birds are most vulnerable at these times as its when they are most likely to come out to feed.
- Take your cat indoors if a fledgling is in the garden, until its parents lead it away
- Avoid putting food on the ground for a few weeks where cats are known to catch birds. Use a bird table or higher ground where cats cannot reach it
- Place spiny plants such as holly or an uncomfortable surface around the base of the feeding station to prevent cats sitting underneath it
- Position nest boxes where cats cannot reach them or sit close to them (preventing the parents birds from getting to the box).
“Baby birds are extremely vulnerable and it is very upsetting if you discover the remains of one that has been eaten by a cat so by fitting a bell, keeping them indoors for the most risky times of day and raising your feeding stations, you could avoid distress for all.”
One RSPB member said: “I have a young cat that is extremely active and I also have two feeders, a water bath and a bird table which is full of all sorts of birds.
“Of course my cat is a hunter and does what comes naturally to him from time to time but if I try and feed him at dawn and dusk, this is inevitably followed by a sleep which is the other thing that comes naturally to him!"
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