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Reducing Threats From Cats
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Photo by Avery English-Elliott/NAS

Problem:

House cats are non-native predators. Even with a full stomach, their instinct to hunt drives them to stalk and kill available prey. In a wildlife-friendly yard, birds, small mammals, and even large insects are sitting ducks for the well-designed feline carnivore. House cats are effective hunters but unnatural predators in any outdoor setting. By killing millions of birds each year in North America alone, cats have a negative and dangerous impact on bird populations.

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Solutions:

Keep Cats Indoors

How can this help? Keeping cats indoors ensures that birds outdoors stay safe. Cats, too, benefit, as they’ll be exposed to less risk of disease, parasites, predation, poison, and accidents. According the to American Humane Society, cats that are allowed to roam outside live an average of 3 years while indoor cats typically reach an average age of 15 years.

Practicality — HIGH: There’s no better way to eliminate the threat of cat predation and to protect the cats themselves.

Provide Cover

How can this help? Vegetation or a brush pile can provide a place for birds to escape to and hide. Plants should be close enough to feeders (10-12 feet) to allow feeding birds a safe approach and quick escape, but far enough away to enable a clear view of approaching cats.

Practicality — HIGH: As you develop a yard that is safe for wildlife, it’s easy to include dense vegetation or a brush pile in your plans.

Deter With Water

How can this help? A gentle spray of water from a water pistol or plant bottle can encourage cats to vacate your wildlife-friendly environs.

Practicality – MED: An inexpensive cat-deterrent but dependent on your vigilance when cats are present. It also may take repeated and consistent spraying to get the point across. Other humane methods of making cats unwelcome include motion-activated sprinklers at entrance points, cat-proof fencing, and thorny brambles under feeders.

Humane Traps

How can this help? Humane traps provide the means to trap visiting cats so that they may be transported safely to the local animal shelter.

Practicality – HIGH: In some cases, stray or troublesome cats can be trapped by local animal control authorities. Otherwise, traps can be purchased at your local home center and reused if the problem persists.

Ultrasound Deterrents

How can this help? Using ultrasound deterrents in the yard eliminates the need for physical barriers. The best devices use motion/heat detectors geared specifically for cats.

Practicality – MED: Ultrasound deterrents can be expensive and on larger properties, more than one might be needed. But they have proven to work successfully.

Communication

How can this help? Talking with your neighbors and asking them to keep their cat indoors or confined to their yard can help eliminate a problem at its source.

Practicality – MED: It’s not always easy to approach your neighbors about their pets, but it will go a long way to save birds.

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Further Resources:

Cats Indoors!
The Campaign for Safer Cats and Birds

http://www.abcbirds.org/cats/

Happy Indoor Cats – Factsheet
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

http://www.keepanimalssafe.ca/happy_indoor_cats.htm