A cat catches a bird: unfortunately a common picture in our gardens. But what options are there to protect birds from cats in the garden? Can you stop cats from catching birds? And what to do with birds that have been rescued from cats?
Cats and birds are not friends [Photo: Losonsky / Shutterstock.com]
Free-range domestic cats are often not welcome among bird lovers. Although the popular cuddly tigers are not necessarily more dangerous than any other predator, their large numbers in home gardens make them a real problem. About 13 million cats live in Germany, of which about 8 million are free-range animals and a considerable number of songbirds every year loot. Of course, we don't want to demonize house cats, because many cat lovers are also bird lovers and wish to protect their garden birds as well as to give their house cats enough space to roam. To this end, we have put together a few tips for a cat-safe garden and also explain how you can wean cats off bird-catching a little and what to do with a bird that has been rescued from cats.
Protect bird houses and the like from cats
Regardless of whether it is your own or a neighbor's cat – if a little predator sneaks around the garden regularly, it means a lot of stress and uncertainty for our domestic garden birds. This is especially true for the breeding season, as young birds are particularly easy prey and the parents of birds are disturbed by predators in their brood care, because they have to fly detours to the nest and the search for food is made more difficult.
Especially in the breeding season, cats are a problem [Photo: HildeAnna / Shutterstock.com]
The following tips can help make life easier for wild birds in a feline-rich environment:
- Secure feeding places and nesting boxes: Do not put food on the ground and instead offer it in hanging bird feeders or on high feeding places that are inaccessible to cats. The same applies to nest boxes; these are, for example, in good hands on a smooth facade at a height of at least 2 m.
- Counter with fragrances: Cats can also be kept away from the garden or from certain places by unpleasant smells. There are both special powder as well as helpful plants, such as the so-called 'piss-off plant' ( Plectranthus caninus ), which is supposed to keep cats away for several meters, but seems odorless to us.
- Provide shelter: In dense or even thorn-reinforced bushes, birds find quick protection from predators and free-breeding species even find safe nesting opportunities.
- Secure your trees: To keep cats from climbing around trees, there are special wire belts that you can attach to the trunk. Alternatively, you can also plant thorny bushes here or, for example, wrap blackberry tendrils around the trees.
- Owners of outdoor cats should also make sure that their cats are neutered and tagged to avoid uncontrolled reproduction and release into the wild. In addition, if possible, at least during the breeding season from March to June, the outdoor area could be restricted or better supervised.
Thorns are a safe cat barrier [Photo: Aashish M Choudhary / Shutterstock.com]
Can you stop cats from catching birds?
The hunting instinct of cats is a primal instinct that cannot be so easily trained. Although domestic cats do not depend on wild animals for food, the hunt satisfies their need for movement and their play instinct, which is extremely important for the psychological well-being of the big cats. Anyone who tries to actively deter cats from hunting is not doing them any good in the long run. Instead, however, you can try to satisfy the play instinct in other ways by playing with them yourself and keeping them occupied. This can reduce the hunting instinct.
Cat brings live bird: what to do
If you manage to rescue a wild bird from the clutches of a domestic cat, the first thing you should do is to get an idea of its condition. If the bird does not fly away immediately and appears apathetic, but has no external injuries, you should bring it to a dark, quiet place in a cardboard box with air holes. The birds are then often in shock and need rest to recover. If the animal starts to stir and tries to fly away, you can release it. However, if the animal has not recovered after several hours or if you notice external injuries or broken limbs right away, you should contact a veterinarian, a bird sanctuary or a suitable foster home, such as one of the NABU wild bird sanctuaries. Because caring for injured birds requires experience and expertise and usually goes wrong in the hands of laypeople – even if it is well meant. As bacteria from the cat's saliva can penetrate even through small injuries to the bird, it is very important to go to an ornithological veterinarian. This can give the bird antibiotics and prevent worse.
You can find out more practical tips and instructions in the event that you have found an injured bird in our special article.
Injured birds need expert help [Photo: Kev Gregory / Shutterstock.com]
Not only cats, but also diseases and parasites can make life difficult for birds. The most common diseases and parasites of birds are presented here.