If you have a bird feeder, you’ll enjoy offering little birds a safe place to rest and have a snack. However, cats can target bird feeders once they realize the installation attracts the flying critters.
You can keep cats away from bird feeders by placing the feeder on a tall pole with a 360º view so the birds can watch for predators. There should be no strong trees or structures nearby that a cat can climb, and spiky landscaping below the feeder will deter cats from walking on it.
Cats take a devastating toll on birds and other small wildlife. Whether you’re looking to keep your cats away from your bird feeder or want to defend against all neighborhood intruders, follow the tricks in this guide to keep your winged visitors safe.
Place the Feed on a Pole
The bird feeder placement is the most important factor when it comes to protecting the birds from cats. Cats are skilled hunters; they stalk their prey quietly and attack quickly. This spells disaster for many small animals.
Even though birds are fast-moving, they can easily be caught by a nearby cat hidden in the brush. A cat’s keen sense of hearing and smell, combined with its motion-detecting whiskers, creates a dangerous adversary for birds on the ground. Felines are quick to pounce on a bird that rests on the lawn, picking at worms, but it is much harder for them to attack a bird in the sky.
By placing your bird feeder on a freestanding pole, you immediately give the birds the advantage. While cats can still jump at the birds, it’s much easier for the little creatures to take flight. This position also allows the birds to view the surrounding area while they eat, giving them a much better chance of spotting a stalking cat.
Avoid Ground-Based Feeders
There are ground-based feeders that look adorable nestled into the bushes in your garden. However, these low-placed houses are traps for birds. Cats are extremely fast on the ground, and cats can easily trap the birds in the birdhouse or feeder.
If you decide to go with a ground feeder, you need to build a defensive line around the unit. You can install wire fencing that has a weave large enough for birds to fit through but small enough to block cats. A thick brush can also block cats from accessing the feeder, especially if the bushes are thorny.
Ensure a Clear View Around the Feeder
Wherever you place the feeder, you need to ensure a 360º view around the birds’ feeder. Even for ground-based feeders, placing them in a small clearing in the middle of the thick brush or the fenced area will give the birds a better view.
Being able to see all around the feeder allows birds to watch for incoming predators from all angles. Cats are more likely to hunt when they are hidden than when a bird is staring straight at them. If a bird can spot an incoming attack, it can immediately take flight and escape.
Remove Nearby Perches for Predators
Having your bird feeder on a pole is great, but if you put it next to a tree or shed, you defeat the purpose. Cats are expert climbers and can take advantage of any structure that is near a bird feeder. Even things you might not think your cat can climb, they might be able to. Cat’s have been known to walk along the top of chain link fences.
These are some of the structures that should be at least 10 feet away from your bird feeder:
- Garden sheds
- Children’s playgrounds
- Thick-limbed trees
- Garden structures
- Porch railings
- Decorative fixtures or statues
Install Prickly Landscaping Around the Base of the Feeder
Another way to keep cats away from your bird feeder is by installing prickly landscaping around the base. Stiff, scratchy hay or spiky rose bushes are unpleasant for a cat to walk on and will stop them from trying to jump or climb up the pole. Just remember, you’ll have to refill the feeder, so don’t place it too deep into a spiky zone that you can’t easily access.
Give the Birds an Escape Route
You can follow all of the advice on this list, but your birds will likely still be stalked. Give them a better chance of surviving by supplying nearby escape routes. These routes can be open-air routes off the property, but they can also be bushes and trees.
While you don’t want to place the feeder too near a strong-limbed tree that a cat could climb, a tree that is more than 10 feet away provides a safe place for a bird to flee to if a cat tries to attack them. Nearby bushes are also helpful for birds, as they can easily slip in between the leaves and take shelter amongst the branches while the cats are stuck on the outside.
Your bird feeder’s placement is a balance between providing the bird with coverage should they need to hide and avoid giving cover to prowling felines.
Use a Shield on the Pole
Cats and squirrels may both decide that they’d like a bite of something at the top of the feeder. While the cats are hunting the birds, the squirrels will be going after the feed itself. Both cats and squirrels are talented climbers, and they might be able to reach the top of the bird feeder pole just by clambering up it. Both creatures can also reach the pole by dropping down from above it.
You can stop these actions by installing a baffle on your bird feeder. You don’t need to buy a new feeder as there are plenty of after-market accessories available. The Aelean 13.5 Inch Glass Baffle is a multi-use tool that you can use to protect your birds.
You can mount the glass disk on the pole below the bird feeder to stop animals from climbing up it, or you can mount the shield above the bird feeder to protect the birds from attacks from above and to keep them dry when it rains.
Spray Scent Deterrent
There are certain scents that cats cannot stand, and their keen sense of smell makes these odors extremely effective deterrents. You can create your spray deterrent for many of these scents by mixing the ingredients and spritzing them near the bird feeder with a spray bottle.
Scents that cats hate include vinegar, mint, citruses, pepper, and cinnamon. Vinegar is especially potent, and you likely already have some in your home. You can put a cup of apple cider or white vinegar in a spray bottle and apply it to the area around the bird feeder. Make it even more effective by squeezing in the juice from half of a lemon. If you don’t have either of these ingredients, you can sprinkle fresh cracked pepper over the area.
Scent deterrents are especially effective if you know the specific area cats like to hang out in your yard. You can ruin their hunting activities by loading their favorite spots with these scents and reapplying them once a week.
Felines are a huge danger to birds in the garden. If you’re tempting the flying beauties into your yard to have a snack, then it is also your responsibility to protect them. The best ways to keep cats away from bird feeders include:
- Placing the feeder on a pole
- Avoiding ground-based feeders
- Giving the birds a 360º view of potential threats
- Removing nearby perches for cats
- Installing prickly landscape and bushes to hide in
- Purchasing a squirrel baffle to block attacks
- Spraying scent deterrents
- NWF: The Cat Conundrum
- NWF: Keeping Birds Safe From Outdoor Cats
- Texas University: A Cat’s Five Senses
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.