According to a series of articles posted on newsela.com, bird lovers in Florida have been protesting the state’s TNR (that’s Trap-Neuter-Release) program for feral cats. Rather than put hundreds of thousands of unwanted cats to sleep each year, the Humane Society captures these hapless felines, and, as the name suggests, neuters them so that they cannot repopulate, then releases them back into the “wild”. This, the avian advocates say, creates a danger to the local feathered fauna, in that traditional option of putting the cats to sleep helped keep the population down, thus reducing the cat-to-bird predation.
While we at ARWS applaud Florida’s alternative method of population control (we hate to see ANY animal – feathers, fur, or fish – put down unnecessarily), we can also very easily see the protesters’ point of view as well. Outdoor cats, feral or not, can be a big problem for the local bird life, especially during migration season. More than once, our neighbors’ cats have left gruesome little “presents for us on our back porch, ironically near our bird feeders. With this in mind, ARWS offers some helpful hints on how to safeguard your backyard bird buddies at feeding time, to keep the diner from becoming dinner.
One pretty obvious option is the aptly names “cat-proof” bird feeder (I told you it was obvious). This device is basically a tubular feeder mounted inside what looks very much like a hanging wire bird cage. The gaps between the bars are large enough to allow cardinal-sized birds through, while still keeping the great tabby hunter at bay. These run an average of about $75, but DIY-ers can make a pretty good simulation with some fairly low-cost fencing materials from your local hardware store.
If option 1 doesn’t appeal to your pocketbook, and option 2 doesn’t quite gel with your sense of aesthetics, a much simpler solution is to mount a standard hanging feeder on a 10-15 foot hook pole. Strong winds not withstanding, this should be more than enough to keep the cuddly carnivore’s from reaching your favorite dine-and-dash daredevils. Just be sure to mount the pole far enough away from trees and man-made structures that might allow for some aerial acrobatics on the cats’ part.
One last bit of unusual advice is the strategic use of hazelnut shells.
Yes, hazelnut shells.
It seems that that the cracked shells are somewhat sharp, and don’t feel very good poking into fuzzy feet. Some bird enthusiasts have found that sprinkling the broken shells beneath where the feeder hangs is a clever and frugal way of deterring unwanted feline attention (as an added bonus they shells also apparently make great fertilizer).
While this list is admittedly pretty short, there are a LOT of other ideas floating around the internet. Unfortunately, these mostly involve steps that need to be taken by that cats’ owner. A few examples are special outdoor cat enclosures, electronic collars that emit a bird-specific subsonic whistle, and a special neoprene bib that prevents cats from catching birds (and if you’re brave enough to try to put a bib on an angry cat, let us know how that worked out for you).
Let us know any fun and inventive ideas you’ve come up with on your own to keep your feathered feeders feline free.