After all the happy news about our ribbon cutting, this post won’t be quite so upbeat. It’s a very difficult post to write because I love cats, and I love birds. In nature, cats and birds are enemies, as birds would be considered a food source in the wild. But here in Clintonville, we don’t have any feral cats that I know of, so for cats, birds become something to catch and play with and kill. They have a strong hunting instinct that kicks in even if they aren’t hungry.
We have several cats in our neighborhood who roam outside most of the day. I love cats and know that they will chase and catch anything they can. (Remember this post?) Some of the cats near us have bells on their collars that will warn away birds and other creatures like squirrels. I still remember one of the saddest sights from last year: a momma squirrel crying so forlornly, carrying her dead baby in her mouth. It had been attacked by a cat. I started to cry and just couldn’t stop. This year already, we’ve found several dead birds that had been killed by cats in our neighborhood. I have Pete bury them as I say a few words of love to speed them on their way to wherever they are going.
The best solution is for the cat owners to keep their cats inside, not only for the bird’s protection, but for the cat’s. I’ve come close several times to hitting a cat near our home. But if you are like us and have cats just coming into the yard (which we are trying to make a place that birds like to come and visit), then here are some suggestions on how we all can help our fine-feathered friends:
- Have the cat wear a bell on its collar.
- Keep claws trimmed to prevent climbing to get to birds.
- If cats must go outdoors, do not leave them unsupervised, and do not allow them outside overnight, during early morning or other peak bird feeding times.
- Keep bird feeders and bird baths at least five feet from shrubbery and cover that can conceal a stalking predator. Ideally, feeders should be 10-12 feet from potentially dangerous cover.
- Check brush piles and shrubbery regularly for ground nests and fledgling birds that are most vulnerable to prowling cats.
- Avoid using low feeders or ground feeders that make it easier for cats to capture wild birds. Clean up spilled seed regularly to minimize ground feeding birds.
- Use plastic or metal poles to support feeders so cats’ claws cannot help them climb to the feeder. Baffles are another option to deter hunting cats.
I will leave you with this very sad photo taken in Glen Echo by Chris O’Leary. It’s an indigo bunting that was killed by a cat without a bell on its collar. I have never seen one of these beautiful birds (Pete has in the ravine), and I can tell you that this is not how I wanted to view this bird for the first time. It saddens me so.
Until next time.