Keeping Cats Out of Birdbaths

DIY Ground Birdbath
DIY Ground Birdbaths

I have several birdbaths in my yard year-round. All except one are either right on the ground or very close to the ground. The final one is on a fairly low table on my front porch. While the birds seem to love these ground birdbaths, the cats in the neighborhood see them as an opportunity to hunt, so I set up a simple “all natural” birdbath defense a month or so ago that seems to be working very well.

"Orange" cat stalking a squirrel in the brush pile.
“Orange” cat stalking a squirrel in a brush pile.

Our neighborhood has always had a horde of cats. Some are most definitely either feral or are never brought inside by their people and some are house cats that roam the neighborhood during the day. They all find our yard infinitely appealing and interesting because so many birds visit the feeders and birdbaths.

I can’t practically do a lot about keeping the cats completely out of the yard, so I try to at least keep them away from the feeders and birdbaths as much as possible. One strategy is to place feeders either up on poles or hanging from trees out of the reach of cats. (Sometimes the cats just sit under the feeders looking longingly up.) Another strategy is a Yard Enforcer sprinkler that keeps both groundhogs and cats out of a garden in the middle of my back yard in the warmer months. And yet another is to try to place feeders and baths away from spots where cats might be able to hide in wait.

And yes, even with all this, I still spend time every day chasing various cats away. I imagine the neighbors have probably decided that the nutty woman they hear loudly and repeatedly saying, “Go Home! Go Home! Keep Moving! Keep Moving!” every day ought to be locked up. Sigh.

"Harry" cat in the back yard.
“Harry” cat in the back yard.

For the record, I do like cats. We in fact currently have four indoor cats who were born to a feral cat in our garage. We got momma cat fixed, gave two kittens away and kept four of the kittens. We fed and took another feral to the vet when a wound on his leg wouldn’t heal. And one of our previous cats was also a feral kitten. I wish people would keep their cats inside but they don’t, so that is reality.

One new strategy the neighborhood cats came up with this summer was to find a spot to sit right next to a birdbath. They were counting on inattentive birds who might fly quickly to the water source without scouting it out first because they know the water is there. This feline behavior drove me nutty because I didn’t want to draw in birds to what amounts to a cat trap. (Interestingly, the cats that are currently the most aggressive hunters in the yard are the cats that I’m pretty sure are well-fed house cats and not feral. They probably eat some of the birds they catch and carry some of them home to present to their people. Sigh again.)

A pine cone defense around one of the bird baths.
A pine cone defense around one of the bird baths.

My solution has been pine cones. We have a couple of very large pine trees in our side yard that yield a good crop of very prickery pine cones. I’ve gathered up several buckets of them and scattered them around the various birdbaths, creating a buffer zone of about a foot around each. The cats can no longer sit right next to the water waiting for the birds to come to them. I originally wondered if they would just sit a bit further away, but the pinecone buffer seems to have done the trick. Cats sitting there are now more exposed and even if a bird did come to the water, the cat would have to walk or jump through the pinecones to get to the bird, something not comfortable to a cat’s paws. So they’ve stopped. There are still cats in the yard every day, but at least they aren’t lurking right at the water source, so I feel that I may actually have won this part of the battle. We’ll see what they try next . . .

Nancie

A pine cone defense around one of the bird baths.
A pine cone defense around one of the bird baths.

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