Your favourite feline might not be a particular threat to the wildlife in your area – but domesticated cats in general most definitely are. It’s not the cats’ fault. But human importation of vast numbers of domesticated cats into environments where they do not naturally belong takes an enormous toll on wildlife. Sadly, if you have a cat that goes outside, then you are contributing to environmental harm. Your cat will almost certainly do some harm to the wildlife in your garden and the surrounding area, whether you are aware of it or not.
Keep Cats Inside
If you are a cat lover who also loves wildlife then the only 100% effective way to dissuade your cats from attaching birds and other wildlife in your garden is to keep them indoors.
The great news is that keeping cats indoors most or all of the time is not just beneficial for wildlife, it can be good for cats too. As long as cats are loved, kept healthy and entertained, they can be very happy as indoors animals.
If you do feel they need some time outside, consider training them for leash walks, or adding a ‘catio’ or enclosed cat pen in your garden.
Domesticated cats are not a natural part of the ecosystem, and can cause a lot of damage. It’s not their fault – it is ours. And we have a duty to make sure that if we keep cats, they do as little harm as possible.
Bells and collars are often used to try to limit harm to wildlife from outdoors cats. Sadly, science has shown that these bright collars and bells are only ever partly effective. And in the greater picture, do little to solve the problem of cat predation on wildlife.
Deter, Distract or Repel Cats
You might not have cats yourself, but may have neighbourhood cats that come into your garden. If your garden is in their territory, it will be challenging to keep them out or deter them altogether. Remember, high, solid fences may keep out cats, but they will also prove barriers for wildlife you do want in your garden.
While it will not do much to solve the issue on a broader scale, sowing a cat-friendly garden area with catnip to attract your own or neighbourhood cats can help to keep them only in certain zones. This can help stop them from using your vegetable plots as litter trays, or scratching up your garden. It may also keep them busy and stop them preying on the birds and other wildlife in your garden.
Certain plants may also repel felines somewhat. And timed security lights and sprinklers could also potentially repel them to a degree. Though each of these measures only has limited efficacy. And if there are cats around, the fact of the matter is that wildlife won’t really ever be safe.
Protect Wildlife as Best You Can
Cats are natural predators. That can be helpful when they are killing house mice or other rodents. But we don’t want them to kill the garden birds we are lovingly trying to feed.
You can give wildlife a fighting chance against cats by making sure that you keep wilder and more vegetated areas in your garden, with plenty of spots for wildlife to hide away in. A rich and biodiverse perennial planting scheme will help you make sure you have a wildlife friendly garden.
It is also important, however, to make sure that there is an open area around your bird feeders, bird baths etc. As a clear sight line around these areas will mean that it will be easier for the birds to see attacks coming. Make sure felines can’t hide out and make sudden attacks on areas where wildlife is congregating.
If you find that your bird feeding area is attracting local cats too much, then sadly, you may have to stop feeding birds in this way. Creating a congregating area by placing feeders can make birds too vulnerable to attack. Instead, you may have to think about attracting birds and providing food more naturally, through planting plenty of nut, berry and seed producing shrubs and trees, and ensuring healthy insect/ earth worm populations for birds that eat them.
Once, it was common to allow dogs to roam free. Now, that is not something usually done. For the sake of our wildlife, we should keep felines from roaming freely too. It is the only way to protect our wildlife and ecosystems while still keeping our beloved pets.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.