Keeping Garden Birds Safe – How To Protect Birds From Cats

A Cat And A Bird On The Lawn
protect birds
(Image credit: gbphotostock)

Even the most lovable, adorable, housecat loses it when presented with birds fluttering in front of a window. If you want to protect birds from cats, the first step is to keep Fifi inside, but what about protecting birds in the garden from feral cats?

While you can’t stop cats from killing birds entirely, there are some things you can do proactively in your landscape that will go a long way in keeping garden birds safe.

Keeping Birds Safe from Your Feline

When it comes to protecting birds in the garden from your own pampered cat, the best idea is to keep the animal indoors. That said, cats are famous escape artists and even the most cautious owner has been known to have an escapee on occasion.

To protect the birds from your feline, it’s a good idea to keep their claws short. No need to de-claw but simply a trim or even filing at least the front claws will go a long way in protecting the birds in the garden. Filed nails won’t allow the cat to climb trees to get at birds or will at least make it more difficult.

Also, if you think that a cat should be allowed outside, try putting the cat on a harness or leash. If that fails and the cat is desperate to be outside, build them an outdoor enclosure or “catio.”

If you have an outdoor cat, put a bell on their collar to warn the birds. Spay or neuter your pet as well. If Fifi does bring a bird home, do not praise the cat for the “gift.” This will just reinforce the behavior. Keep your cat well fed so they aren’t as likely to want to catch and eat birds.

Keep your cat indoors at least an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise when birds are their most active.

How to Protect Birds from Cats

While it is impossible to keep cats from killing birds entirely, there are some steps you can take in your landscape to minimize their death toll.

  • Keep feeders and bird baths at least 5 feet (1.5 m.), ideally 10 to 12 feet (3-4 m.) from shrubs or other cover that can conceal a stalking cat.
  • Choose landscape plants that repel cats, like thorny bushes and those with a strong scent. Also, use sharp mulches.
  • Inspect fencing for gaps or holes and repair them. Block areas under decks, behind sheds, and other hidey holes that cats like.
  • Select birdhouses with a steep roof and without perches. Nesting boxes should be kept up at least 8 feet (2 m.) off the ground.
  • Keep an eye out for ground nests that are most vulnerable to prowling felines and avoid using ground feeders. Clean up any spilled seed on a regular basis to keep birds from feeding on the ground. Also, use metal or plastic poles to support bird feeders so cats can’t climb them.
  • Lastly, report feral cats to the local shelter. You will not only be doing your part in protecting birds in the garden but also protecting the stray cats as well.
Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.