Even the most pampered cat can be intrigued by birds, closely watching and even pouncing at any bird nearby. It’s devastating if your cat actually catches a bird, but it is possible to entertain your cat with a bird feeder while keeping your backyard birds safe.
Cats Need Entertainment
Cats often have the reputation of being fiercely independent and self-sufficient. But without adequate mental stimulation and enrichment, even a healthy, well-fed, safely sheltered cat will have an unhappy life. Exercise and entertainment will help a pet cat maintain a healthy weight and flexible joints. It will also help calm behavioral problems such as anxiety, aggression, and neediness. Entertained cats will be more sociable and less likely to cause unwanted damage.
See also: Top 3 Worst Bird Feeding Mistakes
Let Cats See Birds
Good, clear views are essential to keep a cat engaged with birds at a feeder. There are several safe, easy options that can help cats get closer – but not too close – to bird feeders, including:
- Window Feeders: There are many bird feeder designs that hook directly to windows using sturdy suction cups. You could also position a hanging hook right above a window so the feeder is positioned close to the glass.
- Close Feeder Positions: If it isn’t possible to use a window feeder or attach a hook to the house, position any feeder pole within three feet of the window. This keeps the feeder close enough to engage the cat, and also close enough that startled birds are unlikely to fatally strike the glass.
- Ground Feeders: If your cat watches the outside world through a glass patio door, putting a feeding tray or ground bird feeder on the other side is a great option to bring birds near for close views. Sprinkling seed directly on the ground in a cat’s viewing field is another option.
- Garden Windows: Specialized windows for extending sills to grow flowers or herbs can be great to give your cat a bird’s eye view of outdoor activity. These windows stick out from the house slightly and allow your cat a wider angle of viewing to see feeders further away.
- Catios: An enclosed “cat-patio” can be great to give your cat outdoor exercise and safe interaction with nearby birds. These structures might include shelves and sitting areas, as well as elevated walkways for the cat to explore and get different views of feeders in the yard.
If possible, provide your cat with several different ways to see backyard birds for the most enrichment. Deeper windowsills, sturdy shelves, or cat condo towers positioned near the window can all be useful. This will also give multiple cats different viewing opportunities without sparking territorial issues.
Attracting Birds to Your Bird Feeder
Even if your cat has the best view of a feeder, it won’t be helpful if birds don’t visit. Use good quality birdseed such as black oil sunflower seed or a premium seed mix to attract more birds. Keep feeders clean and filled at all times. Larger feeders can accommodate more birds, but you should also consider using different types of feeders. Using suet cages, mesh socks, and hopper feeders all at once will attract a great variety of birds.
See also: How to Clean Your Bird Feeders
Keeping Birds (and Cats!) Safe
Cats can be very intelligent and inventive as they stalk prey. Your cat will undoubtedly watch birds with a keen eye for how to catch a feathery visitor. It’s critical to take every possible precaution to protect birds—and your cat!
- Keep the viewing window tightly closed and locked, or if you do prefer to have it open for scents and breezes, keep a tightly-fitted screen firmly secured to avoid any escape attempts or accidental tumbles outside.
- Use baffles and other barriers around the feeders to discourage any outdoor neighborhood cats, strays, or feral cats that might wander into the yard.
- Provide nearby dense shrubbery or a brush pile for birds to retreat if they feel threatened. If birds do not feel safe visiting a feeding area, your cat will have nothing to watch.
- Be sure your cat’s perches have sufficient traction, surface area, and weight-bearing ability for your cat’s needs, especially if you have more than one cat that may take advantage of the same bird-viewing opportunities.
- Remove window coverings from the viewing area, or ensure they are cat-safe and won’t result in dangerous tangles or snagged claws if your cat bats or pounces at the birds it sees.
With proper preparation and care, you can easily entertain your cat with a bird feeder. With these tips, you’ll only keep your cat amused, but keep your backyard birds safe at the same time.