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How to Keep Cats Away From Bird Feeders (7 Proven Methods)

Kristin Hitchcock

Cats are a huge threat to most bird species, especially if they are outdoor cats. It is estimated that cats kill between 1.3 and 4 billion birds a year, though the exact number is difficult to estimate. A single domestic cat may kill somewhere between one and 34 birds a year.

As you might expect, bird feeders can attract more than just birds. After they’ve noticed the flurry of feathers, cats may decide that your bird feeder is worth staking out.

Of course, your goal was to feed your backyard birds, not the neighborhood cats!

If you’ve noticed cats stalking around your bird feeder, there are several things that you can do to keep them away. Often, it’s best to implement multiple methods.

1. Perfect the Feeder’s Placement

The placement of the bird feeder matters, especially when you’re trying to protect the guests from your furry friend. Placing the feeders in an open area reduces the cover for your cat, making it difficult for them to stalk the birds without detection.

When they know that the cats are there, the birds often do a good job of taking care of themselves. It’s the hidden cats that you have to worry about.

Also, placing the feeder away from trees reduces the chance that your cat will attempt to jump onto the feeder. Cats usually don’t perform many successful kills by jumping out of trees, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

Cat watching canary bird eating
Image Credit: Ekaterina Starmanova, Shutterstock

2. Use citrus

Cats hate the smell of citrus. But a bird’s sense of smell is minimal at best. They won’t smell the citrus, or at least they won’t care that much if they do.

Therefore, citrus can be employed to keep a cat away from a feeder. You can either place citrus peels on the ground or use citrus oil on the underside of the feeder itself. You don’t want to place it where the seeds are, as it often isn’t good for birds to ingest.

You can also sprinkle citrus oil directly onto the ground.

Other oils can also work as deterrents. Vinegar is widely disliked by cats and is a staple in most households. It will kill grass and other vegetation in high amounts, though. Therefore, you should be careful about pouring pure vinegar into your yard.

You can also purchase pre-made deterrents. However, these often simply contain citrus oil mixed with a few other things. They can also be expensive, while your homebrew will likely be just as effective.

3. Lay Out Spikes

You likely don’t want to install metal spikes around your bird feeder. However, cactuses and other plants are a different story.

Just like us, cats often don’t like spikes. These aren’t something that they enjoy walking on. If your climate enables you to plant cactuses or similar plants, they’re an easy way to keep a cat out of an area.

The birds aren’t going to care that the ground is spiky. They don’t need to touch the ground to get to the feeder.

You can also utilize rose bushes and similar plants. However, these are more complicated because some cats may choose to use spiky bushes as coverage. Not all rose bushes are particularly spiky either.

rose bushes
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. Use Pepper

Cats have a sensitivity to capsaicin, which is the “spicy” chemical in peppers. It won’t harm the cat if they sniff it.

Make a pepper spray by diluting a cayenne-based sauce with water and spraying it around the bird feeder. Aim to saturate areas that the cat likes to hide, like in the shrubbery and on the ground around the bird feeder. In this case, spraying the bird feeder itself probably isn’t going to help you much.

If you don’t want to make a spray, you can simply pour cayenne pepper flakes on the ground around the bird feeder. The smell will deter cats, and they’ll get an unwelcome surprise if they start sniffing around.

5. Install Motion-Detecting Sprinklers

There are a few motion-detecting sprinklers that are perfect for keeping cats out of certain areas. Most cats hate water. Even if they don’t, the sudden surprise of getting sprayed by water is enough to deter most cats from returning to the area.

The main downside is that these devices are expensive. They may also alert and turn on when the birds are around. Being sprayed with water is not a great experience for a bird either.

However, cats are unlikely to return to the area if they keep getting sprayed with water.

woman watering the garden
Image Credit: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

6. Keep Your Cat Indoors

If it’s your own cats stalking the bird feeder, you should likely keep them indoors. Even if you manage to scare them away from the bird feeder, they’ll likely get their bird fix elsewhere.

As you might imagine, this is not preferable in the least. Even if your cat isn’t preying on the birds at your feeder, they will be preying on birds somewhere else. There is little keeping them from harming endangered birds or just the bird population in general.

Of course, if someone else’s cat is stalking your bird feeder, there isn’t much that you can do if you can’t contact their owner. Feral cats are also out of your control for the most part, even though they pose the most significant risk to the bird population.

Related Read: How To Keep Cats Out Of Your Garden: 10 Proven Methods

7. Use Bird-Proof Collars

There are a few collars advertised to be bird-proof. We don’t have any evidence of their effectiveness, so we don’t recommend exclusively using this method. Instead, we recommend using it alongside others.

As long as you purchase an outside-safe collar, there is a minimal potential downside.

These collars come in many different designs. Some have bells on them, which birds are supposed to hear as the cat moves around. Others are brightly colored or even ultraviolet. Birds see these colors exceedingly well, so the theory is that they will notice the cat easier.

divider-birdsConclusion

Keeping your cat away from your bird feeder can be difficult. After all, there isn’t much that you can do to convince your cat to leave the birds alone. It’s in their nature!

However, there are a few different methods to deter your cat from the area. You can use scents to keep your feline away, as well as automatic sprayers. You can also get bird deterrent collars, which come in many different shapes and designs.

That said, the best way to keep your own cat from stalking the bird feeder is to keep them inside. If you care about your feathered visitors, keeping pet cats indoors is the only sure way to protect them. Of course, you can’t do this with neighborhood cats or feral ones, so you’ll have to try other methods.


Featured Image Credit: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!