Hi, this is Jane from the Wild Bunch with our latest column.
When talking about ways to support and encourage wildlife in our gardens and open spaces, the topic of cats can be a thorny subject. The number of birds and small mammals that cats kill is a cause of concern for nature lovers, many of whom will also be cat owners. But cats are challenging as they are free spirits, often roaming far and wide.
Of course most pets have no respect for garden boundaries, so even if we are not a pet owner, taking a few simple steps may help protect our wildlife when next door’s cat makes its way over the garden wall! You might place bird boxes high and away from easy-to-climb branches and put bird tables onto a metal pole so they are more difficult for cats to reach. Cat-scarers that emit a high pitched noise and lion manure cat repellent are both said to be effective.
For owners, buying their cat a collar with bells is another possibility, although the RSPCA recommends only those collars with quick-release mechanisms. Another approach would be to keep your pet indoors, at least at dawn and dusk when wildlife is most at risk. Or you might follow the findings of the Exeter University study published in 2021 which found that feeding cats a high meat-content diet and playing with them for 5-10 minutes a day (such as with a toy “mouse”) both reduced their tendency to hunt.
By making small changes such as these we can all play our part in helping wildlife and pets live alongside one another. To find out more about ways to support wildlife in our gardens and open spaces, or to sign up for our next get-together, “Wildlife and Water” on May 18, join the Wild Bunch.