Citrus peel and bells: Tips to stop cats killing birds 

Are visiting cats scaring the birds away from your feeders and birdbaths? There are things you can do to deter them, say experts.

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Research suggests cats are unlikely to have a major impact on bird populations, because they tend to go for weak or sickly birds that would have died anyway.

But if you don’t want your cat delivering a feathered gift to your back door, there are ways to deter it, says conservationist, ornithologist and cat owner Dan Rouse, author of How To Attract Birds To Your Garden.

Here are some top tips from Mr Rouse and Helen Moffat of the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Use a collar with double bells

Cat with double bell collar (Alamy/PA)

“If my cat is playing in the hedges the birds know that he’s coming, so it would give them time to hide,” says Mr Rouse.

Read: Bizarre facts about cats

Fill bird feeders when the cat isn’t around

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“Feed the birds outside of your cat’s playtime,” Ms Moffat suggests. “If you are letting the cat out in the morning, don’t go and feed the birds as soon as the cat’s out because it will be primed and ready to play.

“It’s better to feed the birds when the cat’s indoors, so the birds get a chance to feed without disturbance.”

Site nest boxes carefully

A cat looking at a nest box (Alamy/PA)
Be careful where you site nest boxes. (Alamy/PA)

Make sure your nest boxes are not near the top of a flat surface, such as a wall, where a cat could sit and physically reach down for fledglings, she advises.

Use plant deterrents

Plant thornier types such as roses or hawthorns around your bird feeders, discouraging cats from approaching too closely, Mr Rouse suggests.

“Cats don’t like citrus-scented plants such as lemon mint or lemongrass. My cat doesn’t like lavender at all.”

Ms Moffat adds: “Dense climbers and thorny shrubs provide cover for birds, preferably not too far from the feeders so they can flit back and forth in safety. Just ensure it’s not substantial enough for cats to use as cover too.

“Vegetation such as this is helpful for birds at other times of the year, offering berries for food in the autumn and potential nesting sites in spring. This kind of planting provides some nice greenery to look at as well, covering up bare patches of fence and, if you choose native plants, it will help pollinators.”

Move ground feeding stations upwards

“Where you place food is important – avoid ground-feeders if you know there are cats around,”  Ms Moffat advises.

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“Use a bird table instead, with objects around the base and stand, such as plastic bottles, that make it hard to climb. Metal poles are slippery and make it harder still. Hanging feeders are great for many birds but make sure they’re not too close to walls and fences that cats could jump from.”

Deter neighbouring cats

Spread citrus peel and zest near your bird feeders and dishes, and at the foot of gaps in hedges, as the smell may deter uninvited cats, Mr Rouse suggests.

And if all else fails

“We recommend the Catwatch cat deterrent,” says Ms Moffat. “The sound emitted is inaudible to humans and safe for other wildlife. Cats don’t like the noise so will tend to steer clear. We’d always remind people to be mindful of not harming cats when choosing their deterrents.”

Do you have outdoor cats? How do you keep them away from birds? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: How to keep Indian mynas out of your garden

– With PA


  1. Cats need to be kept inside, not allowed to wander around at will wherever they want through the neighbourhood. You can get cat runs to let them run outside, but not leave your own yard as they are wildlife killers.

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