Do cats smell bad when kept indoors

A difficult relationship

About cats and birds in the garden

As pets, domestic cats are right at the top of the popularity list. More than 14 million live in Germany. Cat lovers can do a lot to keep the number of garden birds killed. NABU has a few tips ready.

Domestic cat - Photo: Helge May

As pets, domestic cats are right at the top of the popularity list. More than 14 million live in Germany (as of 2019) and by no means all of them are under human care. According to estimates, almost two million wander about without a owner.

But the other house tigers don't just hang around in apartments and houses, they often hang around in the open air. Like their wild counterparts, they go on the hunt and prey on birds, but also other wild animals such as larger insects, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals.

The number of cats is particularly large in settlement areas. Since there is usually a high density of songbirds there, especially in the gardens, the table is always richly set for these predators. Their hunt for blackbirds, finches, robins, tits and other garden birds therefore regularly leads to irritations between cat owners and bird friends.

The cats does not stop to mice...

Our house cat is descended from the Egyptian falcon, a wild cat. Despite thousands of years of domestication, it has remained a predator and has retained many of the characteristics of its wild ancestral form. So cats do not let the mousing, even if they are well supplied with food and actually do not need to go looking for food. Following their hunting instinct, they roam larger territories and mainly catch house and field mice.

But songbirds also belong to the range of prey. As the Institute for Pet Science at the University of Kiel has determined, they make up a good twenty percent. But by no means all victims are eaten. Stalking and grabbing the prey serves not only to acquire food, but also to act out the instinct to play and, in young cats, to practice hunting behavior.


Above all common species are captured

Since the birds in the settlement area are exposed to strong enemy pressure, they are under stress. In addition to corvids, griffins, owls and mammals such as squirrels and martens, domestic cats play a not inconsiderable role. Like other predators, they also avoid energy-sapping hunting efforts. That is why they usually only prey on common species such as blackbirds and tits. Young birds as well as birds weakened by age or disease are particularly easy prey.

The decisive factor for the stability of bird populations, however, is not the number of their enemies, but the quality of their habitat. Where there is sufficient food, nesting and hiding places, the birds can reproduce successfully and can usually cope with losses from predators, including cats.


Risk to ground breeders

Since our feathered neighbors in the cultivated landscape are exposed to a variety of damaging influences, the high cat density in urban and village fringes with endangered bird species such as the ground-breeding skylark can make a decisive contribution to the extinction of local populations.

As a cat owner, you are responsible for your animal, even if it roams unattended in the garden during the day or at night. Cat owners should also take the wild birds into their hearts, because the love of animals should be indivisible.

Thomas Schmidt


Tips for cat and garden owners

Cat lovers can do a lot to keep the number of garden birds killed

  • Only get a cat if you have enough time and space. Play with her more often. This is also how she can live out her hunting and play instincts.
  • The abandoning of cats is prohibited under animal welfare law. Adoptable cats must hunt to survive. They mainly eat captured wild animals and therefore birds more often.
  • If you are absent for a longer period of time, ensure that your cat is reliably looked after. If that is not possible, you can also temporarily accommodate the animal in an animal shelter or boarding house.
  • Have both male and female cats neutered. You will become more at home and wander around less. At the same time you avoid replenishment for feral cat populations and you do not have to worry about the whereabouts of the offspring.
  • Think of the birds outside, especially in spring. Then many a young bird falls victim to homeless and stray house cats. Therefore, especially in April and May, it is best not to let your cat out of the house or at least not outside unattended.
  • A collar with a small bell draws the birds' attention to the cat, but is of no use to the helpless offspring. In addition, the ringing is an ordeal for the sensitive cat ears.
If you have a garden, there are several ways to help the birds:

  • Design your garden close to nature. Perennials, shrubs and trees offer the birds many hiding places. Blackbirds, thrushes, finches and starlings stand on a close-clipped lawn as if they were on a presentation plate, inviting cats to prey on them. In an organic garden, of course, other wild animals such as newts, frogs, lizards or slow worms find protection from hunting cats.
  • To keep cats away from nests in trees, you can put around fifty centimeters wide defensive sleeves made of sheet metal or plastic on the trunks. Or use blackberry tendrils. It doesn't cost anything. Do not use barbed wire, because cats, but also other "bird lovers" such as squirrels or martens, could injure themselves dangerously.
  • Hang nest boxes in such a way that cats have no access: on facades or freely hanging on side branches and at least two meters above the ground. Nest boxes with a steep, smooth roof are particularly safe for cats, as they do not offer any support.
  • Place bird feeders and bird baths at least two meters away from the nearest bushes. This way, cats cannot sneak up unnoticed.
  • Cats have highly sensitive noses. If you can't stand smells, avoid the sources of smell. Cat-repellent litter powders are commercially available. The so-called "piss you off" plant has become fashionable. This plant with the vulgar nickname, also known as the harp shrub (Plectranthus caninus), belongs to the mint family and is available from specialist gardeners. It is best to plant near nesting sites. It should keep cats within a radius of two to five meters away. By the way, we don't smell the plant.

Since domestic cats roam large areas in their search for prey, they naturally do not stop at garden borders. So get in touch with your neighborhood. Maybe she also has a cat and is not as well informed about the problem as you are. Protective measures taken by individuals are not for the cats, but only if as many garden friends as possible, whether cat owners or not, help the birds, do fewer victims fall victim to the house cats.


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