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How to Keep Cats Away From Bird Feeders: 6 Foolproof Methods

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

cat stealing food from bird feeder

It’s no secret that cats are one of the top predators that threaten most bird species, and this is even more true for outdoor cats. It’s part of your cat’s natural instincts to hunt, catch, and kill prey animals. Though you may spend time and money filling your bird feeders, your cat doesn’t know that! All they know is that they see prey and feel the need to attack it.

You can’t completely eliminate a cat’s hunting instinct. Instead, you need to find ways to keep them away from your bird feeders. This way, you birds will get to enjoy a nice meal without feeling threatened by your cat.

Even if it isn’t your cat doing the damage, this list of preventative measures is sure to keep the neighborhood cats away from your feeders.

The 6 Top Ways to Keep Cats Away from Bird Feeders

1. Find the Right Place

Where you put your bird feeders is going to play a huge role in preventing cats from coming near them. When you put the feeders in an open area, they are less likely to attract cats, as cats like to have cover when moving and hunting outdoors. If the bird feeders are away from trees, posts, walls, or other things that cats can hide behind and climb, then the chances of your birds being killed are immediately reduced.

cat in bird house
Image Credit: Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova, Shutterstock

2. Use Spikes

Metal garden spikes are often used to keep squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, and other rodents out of your yard, but they can be just as effective on cats. Cats are going to avoid spikes on the ground because they could get injured on them if they’re not careful—most cats are smart enough to realize that this is something they need to stay away from. Plus, your birds aren’t going to care about spikes on the ground when they have a perfectly good bird feeder to land on!


3. Utilize Citrus

Animals are sensitive to certain smells, and citrus is one thing that most cats can’t stand. Compared to a cat, a bird’s sense of smell is minimal. Even if the birds do smell the citrus, they are far less likely to care.

Sprinkle some citrus oil or citrus peels on the ground around your cat feeders to keep cats away. You can also put them on the underside of the feeders if your cat likes to jump on them.

orange peel
Image Credit: esudroff, Pixabay

4. Install Sprinklers

There are so many gadgets out there to deter pests nowadays that you can surely get creative and use some of them on your cats. Installing a few motion-detecting sprinklers is the perfect way to keep your cats away from a specific area. Cats don’t usually like water, and if sprinklers suddenly turn on, it’s going to startle them and force them to go somewhere else; or at least keep their distance.


5. Pepper Flakes

Cats are very sensitive to capsaicin, the chemical in peppers that makes them spicy. It won’t harm your cats if they sniff it, but it will deter them from coming closer. You can make a simple pepper spray with cayenne pepper and water, and then spray the solution around your bird feeders to keep your cat at a distance.

cat inside bird feeder
Image Credit: MrsBrown, Pixabay

6. Keep Cats Indoors

The most effective way to keep your cats away from bird feeders is to keep them inside. Even if you do deter your cat from being around the bird feeders, there are plenty of other places outdoor cats can get their fix. If you don’t want them killing birds, it is best to keep them indoors.

Methods to Avoid

There are just as many dangerous things for cats to be around as safe ones. While the list above offers some safe options, you need to be careful about some other methods that some homeowners use.

1. Mothballs

Mothballs are highly toxic to animals, and you should not listen to any websites that tell you to lay them around your bird feeders. If your cat is exposed to these for too long, she could become seriously ill. This isn’t just applicable to your cat, either, it applies to all sorts of outdoor animals.


2. Petroleum

Spreading petroleum jelly on the pole that your bird feeders hang on is a common method for keeping cats, squirrels, and other animals from climbing up to your feeders. However, this jelly can be dangerous to your cat and the birds. If the jelly gets on their wings, it could hinder their ability to fly, eat, and escape an attack.

petroleum jelly
Image Credit: Bit Investment, Shutterstock

3. Bell Collars

It’s understandable why you’d think that a bell collar would scare away the birds. While this isn’t unsafe for your cat, it isn’t as effective as you’d think it would be. A lot of birds don’t even notice the bell sound, so you aren’t actually keeping the birds as safe as you think you are.

Final Thoughts

It can be a real challenge to keep your cat or other neighborhood cats away from your bird feeders. There isn’t all that much you can do to convince your cat that it isn’t worth it, so you need to put other measures into place.

Whichever method you go with, try to put the cat’s safety first. After all, they are just following their instinct, and they really can’t help wanting to hunt them. If you really care about your feathered friends in nature, then keep your cats inside whenever possible.


Featured Image Credit: David Woolfenden, Shutterstock

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