Written By: Rebekah Heppner, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee
It’s Christmas Day. Sunny and mild. I am on my screen porch talking to my sister on the phone when it happens. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Evil Cat as he takes off in the tell-tale way cats do when they catch something—head down, fast, with purpose. It’s not like the way they run toward their food dishes when their people happen to walk toward the kitchen, and different from the quick run across the street this particular evil cat does when I clap my hands and yell “out!” every time I see him in my yard.
You may recall I had a problem with squirrels on my bird feeders. I decided I could live with that. This was something much worse. A predator.
I can’t say for sure, but my gut tells me Evil Cat caught a finch. Those little guys like to come to the feeders in big groups and tend to make a racket. They usually stay in the trees nearby and take turns on the feeder but, occasionally, they check the ground for dropped seeds.
Okay, enough of the horror show. What do I do now? I love my birdies. We have been sharing coffee & seed in the morning and cocktails & seed in the evening for months now with no mishaps. At least none I witnessed.
What to do? I know that IFAS recommends we all keep our cats indoors. It’s better for them and for the wildlife. Cats kill billions of birds a year. Outdoor cats live an average of 2 to 5 years, compared to 10 to 15 years for indoor cats. I could just tell my neighbor this and she will keep him inside, right? I doubt it. She told me she “lost” her last cat when he didn’t come home one night. And yes, she is aware of the coyotes.
What else can I do? I considered kidnapping Evil Cat and taking him to someone who will give him a nice, safe 10-to-15-year-long life indoors. Not legal, but I’d be tempted if there wasn’t another neighbor letting her two cats roam the neighborhood. I’d like to think I could report all three as nuisance animals to animal control. I looked up the process. It’s not as simple as See Click Fix.
As a responsible gardener, homeowner and wildlife lover I can only find one right choice: remove the feeders. I can’t in good conscience invite these beautiful creatures into my yard to be preyed upon. This means no noisy finch flocks attracting evil cats—and no cardinals for coffee or blue jay visits at happy hour. But I can now relax on the porch instead of being on constant vigil.
The birds still stop by. I have birdbaths, berries on native shrubs and lots of cover. In Florida they should be able to find food from native plants and bushes year-round. And I’m getting off the porch more often now, visiting nearby parks and preserves in search of birds. We are lucky we live in a place with so many places to watch birds and so many birds to watch.
So, it’s bye, bye to birdies at my feeders—but not bye, bye to them being carried off by Evil Cat.
P.S. I know he’s not really evil. He’s just following his instincts. I love cats. People who let their cats roam outdoors, not so much.