Thursday, 26 June 2014

Unwelcome visitors

Snoozing in front of live-action doggy TV
    I've been keeping the bird feeders well stocked throughout the winter and Spring months and have enjoyed watching our feathered visitors - it has been nice to see the sparrows back in force, although the starlings seem to be scarce this year. They all make good use of the two bird baths as well, the blackbirds and pigeons especially.
All the bird activity outside does of course, make good doggy TV for Archie and Angel as well, who can lounge on their giant beanbag in a patch of sunshine and enjoy the view through the patio windows.
    While feeding the birds has resulted in lots of avian visitors, unfortunately it has also attracted a rather less welcome one. I haven't had cats in the garden for age, and hoped they had finally got the hint and decided to visit elsewhere. Cats are not good news in my garden, as Archie and Angel cannot abide them and will chase them, given the chance. On several occasions they have gotten tangled up with them, which has resulted in some horrible injuries to them including scratches in mouths and eyes as well as deep skin wounds that have required stitching. Every close encounter of the feline kind has resulted in a vet visit ... and I've received cat bites and scratches too separating the combatants, which have meant visits to doctors and courses of antibiotics.

    Despite such encounters, the cats never seemed to learn and  continued to pay repeated visits. Letting the dogs loose in the garden now means precautions have to be taken: I wander round out there either by myself or with the dogs on a leash to first check that the coast is clear - but even so, there have been a couple of felines who brazenly ignored my presence and would lurk undetected under shrubs. So I then had to start going out alone with a stick, to poke it into the shrubbery to dislodge any unwanted intruders ...
Part of the tidying up that has been going on in the back garden this year has been primarily to make it more low maintenance and to increase the space that Archie and Angel have to race around in. But it has also been about making it more open with fewer good hiding spots for cats to conceal themselves in. So far it seems to have worked well, and there have been very few cats around, which has been nice both for us and the birds ... until the last few weeks, when a black cat has been frequently appearing, presumably unable to resist the attraction of the birds. Whenever I have spotted it I have chased it off, and when it has reached safety on the shed roof I have let the dogs out. I don't like encouraging their desire to chase, but I hoped that the creature might get the hint that this particular garden was not a particularly good one to loiter in.
Checking out the crime scene
    Not a bit of it. The last two mornings the wretched beast has been lurking in the shadow of the fenceline created the rising sun; thank goodness I had taken the precaution of taking the dogs out on their leashes, otherwise things could have been nasty. And yesterday morning we were greeted by the sight of scattered pigeon feathers on the lawn ... No blood or bodies  and I would imagine a pigeon would be too heavy for a cat to carry off, so hopefully it survived.
But the garden since then has been noticeably bare of bird visitors, which is sad.
And here's one we rescued a few nights ago
after it had fallen down the chimney.
You can read more about it on last Tuesday's whippet blog

Prikka strip. Even this inexpertly applied
it still makes the fence an
unpleasant place  for cats to sit or
walk along
Over the years I have tried all sorts of things to keep cats out of the garden. Cat proof fencing isn't possible due to the fenceline, although Prikka strips have helped discourage them from using it as a walkway.  I've tried every conceivable smell aversion trick known, ranging from lion poo to garlic and citronella. I've used water pistols, and a directional ultrasonic thingy I can point at them when I've spotted them as well as physically chasing them out of the garden.  But I have yet to come across a really effective way of getting them to keep their distance.

If it's a problem you have solved, I'd love to know!

Click HERE for link

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