Backyard Bird Care
6 steps


6 STEPS to turn your yard into a Sanctuary for Birds

brochure, posters and more!






Keep cats away from birds.

Here is additional information on the benefits of keeping cats indoors from the American Bird Conservancy, whose ground-breaking program Cats Indoors! is helping people make the world a better place for cats and birds.

Keeping Cats Indoors:
Good for Kitty,
Good for Birds,
Good for Neighbors

The majority of the nation’s 77 million pet cats are free to roam throughout their neighborhoods. However, as the U.S. becomes more urban- and suburban-ized, cat owners are becoming increasingly concerned about their pet’s safety, and with good reason. Outdoor cats are at risk of serious injury and disease, getting hit by cars, or getting lost, stolen, or poisoned. They also kill birds and other wildlife already struggling to survive in the habitat that remains. Most cat owners who let their cats outside do so because they believe that’s what they need to be happy. However, indoor cats can be happy too, and outdoor cats can become contented indoor pets.


Making the transition from out to in:
Keeping kittens indoors from the start is a very easy way to have a happy indoor cat. But, with practice and patience, even outdoor cats can be successfully kept indoors. Some people make the transition from outdoors to indoors gradually, bringing their cats inside for increasingly longer stays. Other people bring the cat in and shut the door for good. Either way, the key is to provide lots of attention and stimulation while the cat is indoors.
Geographic location may affect the schedule of change; a good time of year should be chosen to bring a cat indoors. In many parts of the country, the easiest time of year to make this conversion is during the cold winter months when the cat is more likely to want to be inside anyway. By the end of winter, the cat may be completely content to remain inside.

Outside excursions should be replaced with periods of special play time indoors. Supervised trips out on the patio can also make the transition from outside to inside a little easier. Cats need human companionship to be happy, and when they spend all their time out of doors, they get very little attention. An outdoor cat may welcome the indoors if he or she gets more love, attention, and play.

To keep a cat occupied indoors, provide secure cat condos which offer interesting places to lounge, play and scratch. Scratching posts, corrugated cardboard or sisal rope should also be provided for a cat to scratch. The cat should be praised for using them.

To encourage an ex-outdoor cat to exercise, interesting toys, especially those that are interactive, should be available. These usually consist of a long pole and attached line with fabric or feathers at the end of the line. Some cats enjoy searching for toys. If the cat likes to explore the house looking for “prey,” hide toys in various places so the cat can find them throughout the day. Be sure that the toys are not so small that they can be swallowed or get stuck in a cat’s throat. Cats also enjoy ping pong balls, paper bags and cardboard boxes.

Provide an indoor cat with fresh greens. Kits can be bought that include containers and seeds to grow, or plant pesticide-free alfalfa, grass, bird seed, or catnip in a container. This way, the cat can graze safely and not destroy house plants. Many cats will eat cooked string beans or peas cooled to a safe temperature, which is another way to give them greens.

Outdoor enclosures--the best of both worlds:
Many cat owners who want their cat to enjoy the outdoors safely will provide an enclosure or run that the cat can access through a window or pet door. Such a facility gives the cat some of the advantages of being outside while minimizing the dangers. Outdoor enclosures can be made interesting and appealing by adding objects for the cat to explore, such as tree limbs, multilevel cat condos, tires, toys hanging from branches, and boxes in which the cat can curl up or hide. Search the internet for sources of enclosures.

Leash training:
If the neighborhood is not overrun by free-roaming dogs, cat owners may want to train their cat to go outside on a harness and leash. It’s not exactly like walking a dog, but cats can learn to enjoy a leisurely stroll outside. A cat can get used to a harness by wearing it for short periods of time inside the house. Some people enjoy gardening or other time spent outdoors while their cats are nearby on a harness and lead. But, cats should never be left outside unsupervised while on a leash or lead.
Some cats may develop behavioral problems when they are no longer allowed outside. Most of these problems can be attributed to a change in routine that is too abrupt or a lack of attention and stimulation inside. Cat owners need to be patient and continue to praise the cat when playing with toys, using the

scratching post and litter pan. If the cat becomes destructive or stops using the litter pan, a veterinarian or animal behaviorist should be consulted to find ways to solve the problem. These symptoms can also be attributed to boredom and loneliness.

When adopting a new cat, keep them inside from the beginning; otherwise, the cat may get lost. Using a long-range water pistol or a shake can when the cat asks to be let out is a very successful and harmless way to curb a cat from wanting to go outside.

Additional tips for a happy indoor cat: A cat’s claws should be trimmed every one to two weeks to keep the cat from damaging furniture, rugs and drapes, or artificial nail caps can be glued on every six to eight weeks. One litter pan per cat should be provided and the litter pan should be scooped daily. With non-clumping litter, change once or twice weekly; with clumping litter, change every two to four weeks. Many cats enjoy the companionship of another cat or compatible dog of the opposite sex. If you can make the financial and emotional commitment, you may want to consider adopting another companion animal for yourself and your cat.


What if you have to deal with your neighbor’s cats getting into your yard, digging up and fouling your garden, spraying your bushes and deck, and killing birds at your feeders? Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy answers. But here are some suggestions that may help.

Ask your neighbor:
The best solution is to ask your neighbor to keep their cat indoors or under their control when outside. Explain to them all the risks their cats face when they roam outdoors. American Bird Conservancy’s brochure, “Keeping Cats Indoors Isn’t Just For The Birds,” at gives more information on the benefits of keeping cats indoors. Share a copy with your neighbor.

Cat-proof fencing:
If your cat-owning neighbor has a fenced in yard but refuses to keep their cat indoors or otherwise under control, perhaps you can convince them to install cat-proof fencing. This won’t prevent the cats from killing birds and other wildlife in their yard, but at least it will keep the cats from killing wildlife in your yard. Search the internet for sources of fencing.

Humanely trapping the cat:
When all else fails, some people feel they have no choice but to trap their neighbor’s cat and take it to a shelter. You should check with local laws first, because in some areas, it is illegal to trap a neighbor’s cat, even if it is on your property. Also warn your neighbor that you plan to trap their cat if they refuse to control it. Many animal control agencies or shelters have humane live traps to lend to homeowners who need to trap a nuisance animal. Use bait such as sardines or tuna spread on newspaper or a paper plate, and put it in the back of the trap such that the cat must enter the trap to get the bait. Regularly check the trap, preferably every hour. A word of caution: well-fed cats can be hard to trap. You may also end up with non-target animals such as raccoons, opossums, or skunks, so avoid trapping at night. Also, minimize trauma to the cat by gently handling the trap, and put a cloth over it during transportation. Take the cat to your local shelter and tell them it’s your neighbor’s cat so that they can contact your neighbor. Never abandon the cat or harm it in any way. Be extremely careful not to get bitten or scratched, especially if you are trapping stray or feral cats, because they may carry rabies and other diseases

Working for laws to prohibit free-roaming cats: While this can be a multi-year effort, working for local cat ordinances to decrease a cat over-population problem or to prohibit free-roaming cats can be very effective, especially if the necessary funding for enforcement goes along with it.

Sonic cat collar:
The collar emits a high-pitched signal every 7 seconds to alert birds and other wildlife that a cat is near. A small field trial showed a 66% reduction in the number of birds killed, but it did not show a reduction in the number of small mammals killed. It is unknown whether a sonic cat collar would be effective in reducing cat predation on nestlings, fledglings, reptiles or amphibians, and it would not protect the cat from the hazards of roaming outdoors. Search the internet for sources of sonic cat collars

Fencing around bird feeders:
Some people have found that putting poultry or rabbit wire fencing around bird feeders and bird baths is a very effective way to prevent cats from killing birds at these locations. The fence need only be 2 feet high and 4 feet in diameter. If a cat tries to jump over it, it gives birds a chance to fly away.

Hazelnut shells:
Some people have had success in keeping cats away from feeders by placing hazelnuts under them. Cats avoid walking on hazelnut shells because the shells are sharp. The shells last over 5 years, prevent weeds, and are an attractive color.

More tips on feeding birds:
Keep feeders well away from bushes and underbrush where cats can hide, and regularly clean feeders to prevent fungus and mold from growing in the seed. If free-roaming cats remain a problem at your feeders, please discontinue feeding the birds. You are doing more harm by attracting birds into a yard where there are cats.

Spraying with a garden hose:
Some people try to discourage cats from getting into their yard by spraying them with a garden hose. This will only be an effective deterrent if the cat gets sprayed with water every time it comes into your yard.

What we know doesn’t work:
Putting bells on a cat’s collar does not prevent predation on birds and other wildlife. A cat can learn to silently stalk its prey. Even if the bell does ring, a bird would not necessarily associate the sound with danger, and a bell would do nothing to protect young animals. Feeding a cat also does not prevent predation. Scientific studies have proven that well-fed cats still kill wildlife because the urge to hunt and the urge to eat are controlled by different portions of a cat’s brain. De-clawing a cat does not prevent predation. A free-roaming de-clawed cat in a scientific study in Wichita, KS killed more birds than any other cat in the study.

Perhaps you would like to start a Cats Indoors!
Campaign in your community to raise awareness about the problem of free-roaming cats. For more information on cat predation on wildlife and hazards to free-roaming cats, as well as posters, print and radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and more, see

Adapted from, “How to Make Your Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat” and “What to do About Your Neighbor’s Cat in Your Yard” by American Bird Conservancy.