Killer cat

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I have several cats that have visited my yard for some time (I keep mine indoors) and it was always fine (especially a big gray beauty). But a cat I have seen before is having an awful effect. The other day I found a dead goldfinch. Then two days ago I found a dead chipmunk. Today as I was looking out my window I saw a black cat walking under my doublefile viburnums, because he was stalking a chipmunk. He attacked it, and it was trying to get away, but by the time I got there the black cat had taken the poor chipmunk out of the yard and to a neighbor. I have seen this cat many times before but now that my shrubs are getting bigger it is obviously coming back on a regular basis to stalk and kill creatures.

Since I am now seeing the cat almost every day and now have seen it's awful work three times in a week, does anyone have any suggestions? I created my yard as habitat for birds and little creatures. I like chipmunks (a little milorganite keeps them from digging).

Any suggestions, other than chopping my plants to the ground? It's horrble making funeral arrangements for these poor little creatures.


Odenton, MD(Zone 7b)

Donna, Gardener's Supply sells these mats to wherever you don't want cats. I think I have seen pictures of plastic forks put in the ground for the same result too. They had some sort of mix that you shake in the area to keep the cats away too.

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Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Unfortunately, those mats are only designed to keep cats from digging (i.e., trying to turn flower beds into litter boxes). They won't keep cats from coming onto your property to stalk prey. To be frank, I doubt that anything will. Cats are predators. Stalking small animals is what they were designed to do. I can understand why, after making your yard a habitat for all creatures, you would be angry to find this cat now stalking and killing them, but I doubt there is much you will be able to do to stop it. It's just all part of the cycle of life.

Can you tell if the cat is a neighbor's pet vs a stray or feral cat? If the cat belongs to a neighbor you might try talking with them about keeping it indoors. If it's a stray or if the owner won't help, there probably isn't much you can do. The cat is a predator, and it has apparently found that your yard is a good hunting place.

The problem will likely resolve itself in time, however. Like any predator, the cat is primarily catching and killing the weaker, older, and sicker animals in your yard. In time, he/she will have exhausted the supply of weaker creatures, and the rest of the chipmunks, birds, etc will have learned better ways to protect themselves. The cat will cull out the weak, those that would die soon anyhow, and will unwittingly train the others to be smarter and faster. In this manner, he will soon exhaust the prey opportunities in your yard and will move on to 'greener pastures'. Things in your yard will then return to normal.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thank you for your thought. I do not know exactly who the owner of the cat is - I only know that they live nearby. I always keep my cats indoors. I have heard some territorial disputes between cats and I would never subject mine to them.

I am not sure whether the cat is feral. It is a black cat have seen it for years. It's killing spree is new. I think it belongs to someone nearby - I just haven't pinpointed it. If I could, animal control would confront the owner. In my former home the cat across the street used to hide in my ornamental grasses, catch birds, and tear them apart. After talking to my neighbors and getting no action, I reported them to the local authorities, who went to their house and told them that every time I called with a problem they would get a $50 ticket. Took care of that!

The worrisome part is that this is three creatures in about a week. You should have seen the poor little chipmunk run. It was awful. I did come up with one solution,

I have four doublefile viburnums that are now over six feet tall. I noticed that the cat ran from the base of one to another, using them as camouflage. To give creatures I fighting change I went out and put wire rings around the four shrubs. The cat will no longer be able to use them for cover. Based on the location of the dead chipmunk, the dead bird, and today's trapping I think that the cat has decided that the base of my viburnums is a good place from which to stalk, and I have now eliminated it.

Now let me introduce you to a quite lovely cat. A big grey that comes and sits in my yard and watches me garden. He sometimes lies down and stays for a couple of hours, and never harms any creature. You can see his collar. He passes through most days. A lovely creature! Maybe he can teach the other one some manners. The interesting thing is that the marker he is sitting near marks the burial spot of my cat. I'm very fond of him.

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Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I like your idea of placing wire around the shrubs. I didn't realize the was using specific plants as cover that way. Good idea to fence those off as you did.

It was only after I had written that post that I thought about animal control; however, here we have a relatively new law which makes it legal for cats to be outside and to roam. Thus home owners can't be fined for such things. This law, which is maybe 5-6yrs old now, was enacted because it was decided that cats need to be able to go outside and also to facilitate TNR (trap - neuter - release) programs which allow shelters to neuter feral (wild) cats and put them back into the community instead of euthanizing them. Unlike dogs, cats are very capable of surviving on their own as you have seen.

I still think the carnage will taper off in time as area creatures learn to evade the cat. I have witnessed this 1st hand. Some 4yrs ago I adopted 2 feral cats without realizing some of the consequences I would face. My 2 feral cats stay outside most of the time. Even though I feed them, they enjoy catching prey. When they 1st arrived they went on a killing spree to rival the one you are witnessing. Every day I would come home to find a collection of squirrels, ground moles, mice, lizards, you name it at my front door. It was embarrassing as well as gruesome, but the carcasses soon began to taper off, going from several each day to just 1 every day or so and finally to almost nothing at all. For the past couple years I almost never see any dead creatures at my door or around my yard.

The cats have eliminated my prior ground mole problem completely, and I'm thrilled about that. Birds still hang out in my yard but have learned how to stay safe even with the cats around.

If all else fails you could get one of those Hav-A-Hart cage traps (if the cat won't come to you) to trap it and take it to a shelter. I would hate to see you do that, but it is an option. Just put some tuna in the trap. I had to do this to catch my 2 feral cats to get them neutered/spayed. You might catch a few raccoons and/or opossums before you get the cat, but you can just release them to go their way and reset the trap.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

I looked up How to keep cats out of your yard online and the site with that title mentioned a motion activated lawn sprinkler by ScareCrow was mentioned. It would probably get rid of the grey one you like also.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, I love the grey one! He is almost like a companion. In the three years he has been here he has never harmed any creature that I could see. He doesn't seem to possess predatory instincts; he never hunts. He just walks though and occasionally has a seat to watch me garden.

I am pretty live and let live with creatures. Back when I had LOTS of voles and rabbits eating my bulbs, I discovered that I could keep them from digging up and eating several dozen tulips (wow, the rabbits were fat the year after consuming 60 tulips!)simply by putting little daffodils around them. Since daffs are poisonous they steer clear.

I have a veggie garden with lettuce and occasionally I will spot a possum, but I grow extras and they leave me lots. My favorite guy is a sole rabbit that turns up from time to time. He lets me get quite close, as you can see from this series of pictures. I kept moving closer and closer, and he just sat there. He nibbles a bit of lettuce, but is very polite about not leaving droppings in my yard.

If only all visitors could be so considerate!

Oh, and Dream of Spring, I got my cat from a no kill shelter. A REALLY no kill shelter. So the alternative is not as bad as you would imagine. I have never seen so many healthy, happy creatures in my life. But they have two rules (which is why my beautiful cat was available). You can't declaw them, and you can't let them outside. Here he is - I just adore him!

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Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

I had a problem with a cat using my bird feeding area as it's hunting ground. Had fence wire put up on the 3 planted sized and that with my dog's help that ending the problem.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Oops. Sorry. I got so busy over the weekend that I completely forgot to respond to your last post. You cat is very lovely, of course. I have 2 rescues, myself. Someone had apparently tossed the mother cat near my community. Neighbor's say she had been running wild in the area forever. When she came to my house, she was small and half starved with a kitten at her side.

I didn't want a cat, but I ended up taking them in anyhow. They were so wild I had to cage trap them to get them neutered/spayed and vet checked. Because they were wild, no shelter in the area would take them, as they were not considered adoptable. The SPCA said they would have to be put down. They are not pretty cats, not what I would have chosen, but they needed homes, and their plight touched my heart. It has taken them years, but they have learned to trust me, but they are still totally wild and completely terrified of other humans.

60 tulips eaten? Ouch. Great idea to use the daffodils that way.

I share your Live and let live concept - most of the time. I've been very tolerant of the critters in my yard over the years. For a couple of years I had a rabbit living in my fenced backyard, too. Like yours, she had also become fairly comfortable around me. We shared the backyard garden pretty much daily. Mine had a bad habit of chopping flowers off mid stem, but I overlooked that. One year she dug out an area under the edge of a large, shallow pot and had a litter of babies under there. I think she liked my backyard, because the privacy fence offered protection from many predators, and the plethora of plants gave her plenty to eat. I haven't seen her for years now, don't know what happened to her.

I even made pets out of the raccoon that was raiding my bird feeder and hummer feeder each night. I ranted and raved and tried to find ways to dissuade her for a while. Then finally I decided to embrace her presence in my yard. What happened after that was nothing short of magical. I began to feed her daily, and she soon became almost as comfortable with me as my dog. She would wait in the forest edge until I went to the door and called her name. Then she would come walking across the yard to me.

Each year she would bring her tiny and very adorable babies and let me play with them while she ate. It was such an awesome experience. Because their mother trusted me, the babies trusted me completely. They would stand at my knee (as I sat on a chair outside) and take treats from my hands. Having known me since birth, they grew up comfortable with me. I gave them names, and each one actually knew and responded to its name. Their playful antics brought such joy into my life. That 1st mother raccoon finally died a few years ago, and I cried like a baby.

I've stopped the daily feedings. but there is one raccoon that still drops by now and then. I will look up and see her sitting their against the [glass] patio door patiently waiting for me to see her and come out to bring her a handful of kibble.

Love the rabbit photos, btw.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

A human-created problem of feral, stray, or free-roaming pet cats is NOT the cycle of life. I would feel differently if I lived in a cave, and had to hunt/gather for sustenance.

A Have-A-Heart trap is a great course of action, and then some stern words with the cat's owner (if there is one). Otherwise, off to the shelter. Native birds and small mammals should not have to learn to avoid being prey to some lazy human's pet. Any more than your pet cats should have to worry about a marauding pet dog - like our pets use to. That's simply irresponsible, and no one here would support that type of behavior.

We have had cats as pets ever since our two old dogs passed away in the mid 1990s. A couple of the early ones - all strays that came to us from shelters or other friends who captured them - had run of the property, until they tried to kill birds. That brought them indoors for good, and every pet cat since then has luxuriated here at the Valley with ample window seats for the "elaborate cat entertainment devices" that our winged friends provide.

They engage their hunting prowess needs by catching any stray four legged varmint - or six-legged intruder - that may happen to sneak into the house. They are none the worse for it.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Bravo, VV. I could not have said it better.

My two cats are rescues. One had been taken to college in September of last year by some moron who then released it. The cat was so loving and sweet that it survived into December, when a thoughtful professor thought to ask whose it was and, given no response, took it to "Feral Fixers" who took care of the necessary and then turn it over to a no kill shelter where I, brokenheartedly looking for a new kitty having lost one to very old age (23!) only days before, and trying to make my remaining cat happy, found this most wonderful creature. He was available to me despite being sought after - he's a beauty - but the other people either wanted to declaw him (he doesn't scratch, by the way) or turn him outdoors.

They have numerous beds and warm places (including a cat heater) but their favorite place, once they adapted to each other, is curled up together. Although even the sweetest cat is always on the lookout!

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Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I can understand and greatly respect your position on this issue; however, as is the case with many issues not everyone holds that same opinion.

Where I live cats are allowed outside by law, even in the city. The city even runs a Trap, Neuter, & Release (TNR) program whereby they catch feral cats, neuter or spay them, and then release them back into the same neighborhood from which they came. They do this as a way to deal with the rising number of feral cats w/o having to put them down.

The 2 cats I adopted/rescued were feral cats from my neighborhood, a mother and her only surviving kitten. One of them is even tagged (cut ear tip) as part of the city's TNR program, so when you get right down to it he doesn't even truly belong to me. My 2 cats are both inside/outside cats. One stays inside most of the time; the other chooses to stay outside, because he is terrified of being trapped in the house - he's feral and terrified of humans. He climbs the walls, goes berserk, urinates, sprays, and destroys things when he can't get out.

Before you pass judgement, I think you should consider a few things. Both of my cats would be living outside 100% of the time in this same neighborhood (as part of the city's TNR program) had I not taken them in, and because they would otherwise be starving, they would surely be eating many, many more birds and other small animals were it not for my kindness in adopting them & providing for them. Because of me, they are happier, well fed, much healthier, and at least no longer have to prey on birds and other wildlife for their very survival.

I, incidentally, absolutely positively did not want a cat (because I hate litter boxes) and did not find these 2 particularly desirable anyhow. I merely had the compassion to take these 2 in rather than let them continue to starve on the street. I felt that sharing what I have with them was the right thing to do. I did not create this problem [of so many homeless & feral cats]. I merely made a decision to do what I could to help 2 of them. I realize this isn't about me, but I've little doubt there are likely other people like myself who are supporting feral and semi-feral cats in parts of the country where the law has accepted and provided for the presence of cats out of doors

Despite the presence of the cats, my yard is often filled with a huge plethora of birds who come to eat fruits, berries, and dried flower seeds of all kinds. The cats did snag of few birds when they 1st arrived, but over the years, I have noticed that the birds have become much smarter and have learned to stay out of the reach of the cats.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

You are right. I do not hold the same opinion. Consider before you pass judgment? I have considered a number of factors, and I am fairly certain that others on this forum have, as well. Your seeming assumption otherwise is quite condescending.

My cats are also rescues, and from a no kill shelter. One of them was feral. I now provide financial support to the shelter - A.D.O.P.T. (animals deserving of protection and treatment) in Naperville, Illinois, and recommend them to anyone who must remove a cat from their home, often because they are moving, or someone has died.

And, after witnessing a cat chase down and carry off a chipmunk despite my trying to stop it, and finding a dead goldfinch nearby, I am frankly unsympathetic to the idea that the creatures in my yard will "get it" if enough of them are killed.

We have programs for feral cats, chiefly run by volunteer veterinarians (Feral Fixers). They are captured, neutered, and turned over to shelters, such as the one I was so happy to find. I have heard of the programs that you describe. I just saw a lengthy segment on the catch and release of feral cats, and it was stated - never sure that these things are true - that being neutered and indeed fed does not keep many cats from catching prey out of sheer instinct. ADOPT refuses to give cats to people who will either declaw them or allow them outside. Two previous applicants for my cat were declined for just that reason. I had to fill out a four page application and prove that my other cat was up to date on it's shots. Between the two things, it cost $300. I was happy to support their work.

There is a cat that visits my yard regularly that I greet because it is so gentle, and in all the years here (three) he never harmed a creature. But I had to cage my shrubs to prevent another, easily recognizable cat that, complete with collar, although living outdoors, from stalking creatures from the shelter of my shrubs and killing them.

So I would be most appreciative if you did assume that those of us who are horrified by the death of wildlife in our yards are uninformed, or not as humane as you. It simply isn't true. And the days when I visited ADOPT, it was crowded was crowded with people eager to help these creatures. And pay for it because they believe just as much as you do that that animals should not be killed, yet should not be allowed to kill other helpless creatures.

This message was edited Jan 25, 2016 8:30 AM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

It is very easy for the intent of ones words to be misconstrued online where other visual and auditory clues are not available. I did not say nor did I intend to imply that you were uninformed. I also did not mean to sound condescending at all. My intent was not to say anything at all about you - or anyone else on this thread - but rather to explain my situation and offer an alternate point of view. I even prefaced my remarks by saying that I really do understand your (intended as plural, not you specifically) position on this and respect it.

I gather I must not have expressed myself at all well in my post, and for that I apologize. I very clearly failed to get my point across altogether and managed to anger you. Neither was my intent.

I was merely asking you, and I actually didn't mean you specifically but rather those with the opposing view, to consider that there may be instances such as mine where it is actually more compassionate to help the cats by feeding them than to stay out of it entirely and thus help neither the cats nor the birds. My point was merely that my 2 cats were both half starved strays which lived in my neighborhood already. I didn't adopt them from a shelter. They had been living outdoors in my neighborhood for some time already, and since my city allows feral cats to remain outdoors, they would have continued living outdoors for the rest of their lives anyhow.

I am merely guilty of taking these 2 strays in and giving them food, shelter, and love. Since I didn't go to a shelter (or elsewhere), adopt them, and bring them home with me, I haven't changed the situation for the birds (and other small animals) in my area except for the better, since by feeding these 2 cats I have at least removed their need to hunt prey to survive. Also, since 1 of the 2 cats now spends 90% or more of her time indoors, I have greatly decreased the time she spends outside possibly killing other creatures.

I agree with you that even well fed cats will still occasionally kill prey animals, especially since cats do this for 'play' as well as for food. What I was trying to convey is that they no longer have the extreme drive to kill in order to feed their starving bodies and remain alive. I think they probably sleep more and kill less as a result. You have to remember that these 2 cats would be running around the same area killing things anyhow even if I hadn't taken them in. They do still bring home prey now and then but mostly mice & ground moles. Evidence of bird predation is extremely rare now. We don't have chipmunks and other such small animals here. We do have squirrels (gray?), but they seem capable of defending themselves.

I was also trying to convey that what I did was an act of kindness which (1) was not for my benefit since I did not want a cat, (2) didn't make things worse for area prey animals since the cats were here to stay already, and (3) did, at least, benefit the cats. As I said, I didn't want 1 cat much less 2. I struggled a great deal with the idea before finally deciding to take them in merely out of a compassionate desire not to see them continue to starve on the streets. Had it been mandatory for me to keep the cats indoors, I would not have taken them in, in which case the 2 cats would still be outside eating prey but would be homeless and semi-starved as well.

I understand that the TNR program in your area releases the cats to a shelter, but in my area they are released back onto the same streets from which they came. The rules are different here. Also, if my 2 cats went to a shelter, they would be put down, because they are simply too feral to be considered adoptable, and there is no facility here with room to house all of the feral cats. I actually cage trapped one of them initially and took him to area shelters, because as mentioned I didn't want a cat. I ended up bringing him back home with me (after he was neutered), because all of the shelters here told me he would be put down otherwise. He is feral, having been raised in the wild and now totally terrified of people and houses and too old to ever be properly domesticated and assimilated into the human world. I had to cage trap him to take him to the shelters, and the spca had to put im to sleep in order to even give him a vet check. As all area shelters said he would be euthanized, I brought him back & released him here in accordance with my city's TNR program, except that I now feed him.

I cannot overstate the fact that I did not want a cat to begin with and would not have adopted these 2 if I had to keep them indoors 24/7. I have a painful and disabling back injury and, at present, financial issues as well, all of which mean that even the care I give the cats is a considerable burden at times. On more than one occasion, I have considered getting rid of them, but I continue to provide for them merely because as intractable & non-adoptable feral cats, they have no other options except either to live on the streets always semi-starved or to be put down.

Please understand that I am not railing against you nor against any of your ideas or beliefs. I'm just trying to explain an alternate point of view, that I think there may be circumstances in which it is permissible to have outdoor cats and, as in my case, situations where it is more compassionate to help 1 of the 2 animal groups (the cats) than to help neither. I am not in any way implying that you are uninformed, and I do understand that you are also doing what you do out of compassion for animals. I do also realize that this seems to be an issue about which you are extremely passionate.

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b) and you must be sisters. Your thoughts are my thoughts.

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