Birdwatching: Enrichment for cats

Birdfeeders: your cat’s answer to cable tv

Cats do best when they have a variety of stimulating activities to choose from during the day. Toys and playmates are two great options, but a strategically placed bird feeder may end up one of the most popular choices in your home’s toolbox of cat stimuli. Since many indoor cats enjoy birdwatching, take advantage of the free, natural entertainment our feathered friends provide.

Setting up your own birdfeeding station is simple, not to mention a safe, healthy way to arouse your cat’s prey drive (provided you keep your windows closed). And though you may not become a birder yourself, you’ll love watching your fascinated feline wiggle his butt and make those clicking-chirping-chattering noises cats do when “hunting.”

Bird feeder varieties

These days bird feeders can be found in a range of styles of styles, from modern to traditional, elaborate to inconspicuous, and in three basic types:

· Feeders that hang from trees, poles, or rafters

· Ground feeders (chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits may use these as well and they are really good outside sliding glass doors because they are at the cat’s eye level)

· Feeders that attach to the outside of a window for really close up viewing

Bird seed is also available in a variety of options. Most include millet and sunflower seed, though the proportions vary and fillers may be used. Your local bird store or bird-oriented conservation organization should be able to advise on you on the best seed for where you live and the time of year.

You can decide how often to fill your feeders – you don’t need to fill them every time they are empty, even if the birds are giving you the evil eye or your cat is begging you to bring it on. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the time or resources to fill the feeders every day. Feeders generally supplement the birds’ natural diet so feeding them is not life or death, though quite helpful in winter in places where it gets cold. For the birds’ health, it’s best to wash feeders from time to time as well.

A word of caution

If your cat goes outside or neighborhood cats visit,, your home does not make for safe bird feeding territory. It’s just not fair to turn the birds into bait.

Unfortunately, in some areas there are so many free-roaming cats that bird feeding becomes impossible without creating a bad situation for the birds If that’s the case in your neighborhood, you may want to explore why there are so many cats, talk to your neighbors and look into Trap-Neuter-Return.

Bird lists and identification books

If your bird feeding habit really takes off (for the sake of the cats of course!) you can buy bird identification books to figure out who it is that is visiting and keep checklists of those that you see. Just don’t expect the cat to keep track for you!