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How to Keep Cats Away From Bird Feeders (6 Proven Methods)

Bird feeders are a great way to add color and life to your yard or garden, but they can be a death trap if you have particularly skilled feral or house cats on your property. The cats will quickly learn that birds flock to these feeders, making them the perfect destination for your cat to hide out at so that they can pounce on the unsuspecting birds.

If you want to use bird feeders while still keeping the birds safe from your feline friends, there are some things you can do to both change the environment and deter cats from going to the bird feeders in the first place. In this article, we are going to look at the top six proven methods for keeping cats away from bird feeders, as well as what not to do. Let’s check out these ideas.

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What NOT to Do

Before we look at the six proven methods, let’s talk about what not to do. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do, especially when commonly advisable practices are unsafe to the cat or the bird.


mothballs in wooden bowl
Image Credit: Faizal Ramli, Shutterstock

Many websites recommend placing mothballs around the bird feeders. The reason for this advice is that cats and most mammals in general do not like the smell of mothballs. As a result, the mothballs will deter most cats from approaching the bird feeder.

The issue with this method is that it is dangerous for the cats, as well as your yard and other creatures. If your cat were to ingest the mothballs or be exposed to them long term, the cat could come down with serious illnesses. The same is true for other animals as well. Do not place mothballs in an area where cats and other animals can ingest or be exposed to them long term.

Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly is another method that is technically effective against cats, but it can be dangerous. The idea behind the petroleum jelly method is that it prevents cats from climbing up the feeder pole. Looking solely at the cats, this is a safe and effective method.

The issue with adding petroleum jelly to bird feeders is that it can get on the bird’s feathers. This can seriously hinder the bird’s ability to fly, eat, and escape from other predators. Don’t add petroleum jelly to bird feeders so as to protect the birds.

Bell Collars

Orange cat with blue bell around its neck
Image Credit: flo_info, Pixabay

Bell collars are another commonly recommended method for protecting birds from prying cats, but it is largely ineffective. The idea behind bell collars is that it alerts birds of the cats. Unfortunately, most birds don’t notice the sound, meaning that you wasted money on the bell collar. Although this method isn’t unsafe for the cats or birds, you don’t want to waste your money either.


Fences are another safe but ineffective option for keeping cats away from bird feeders. As you probably know, cats are great at climbing and jumping fences. In most scenarios, a fence isn’t going to keep a cat out. There are other reasons why you might want to add a fence to your yard, but you shouldn’t waste your money on a fence if you exclusively want it to prevent cats from getting your bird feeders.

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The 6 Tips for Keeping Cats Away from Bird Feeders

Let’s take a look at the six tips for keeping cats away from bird feeders now that we have learned what not to do.

1. Keep Your Cat Indoors

If you’re worried about your house cat getting birds while it is outside, the easiest solution is to keep your cat indoors. When your cat is indoors, it is impossible for it to reach the bird feeders and the snacking birds.

If you really want to let your cat outdoors, only do so under your supervision. You might even want to leash train your cat so that you can thoroughly watch your cat to prevent it from scaling the bird feeders. For best results, though, simply keep your cat indoors. It’s as simple as that.

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2. Make the Bird Feeders Tough to Reach

Whether you want to let your indoor cat outdoors or the real issue is feral cats, you will also need to change the environment to prevent cats from reaching the bird feeder. The most effective way to do this is to make the bird feeders tough to reach for your cat.

For the best results, hang bird feeders from a tall pole in the middle of your yard. You don’t want the cat to be able to scale a deck or tree to easily access the bird feeder. Additionally, add a good baffle to the pole to further prevent your cat from scaling it.

bird feeder_utroja0_Pixabay
Image Credit: utroja0, Pixabay
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3. Place Bird Feeders in Open Spaces

We mentioned this in the last tip, but it is so important that we wanted to showcase it alone. Make sure to place bird feeders in open spaces. Many people make the mistake of placing bird feeders on the back of a deck or hanging off a tree. When you place a bird feeder in these locations, the cat can easily hide out and climb to get access to the birds.

Placing bird feeders in open spaces makes it much more difficult for the cats to sneak up on the birds or climb the birdfeeder. Place a bird feeder on a pole in the middle of your yard for the best results.

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4. Add Scent Deterrent to the Feeder

Even though mothballs are not a safe scent deterrent to add to a bird feeder, there are other scent deterrents you can use. Odors are a great way to deter cats from going near a bird feeder without hurting them.

If you’re on a budget, you can easily add homemade scent to deter cats from your bird feeder. Sprinkling pepper, vinegar, or citrus oil around the birdfeeder is often a very economic and effective way to deter cats from hanging out. You can also purchase premade deterrent if you don’t want to make it yourself.

Whether you use an at home recipe or buy a premade concentrate, it’s important to understand that you should not place the scent directly on the feeder. You don’t want the birds to accidentally ingest it. Instead, place the scent around the bird feeder so as to deter cats without posing risk to the birds.

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Image Credit: Monfucos, Pixabay
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5. Add Spikes Around the Feeder

Most cats like to stalk their prey by slowly creeping to the target in a crouching motion. You can add spikes around the feeder to prevent the cat from crouching down and creeping. For example, add prickly landscaping that naturally deters cats from doing this. Cacti and roses are two great options.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of adding additional landscaping to your yard, you can also add scat mats around the bird feeders. These are plastic mats that have pointy spikes popping up. This will make it difficult for the cat to walk towards the birdfeeder without actually hurting it.

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6. Motion Sensor

Finally, the last tip for keeping cats away from a bird feeder is to add a motion activated sensor. For example, a motion activated sprinkler or a motion activated light system will surprise the cat when it crouches near, causing it to run away from the bird feeder in fear.

At the same time, it doesn’t actually harm or scar the cat long term, making it an ethical yet effective way to keep your cat away from the bird feeder. This option is especially good for feral cats.

water sprays_topseller_Shutterstock
Image Credit: topseller, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

If you have a problem with cats trying to attack your birds while they are hanging out by the bird feeders, there are things you can do to keep both the birds and cats safe. No matter what option you select, ensure that it is ethical and effective. For example, don’t select mothballs or petroleum jelly since they are unethical and harm the wildlife.

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Featured Image: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay