A cat’s life in a wildlife friendly garden
- Credit: Diana East
Diana East, President of Sidmouth Arboretum, writes on behalf of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group
The best time to refill the bird feeders is breakfast time. This is when our cat, Sophie, is indoors sleeping off the effects of a night chasing the mouse population, and gives the birds a chance to feed in peace. On dry days Sophie can be found sleeping under a low dense hebe hedge, but is likely to wake and pounce on an unwary bird.
Our garden compost heap is just a huge pile in a corner of the garden, covered with old bits of carpet where the slow worms like to curl up in the dry area just under the carpet. Sophie sits on top of the carpet and senses the slow worm movement – they are actually legless lizards – and it turns into a game of who can stop wiggling/stop digging under the carpet.
The pond has no fish, as the sea gulls eat them, but newts aplenty. Mostly they keep hidden but provide a source of hours of gazing into the depths, just in case! And at night undoubtedly the fox and badger drink there, as does Sophie.
Providing for the birds is tricky. We use dry mealworms in a container suspended from a thin branch which cannot support the cat or squirrel weight. A metal archway was even worse as Sophie found she could climb the side rails and sit on top waving her paw down by the bird food.
As an active member of Sidmouth Arboretum, I like to plant shrubs and trees – and enjoy the resultant beautiful bird song. Sophie likes to sharpen her claws on the bark, though of course we have a scratching post in the kitchen. Mostly this is OK except on my special myrtle which has lovely red bark, so I add a plastic spiral to protect it.
Hedges often mark the boundaries of human contact. For wildlife they offer a vital resource (pollen, berries, nesting) and a corridor for contact. Whether fences or hedges, any self-respecting cat will find a way through, as will the hedgehog, fox and badger. We welcome them all to our gardens.