• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • thomas rubino
  • Bill Crim
  • Kim Goodwin
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Amit Enventres
  • Mike Jay
  • Dan Boone

Gardening with and without a cat  RSS feed

 
master steward
Posts: 5227
Location: Pacific Northwest
1504
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When we first got here in the fall of 2012, we were given a stray cat. It was a fantastic hunter, eating bunnies and mice...and birds. Kitty lived with us for almost exactly three years before a bobcat sadly got him. This year is my first year gardening without a cat, and there are some serious advantages of having a cat, as well as not having a cat. I thought I'd post my observations, and anyone else can contribute, too!

Advantages of Life without a Cat:
- More birds! Spotted a Goldfinch for the first time on our property, and there's at least 50% more swallows eating our mosquitoes.
- Less mosquitoes, either due to the swallows or the 11 ducks now having access to our pond. Probably a mix of both.
- There might be more garter snakes, as the cat previously enjoyed eating them.

Disadvantages of Life without a Cat:
- SO MANY MORE BUNNIES! They're cute and all, but I hadn't realized how much I rely on a cat. There are bunnies everywhere, and my husband doesn't have time to hunt them and I don't feel good about carrying a shotgun while watching a toddler.
- I now can't grow much of anything except daikon radishes. Strawberries and strawberry plants get eaten constantly (I only have so many coffee grounds to go around, though they do work on keeping bunnies away). My previous two years, I was able to grow lots of peas and beans... This year, the bunnies have eaten almost all of them. I planted probably 100+ pea seeds and 50 beans. There's maybe 8 pea plants left, and 15 beans (they're more recently planted). I have fencing to keep out my ducks, but it's not small enough to keep out bunnies. One bunny even is eating my chives!!!
- We have mice. Too many mice. We caught three in the house. Thankfully more haven't seem to have entered, but we never had a mouse in the house until the cat was gone.
- Our ducks aren't getting eaten anymore, and can forage longer as they are safe. I'm figuring all the local predators are having meal after meal of bunnies and are therefore leaving our ducks alone.

Advantages of Life with a Cat:
- Less mice and bunnies!
- I can grow more food because bunnies aren't eating them.
- I don't have to deal with as much mouse poop and the diseases it carries.
- I can feed the fatty and tendony pieces of meat to the cat, rather than tossing them. I hate wasting those pieces that I can't stew or render.
- I can feed caught mice and bunnies to the cat, rather than burying them or trying to figure out how (and the time) to eat them. It's also a lot easier to justify killing cute bunnies to myself and my toddler when I'm feeding them to a cat.
- Something cute to pet!
- Companion for my kid!

Disadvantages of Life with a Cat:
- Less bird diversity
- Cat poop in the garden beds. (Though, poking sticks vertically into the ground every few inches fixed this when I had a cat, and it's a lot easier and cheaper to do that then it is to buy fencing).
- Paying for cat food.
- The chores of feeding and watering the kitty.
- The sadness when kitty dies/gets eaten.
- Having to watch babies and toddlers around kitty to make sure neither one hurts the other.
- Having to be wary of toxoplasmosis while pregnant.

Those are what has come to mind for me. What advantages and disadvantages do you notice with/without a cat?

 
pollinator
Posts: 4339
Location: Anjou ,France
240
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tried gardening with a cat but found it difficult to get the thing to stay underground .

David
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 5227
Location: Pacific Northwest
1504
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

David Livingston wrote:I tried gardening with a cat but found it difficult to get the thing to stay underground .

David



You reminded me of this
 
David Livingston
pollinator
Posts: 4339
Location: Anjou ,France
240
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We dont acually have a cat but the Farm next door "hosts " a number of wildishs cat who keep the rabbit population down for zero cost . Which is a pity in a way because I like Rabbit stew . But I have an allergy so its swings and roundabouts there

David
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
92
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have two cats I rescued, Good Kitty and Naughty Kitty. My house and property were over-run with mice and voles until I had them. They are great hunters and good company. They do kill too many birds. I saw a Red Headed Woodpecker this year for the first time in many, many years. I was watching it eat from my bird feeder, and took off to fly to a nearby tree. Out of nowhere, Naughty Kitty jumped straight up and grabbed it out of the air. On the way down, the Woodpecker managed to escape and fly to the tree and to safety, at least for that day. So, yes, there are drawbacks, but overall, I think it's worth it.
 
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We had an outside cat for a couple months, not really long enough to make too many observations but it did seem like there were a lot less rodents around. He didn't seem to discriminate between the rats and the chicks that mama hens were raising though so it was kind of a wash. I believe either a coyote got him or someone made him an inside cat because he was the sweetest stray I ever met.

One thing that might give the benefits of both having a cat and not having a cat might be getting a dog instead. They can be trained to protect the ducks, will deter the rabbits, but won't destroy the bird population. They might catch a bird here and there but not like a cat would. If you catch any rabbits, you can feed them to the dog.
Might not do much about the smaller rodents though, unless you get a rat terrier or something, but those don't make great livestock guardians. And they require a lot more of a time investment than a mouser cat. Something to consider though...
 
Posts: 91
Location: Wealden AONB
2
bike books cat
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My field cat has gone awol. He used to kill small mammals and birds. Though I usually managed to rescue the birds, he was gentle enough to 'share' his prey with me. I hope he is ok.
I have foxes, currently feeding them on baby bunnies so they get to know bunnies are good to eat.

Used to work in a nusery where there where farm cats. They used to come seeking food at lunch time, so one day I told one of them to stop being a pest and go catch a mouse. He promptly trotted off knowing he wasn't going to get any food from me. Less than 5 mins later he was back, with a mouse. Sat down and began to munch. Serves me right huh.
 
Posts: 30
1
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I will suggest doing some searches on toxoplasmois gondi. It is on the CDC website. Inteteresting thing about toxoplasmosis is that is isn't just a disease that women who are pregnant should worry about. I had a dog die from a toxoplasmosis
infection.

Turns out that cats are the resevour for the toxoplamosis gondi. If mice are infected with toxoplasmosis they are attracted to cat urine. Yes attracted to cat urine. There are studies showing that humans who have been infected with toxoplasmosi
gondi have more risk taking behaviours. So your cat might be catching mice, but at the same time drawing mice into your farm/dwelling. Really a strange relationship between the toxoplasmosis organism and the host and the other critters (including humans) that can get infected with toxoplasmosis. Don't take my word for it, do the research.

I have a varmint dog. My varmint dog is a long legged Jack Russell sometimes called a Parsons Terrier. His name is George. Yes, he ws so cute as a pup that you want to love him and hug him and squeeze him and name him, George. George
will dig out moles and anything else living under ground that he can find. George kills mice and even big rats. He doesn't stop at one, he will keep going and get the whole nest of them even after having rats hang off of his jaw. George will kill ground hogs.
George has even killed a full grown raccoon. I was amazed. George hates cats. We don't have cats, but I don't miss the cats. George is better than a cat. He will take on things that a cat won't dream of taking on. I once watched George kill a skunk. I thought he might have known better after the first skunk encounter, but apparently not. I watched George get sprayed in the mouth three times by that skunk. I bowed out of the conflict as soon as I saw he was taking on a skunk. My penance was the bathing of George after the battle.

I also watched program several years ago on National Geographic about how many birds and small mammals that domestic house cats kill. IT was eye opening. I will stick with my varmint dog.

These are just some things to think about before assuming that cats will solve rodent problems.

Another thing. I built a feed shed /tack room/goat milking parlor this past fall. I put it up about a foot to 18 inches off of the ground, that is the floor, above ground level. I did this so that my varmint dog could get under the feed shed and so that my chickens can get under the feed shed. I have watched my chickens eat mice. I figure that if I have my chickens and varmint dog having access under the feed shed that it will really keep the mice/rat problem way down. I am betting that this is why many old farm building and corn cribs were built up off of the ground.

anyhow, good luck

bonnie
 
pollinator
Posts: 598
Location: Victoria BC
28
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Todd, you might consider relocating that bird feeder somewhere farther from the ground? We stopped feeding birds while we had outdoor cats...


I'm enjoying my current setup where my cat lives in a fenced area around my 'house' (van). He gets to be happy about spending time outside, and deters creatures from living under my van, and the majority of the wildlife stays out of his enclosure and thus doesn't get killed. Plus he doesn't get run over.

I hope to replicate this on a larger scale with the household garden included in the cat-zone


Downsides; well, you have to put up the fence... and it has to keep a cat from passing through/over/under it... and you have to listen to the cat complaining about not being allowed to eat that yummy creature he can see through the fence... There are commercially available cat-proof fences, but since I'm cheap and this is a temporary place I just used heavy-duty black plastic deer fencing, installed on an inward slope to it can't be climbed by a cat.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 5227
Location: Pacific Northwest
1504
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We were without a cat for over a year. For a while, the local bobcat was doing a good job of keeping the rodent population at baby...but then it exploded. We have ducks, and the rats and mice discovered the duck house. They were scurrying around in broad daylight, eating duck poop. They were in our garage. We could hear them in the walls at night, and it would wake my kids and freak them out. We made rat traps and bucket traps, and it was no use. There were just too many!

We'd tried various times to get a feral cat to live in our barn, but the shelters were too far away or backed out at the last minute. Then we had a baby and put getting cats on the back burner for when life calmed down.

...And then cats came to us! We spotted some little kittens in our woods. After a week of luring them out to feed and get them used to us, we caught them in our live trap. There were three kittens.

(Third kitty is hiding. We named her Houdini)


We didn't want so many, since we didn't want to destroy our bird population or have to feed so many. We set out to catch Mama Kitty to make sure to get her spayed so she wouldn't have MORE kittens. We now had four cats in temporary shelter built for at most two cats...and then Mama Kitty had SEVEN kittens--in her litter box! .

(Newborn kitten--what a hasel, but also what a magical memory for our son!)


Now we had 11 cats, when, at the most, we wanted two. Thankfully we found a local woman who wanted lots of kittens and she took Mama and her seven babies. Then we found our neighbor's in-laws wanted a kitten, so we passed one along to her, and we were left with two kittens.

Thus far, we've found two kittens to be a good number. They play together and keep each other busy. They stay safe and warm in our garage at night, and mouse the property during the day. There's no more mice or rats in our house, and no more in our duck house, either. After every snow, I look for rodent footprints, and see none. I see the cats catching mice and shrews (not yet a bird, though I'm sure they're catching those too, sadly )

I'm looking forward to gardening this year without bunnies eating all my food. I've stuck sticks upright in the garden beds, and laid chicken wire over other garden beds. This seems to kept them from burring their poop pretty well. All in all, I'm happy to give a home to these two, spayed, feral cats we found, and to not be living in a rodent appoclyose.

(Kitties make good friends for little kids)


(Kitties with their favorite person, my husband)


(Houdini, who escaped at least three times in the weeks after we caught her)


(Stripey Kitty--we're not very origional with our names--who wants to be pet all day long)
 
steward
Posts: 5001
Location: Missoula, MT
724
books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur purity
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
11 cats! Oh my, I'm hoping we don't have that issue with Gert-kitty, who Paul keeps saying is eating for 9 these days after visits from feral males while she must have been in heat.

See this thread, too, barn/farm cats? what do folks think of them? started off by Devin with a video from Marjory Wildcraft, for more awesome discussion about whether to have cats on the homestead.

In that thread I wrote:

I imagine if we wait long enough, more hawks, owls, coyotes, snakes or other predators could move in to gobble up the plethora of little fuzzy garden pests, though it sure seemed the cats were quite well suited to it. I'm really in favor of accelerating the succession of our little ecosystem a bit faster than waiting on nature to catch up, and I think cats are one way to do that.


I've joked about how the catnip growing here was part of what attracted the feral cats for our little ecosystem succession, but it might have some merit! Ha!

 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 5227
Location: Pacific Northwest
1504
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:11 cats! Oh my, I'm hoping we don't have that issue with Gert-kitty, who Paul keeps saying is eating for 9 these days after visits from feral males while she must have been in heat.



You can see if there's any free spay/neuter clinics, or a Feral Cat Project, or Barn Cat Project near you who will spay Gert for free or very cheeply. We took our two kitties to a local free Feral Cat Clinic. We had to drop them off early in the morning and then pick them up in the afternoon, and get little carriers for them each. But, it was very much worth it. Houdini, we found out, not only got spayed, she also got an abortion at the same time. I personally not one usually in favor of abortions, but we did not need so many kittens. And, it sure is better than what my grandmother had to do as a child to keep her cat. If she wanted a cat, her mother told her she had to drown all of it's kittens. That just sounds like a nightmare to me!

Anyway, cats reproduce fast. Houdini was only 6 months old when she had her "abortion." And, they can have litters right after another--you can see how small Houdini and Stripy Kitty were when their Mama popped out another litter!

I imagine if we wait long enough, more hawks, owls, coyotes, snakes or other predators could move in to gobble up the plethora of little fuzzy garden pests, though it sure seemed the cats were quite well suited to it. I'm really in favor of accelerating the succession of our little ecosystem a bit faster than waiting on nature to catch up, and I think cats are one way to do that. 



I think it's great to invite those other predators...if you don't have small livestock. Hawks, coyotes, owls and bobcats don't just eat mice--they also eat ducks. We've lost a lot of our ducks to predators. I don't really want to lure in predators than can eat my ducks. My cats, however, do not hurt my ducks. At the most, they give them a playful little swipe. I do worry about what our little huntresses will do if a mama duck hatches out ducklings...
 
Posts: 46
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live in the foot hills of the southern Colorado Rockies.  A neighbor has a therie that it takes 26 cats to reproduce faster than local preditors can catch them. Seems to work for them,  but the sound of a can cat food opening makes me think of an earthquake, everything seems to start moving.  Luckily my dog is taking care of my varment problem for me. I don't like cats enough to have 26 but before I got her I had mice, packrats and chipmunks piloting to get me out so I would stop interrupting their plans for my house and yard.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1985
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
62
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a lot a block from my house where I grow fruit trees.
I lose a huge number if peaches every year to some critter.
My wife  suggested adopting several stray cats,setting them up to live on the lot.
Spayed,treated,housed ,watered and fed, they could deter squirrels and other rodents.
I fear the critters might be bigger,raccoons or blossoms maybe.
Still, it's an idea.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!