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Gardening with and without a cat

 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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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?

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

David
 
Nicole Alderman
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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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
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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
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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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.
 
Miranda Converse
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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...
 
Abbey Battle
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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.
 
Bonnie Johnson
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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
 
Dillon Nichols
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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.
 
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