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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cats Walking On Their Nails?

Back to my backlog of reader questions, this one from Paul....

Can a cat walk on its claws or does a cat have really tough pads on its feet?.  I ask because a neighbour's cat is a nuisance; it regularly kills birds in our garden and for us, the last straw was when it badly mauled a pigeon and left it so badly injured that its feathers were pulled out and its neck badly bleeding.  I rescued the bird (and as the vet was closed -  wildlife rescue said to take it to a vet as a vet is obliged to take the bird and treat it if possible), I put the bird in a warm, dark shed with some grain and water and hoped that at least it would be safe from the cat, rain and cold and I could get it to the vet early the next morning. (I was afraid to put anything on the bird's wounds as it was clearly very scared and I understand that a bird can die from stress of being handled and to be honest I did not know what to do with the animal - the rescue people said just keep it quiet in the dark and with water and some food and get to vet asap next morning).   To cut a long story short the bird died a long and painful death (I checked on the bird regularly in the night hoping it would make it till the morning when vet would be open at 8 - it was alive at 6am and dead at 8am).  I appreciate that cats are hunting animals but I don't own the cat and don't want one or its kill.  The cat has killed several birds in my garden in the last few weeks alone and I am tired of it.  The neighbour won't put a collar on the animal so that birds would be alerted to it and have made their own garden impossible almost for the cat to access it by growing all kinds of plants and climbing roses etc so cat cannot walk on the perimeter wall.  So I decided that I would grow  Pyracantha which is now over the fence and I have secured it to the fence in a way to prevent the animal from walking on it but it still does - its as if the nails and the huge thorns on the plant (which I can tell you would take the hand off a human were you to touch it without padded gloves) make no impression on the cat whatsoever.  I don't want to hurt the animal I just don't want it in my garden and don't want it where the birds are because of the huge carnage that it is causing.  I am convinced that the only way the cat can walk on the fence is because its pads are not being used ie that the animal is walking on its claws otherwise it has pads of cement!.  I have also tried cat repellent nothing works but the animal's feet have me baffled.  (any other suggestions to keep the animal out are welcome).

It's actually impossible for a cat to walk on its claws/nails.  They are simply not structured that way and will not support a cat's weight.  While a cat's pads are fairly tough, a thorn can certainly puncture it.  However, look at the spacing of the thorns on the pyracantha plant.  A cat is extremely agile and dexterous and their paws are typically no larger than two of our fingers put together...sometimes smaller.  So it is possible for one to step around the thorns and still walk on the plant or wall.  Sure, it takes more careful steps and some time, but it's not impossible.  I would also look around your fence to make sure there isn't a small hole or crack that the cat is using as an entry point, completely negating the need to climb or walk on the plants.

Now we can talk a bit about how to keep a cat out of your yard.  First, you need to make the yard unappealing.  By providing bird feeders, houses, or plants that make good nesting you are encouraging birds to come into your yard.  Predators follow their prey, so the birds are a good incentive for the cat to come in the area.  If you want the birds there it becomes a little trickier.  

One of my favorite tricks is a motion-activated sprinkler.  They stay off until something triggers the motion sensor and then they spray harmless water.  A cat is NOT going to want to go into a yard where this keeps happening!  There are also ultrasonic devices you can use that are similarly triggered by motion.

Below are a couple of links that may help!