Monday, March 29, 2010

Cats and Groundhogs

So this morning I went to feed one of my pet sitting clients’ cats. They have three indoor cats, and they also take care (Photo: 2 cats on the left & groundhog on the right) of a few semi-feral cats that hang out in their backyard. After putting out the food, I stood inside the door to watch them and to my surprise, a groundhog came to share breakfast with them. He came right up on the back porch and started eating the dry food beside the cats. I wasn’t sure how the cats were going to react or what the groundhog was going to do, but neither did anything. They just smelled each other and kept eating.

I was glad to see there was no “scrapping,” because I didn’t feel like breaking up a groundhog – cat fight first thing in the morning. Groundhogs have sharp teeth and this guy weighed two times as much as any of the cats, so if anything, I would be trying to trap an injured kitty. That groundhog can hold his own.

Although I enjoyed watching this, I am going to suggest to my clients they start feeding the cats up on the table, off of the ground, to prevent future encounters with Mr. Groundhog. Besides feeding birds (and feral cats, which are in their own category), it is not recommended to feed wildlife. Only enough food should be provided to feed the cats, and then all trash should be removed to ensure it does not attract wildlife. It is safer for the cats and for other animal species, if they are not drawn to the same feeding area. It is also safer for the humans who take care of the cats; they should not get too close to wild animals either.

This is a great example of wild animals living side by side in harmony. Yes, cats are predators, but they are rodent specialists and are more scavengers than hunters. When provided regular meals, they hunt less and are healthier. There are countless examples like this one where cats have been observed sharing meals with squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and even birds. Cats are not the cause for the decline in bird populations or any other species, man is.


Karen Garza said...

I read that ground hogs can climb so putting the food up doesn't solve the problem. It is said that they can even climb a fence. Don't know if is true and haven't ever seen one climb a fence but I feed feral cats at work and there are a few ground hogs that also hang around. I put the food up but by the way the food disappeared, I think the ground hogs got their fill.

Anonymous said...

Groundhogs in "my" feral cat community have been able to LEAP 17 inches and thru a 6 x 12" opening to get to cat food. The food station's legs are inset which have deterred skunk, possum and geese. The gh's have been peaceful, and punctual. Due to the latter, I wish I could deter them, as I fear for the occasional kitten that is there, who may try to play, and because I don't like spending $ to feed them (honest!) Anyone with deterrent ideas??

Alley Cat Rescue said...

Wow! Those sound like very resourceful groundhogs. What kind of feeding station do you have? From your description, it seems like you already have some preventative measures in place, but if not you could try some further proofing, such as raising the station even higher (as long as the cats can still reach it). If you have very large groundhogs that are bigger than the cats, you might be able to use a motion activated sprinkler that only goes off on animals of a certain size. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be one clear-cut solution for groundhogs, but hopefully some small steps can help. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I made the station based on assorted online ideas. Basically made a table using 2x4's for top frame, attached legs of 4x4's to inside of frame, and used cement board as top. Due to cold & snow, it's enclosed with an opening on either side, to which I attach plastic in winter. To make enclosure, the back legs extend up above the table top (the cement board is cut out to fit over them), then walls and cover are constructed off those extended up "legs". I also hinged a front piece for my easy access. My site isn't at home so no sprinkler option. Station was higher but I lowered a tad because it was a new concept to cats, as people had been feeding on the ground. Now that cats are used to it, raising is worth a try. Thanks!

Gorden Russell said...

Our feral cat colony eats from a spaghetti pot set on a table in the garage. Just this week the food has been disappearing twice as fast as usual.

Just this evening, before dark, I saw a groundhog running up the driveway and suspected that this was the thief. Googling groundhogs and cat food lead me to this page, so now I've put the pot of kibble on a filing cabinet that was already on top of a table.

I'll have to keep track of this site to let you all know if this works.