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Gardening

Your cat shouldn’t be outside unless it’s on a leash. There, I said it.

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: December 11, 2019
  • Published December 11, 2019

When it comes to dwindling bird populations, outdoor cats are the real problem. Every year, these escapees from homes just like yours kill billions of birds nationwide. (Getty Images)

It is finally time to put up bird feeders. We had enough very cold weather as well as a few snows that should ensure the hibernation of the 300 bears in the Anchorage bowl as well as those in the rest of the Alaska.

It is really easy to feed birds. First, you can buy all manner of bird feeders or make your own. There is no need to go online to buy them, as there are plenty available right here in state. Look at nurseries and the big box stores.

Getting seed is just as easy. You will end up using black sunflower seed, probably, but I suggest getting a few different types of seed and trying them out. Even black sunflower should be tried in different forms, such as in-the-hull and split pieces.

Consider purchasing 25- and 50-pound bags of seed instead of those one-pounders. Birds can really clean out a feeder in no time. As far as I am concerned, the only reason to buy small bags of seed is to start small while making sure the birds in your area will be attracted.

In the suet and butter feeders, try crunchy peanut butter, almond butter, coconut butter along with plain peanut butter and different kinds of suets.

Hang feeders at different levels around your property and all over. Just remember that you will have to fill these feeders frequently, so in addition to being in the right spot for the birds, locate them where you can conveniently get to them. It also helps if you can see them from inside the house — that way you can enjoy the birds and also see when the feeders need refilling.

Let me preface this next part by noting that somewhere in my garden writer’s handbook is a chapter on how not to lose readers. A major rule is not to write negatively about squirrels. (It specifically says not to call them “rats with tails.”)

Oh well. Do not feed squirrels. You will understand why if any of them get into your house, using your insulation as their nests. Almost as important, we don’t need them competing with birds for food you put out. There are all manner of squirrel barriers that will make your feeders rodent proof.

The most hallowed rule to which my fellow garden writers adhere is to never diss cats. Never. Again, finally, and I am really going against the grain, not me.

When it comes to dwindling bird populations, it is the feral cat that is the real problem. Nationwide, these escapees from homes just like yours kill billions of birds.

I was stunned to learn feral cat populations are generally equal to one-tenth of a community’s human population. This means there are some 30,000 feral cats in Anchorage. And you thought 300 was a lot of bears for the Anchorage Bowl?

Even if you cut that estimate in half because you can’t believe it, 15,000 cats running around our bowl still need to eat, and birds are high up on their menu.

Folks, the solution is an ordinance absolutely making it clear that no cat is allowed to go outside unless it is on a leash. This way we can take care of all the unleashed, invasive, feral, bird-eating cats, humanely. It isn’t fair to the birds and the birds are the ones in big trouble, not cat populations.

What is that you say? Magpies eat birds? Don’t get me going regarding the need to cull magpie populations. I am sure I am in enough trouble as it is, demanding cats be kept on leashes.

Jeff’s garden calendar

Holiday lights at the Alaska Botanical Garden: 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Jan. 11. $5-$7 (children under age 6 are free). alaskabg.org

Pelargoniums: Should start blooming again if you give them light.

Thanksgiving cacti: Just let yours rest a bit. Let the flowers fall off.

Poinsettias: If you are going to buy some, now is the time! Keep yours out of drafts, even when driving home.


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