This is year 3 of my small orchard in the exurbs of Cleveland. The orchard itself is on 1/2 acre surrounded by 8ft chain-link fence because of heavy deer pressure. I see a huge amount of chipmunks, voles, squirrels, rabbits on my property and occasionally in the orchard as well despite not really producing much yet except for some currant bushes. I have not spotted any tree damage yet.
I’d like get this population of vermin under control before it becomes a problem and considering getting a cat. This would be purely a working animal, not a pet. I’m more of a dog guy, my wife is allergic, so she would be outside year round. My local humane society has a program for poorly socialized cats so getting one is not a problem. Is it worth the work?
What do people think of the fence? I am assuming the cat would easily be able to scale chain-link but since I would provide shelter and food inside, she would focus her patrols inside.
Anyone have a good hack for heating in the winter without utilities? Solar or propane?
Is there a strong consensus that cats are a net benefit to an orchard? How effective? Any drawbacks?
Do they only protect against rodents? How about protecting crop from birds in low bushes - raspberries, blueberries etc
Generally speaking, cats in an urban or suburban environment are a bane to the local songbird population and I recommend against letting it run free in your neighborhood. I grew up having a cat that was outside a lot and as an adult knowing what I know now, I would never have one with free range where I live. Neighbors allow their cats to roam free and I find them on our property occasionally. One of these days my dog will also find them and it won’t be good for the cat or my vet bill.
Long story short, if you decide to do this, get an electric fence for your cat to be a responsible owner. Also not all cats are as interested in hunting as you would hope.
Edit - had you considered a working terrier bred for rodent hunting?
Farm Dogs: A Comprehensive Breed Guide to 93 Guardians, Herders, Terriers, and Other Canine Working Partners https://a.co/9VC0gWR
my female border collie/ heeler mix is hell on the squirrels and can turn on a dime. she once ran up a tree after a squirrel and snatched it of a branch 12ft up. shes sharp as a tack and doesnt miss a thing. i too think cats are over rated. you would almost need to starve them to keep them hunting. for voles, mice and rats, a rat terrier is a much better choice.
I’ve got lots of wild cats that hang around. I feed them occasionally. They have long runs that they make every day. I only see them when they pass through my property. Any cat you get will do the same, so they may not be on your property for much of the time. I found bait boxes with poison to work the best. Just scatter them around your property and keep it filled. Most modern poison does not actually have poison if you are worried about that. It works on the principal that they can not burp or fart. The “poison” works like baking soda and vinegar. Their insides blow up.
Get a pellet gun. Gamo make some really fantastic ones for a reasonable amount.
There are no squirrels around me thanks to my neighbor, he snipes them with his pellet gun. Squirrels and chipmunks are not stupid; once they realize that an area is deadly they leave.
In order for the cat to stick around, you will have to feed it. Once you feed it, it will quit hunting. It will do it for fun only. Not effective. Different ballgame in indoor spaces. A cat will rid you of mice and rats. A terrier dog is a better bet for a yard
Cats do come with some needed care but overall my one has been good. It took him about six months to eliminate all the chipmunks that were nearby. I also had rabbits and I don’t see them anymore. I have bluebirds houses/nest boxes on elevated pipes to keep the cat away and it works well. Cats aren’t perfect but they do help eliminate some pest.
I had a cat I allowed him to be outdoor freely only required him to be home at night because of the raccoons. While he was alive, I didn’t have a lot of issues with rabbits , chipmunks, voles, mice etc. Now I have rabbits all over the yard chewed my tree to death. I missed my cat very much.
Outdoor cat will not stay just in you yard, it hunts in the neighborhood but will come home to sleep.
If you have fenced in yard, a dog might do better than a cat. But dog need a lot more care, not as care free as a cat.
I would rather have black snakes than a cat. I would rather have owls and hawks than a cat. If you want to remove every living thing from your yard then get a cat that has young kittens…she will teach them to kill everything for sport.
1/2 acre is small for a blue heeler or aussie shepherd unless you get 2 of them then they will have each other for exercise and fun. Only 1 dog will not have enough to keep them busy. I have both breeds and they work and play as a pack… when there is no work to do they really enjoy each other fighting and wrestling and having a good time.
If the area surrounding the fence has cover for hawks and owls they will do the job of a cat with ease. If there are brushy areas with cover for snakes they will also keep the area clear of vermin.
Final thoughts are to not feed the birds any seed if you dont want all of the things you listed… and hope that you get a neighbor that feeds that will pull them away from your yard.
All of the things you dont want are food for predators…and sport for a cat… if the cat wants the sport. During the daytime cats are mostly napping or not in the mood for sport… they are only part time workers.
I’ll say it again; get a pellet gun. A cat is just a cruel thing to unleash onto your yard. I’m not judging, but do be aware of the huge moral cost of leaving a cat roam free. It will kill everything it can indiscriminately.
Agree. Totally. I have found out that Blue Heelers are much smarter than Aussies when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of day to day life. I cant fathom having an Aussie in the house. My heeler cant leave my side for a minute.
The heeler wants to protect for me and do everything to please me… the Aussies just work… and do their own jobs.
My Aussies have brought 5 fawns into the yard and eaten them. They have also eaten some chipmunks, a possum and really want a snake. My heeler just wants to alert me then kill it for sport.
I never really liked Aussies until i have seen how well they do on a larger property. No matter how cold…hot…wet or dry it is… they just seem happy and adapt. My heeler gets cold…gets hot and loves to swim…
they are so smart. one of my leghorns got out last winter and was behind the coop. it was cold . i was afraid she’d freeze. i tried to go get her but the snow was deep. my boy Buster tried to help me. thought he was going to bite her so i told him no. i tried to get her again but missed. this time he went forward and put his chin on her back and pushed her down in the snow and held her there until i got her. blew me away!
I’m using Tomcat, but I usually just go with straight poison if I can find it. The Tomcat comes in a bag of blocks that they just keep eating on. I find them also helpful in the attic and other parts of the house that I’m not looking for guest.
Yes, the main reason I haven’t gotten a cat yet is the concern for environmental harm to birds. Seems like the benefits of a cat are marginal at best. I already have a dog, but its a mastiff and he certainly ain’t chasing any squirrels or rabbits - he’s built for comfort.
A pellet gun may provide catharsis to take some revenge on a squirrel or two, but I doubt it will make a qualitative difference in rodent pressure to affect health of orchard.
Oh, trust me, it does. After moving into my current house I did not see a single squirrel for months, I didn’t think there were any. One day I saw one on a tree quite a distance away. When I went outside that thing took off like the road runner on a Looney tunes cartoon. Later I found out my neighbor is into sniping them with a pellet gun.
Squirrels are extremely smart and that includes realising when an area is deadly. Im surrounded by forest, I see them I the distance on those trees, and yet they don’t approach the houses even with the orchard full of fruit.
since my hazels started producing ive become vigilant about shooting them again. ive also let my neighbors know i shoot them so they aren’t surprised when they hear my .22 marlin. with the bird flu going around i shoot the crows and burn them in the fire pit to protect my chickens. there are enough roaming cats in the area i dont need one. 3 houses up the crazy cat lady has 8.