Ooooh, this is a tricky one! Offering food to the hedgehogs who visit your garden can really help them to survive and thrive. But cats love most hedgehog food. Just like hedgehogs love most cat food. So how to feed your local hedgehogs and not your neighbourhood cats?
There is no easy answer to this one. No “one size fits all” solution, Cats are smart and cunning. It’s often going to feel like your local cats are enjoying finding their way around the obstacles you put between them and your hedgehog food. But you are smarter! In this article, we will give you a whole armoury of tactics you can use to foil those felines.
How to Stop Cats Eating Hedgehog Food
In fact, when cat meets hedgehog at the feeding dish, the hedgehog is quite likely to see the cat off.
So there is no reason to worry about cats harming your prickly visitors. It’s just the food you have to worry about.
A saucer of food left out in your garden in the evening will undoubtedly be tempting for hedgehogs, but it’s an open invitation to all local wildlife and cats too.
Who’s Stealing My Dinner?
If you are worried, Mr and Mrs Prickles may not be getting to enjoy the dinner you have left out for them; the first thing you need to do is find out who’s stealing it.
Is it actually cats?
Spend some time quietly watching your feeding area, or better still get a wildlife camera.
Maybe it’s cats taking the food, or maybe its foxes, or badgers? If it turns out that other wildlife is enjoying the food you leave you, you might choose to just leave a bit more of it.
If your surveillance confirms that cats are the culprits though, it’s time to take action.
Set up a Hedgehog Feeding Station
Your first line of defence will be to set up a hedgehog feeding station.
These are easy and inexpensive to buy – we sell some lovely hedgehog feeding stations!
Or you could build your own, We have an article on different options for making your own feeding station here.
Whether you choose to buy or build, some features are essential for keeping kitty out.
Small Entrance Opening
Cat’s love to crawl into tight spaces, so having a small entrance opening is your first defence.
An entrance that is about 5 inches or 12cm square will be big enough to let hedgehogs in but keep most cats out.
Make it Complicated
A hedgehog feeding station should have either a tunnel at the entrance or two chambers inside, with the food placed in the one furthest from the door.
Either of these methods mean that the cat will have to bend itself around corners to get at the food. How easy this is for them will depend on the size of the cat. But although cats like squeezing themselves into tight spaces they also like to be sure that they can get out again. So sometimes being faced with a tight space and a blind corner may be enough to deter them.
How Low Can You Go?
Cats can squeeze through quite a small gap if there is space on the other side for them to manoeuvre in. So be sure that as well as having a little doorway, your feeding station has low ceilings, especially in the area near the entrance. This won’t bother the hedgehogs, but it will cramp the cats’ style.
You can also reduce the headroom inside a feeding station by placing some bricks inside, to effectively raise the floor.
Keep a Lid On It
Many feeding stations have a hinged or removable lid for ease of abscess. A clever cat will just flip this off given the chance. So make sure your lid is securely fastened with a catch or weighted down with a large brick.
Pin It Down
Some hedgehog feeding stations come with no floor. A persistent puss will get her paw inside one of these and simply tip it over to get at dinner. If you have one of these feeding stations either peg it into the ground or put something heavy on top.
If the cat is still getting in, then extra steps are needed. The first one of these should be a brick baffle.
Hedgehogs are surprisingly bendy, Cats are too of course, but they are bigger. So the more tight corners you place at the entrance to your feeding station, the more difficult you make it for cats to get access.
You can make it more difficult for cats to access your feeding station by placing a brick baffle or tunnel at the entrance. Putting the station next to a wall helps with this.
Get an Extension Tunnel
As we mentioned before, cats like crawling into tight spaces, but only if they can see their way to getting out again.
So adding a long extension tunnel to your feeding station may just do the trick. The cat will know it can’t turn round in the tunnel, and if it’s unsure of the space at the end, it could decide the whole idea is just too risky. No need to use up one of those nine lives unnecessarily after all.
If all of these are failing to do the job, take a look at this ongoing discussion in Hedgehogs Street for a whole host of strategies people have tried.
Are There Hedgehog Foods Cats Won’t Like?
In a word, no. Cats and hedgehogs are both essentially mat eaters. So food for both tends to be meaty (or fishy, in the case of some cat food). So cats tend to like most hedgehog food. And many people use cat food to feed their hedgehogs.
Some people think that dry hedgehog food may be slightly less tempting for cats than the canned variety, But this could just be because dry food tends to smell less strong.
Keeping Your Cat Well Fed
If it’s your own cat helping himself to an extra dinner, then it could be helpful to make sure that you are keeping him well fed. Cats like to graze and nibble, so ensuring they have their own food and drink available throughout the day and night can help to keep them from scavenging.
Keeping your cats well-fed can also help to stop them predating garden birds.
Keeping Neighborhood Cats Out of Your Garden.
If It’s not your own cat that is causing the problem, then you could just work on making your garden less cat friendly.
In our house, we have a dog and a water pistol. We don’t have a problem with cats eating our hedgehog food or going after our garden birds. The dog and the water pistol aren’t often around at night, when the hedgehog food is out. But even so, they’ve made enough of an impression to make the local moggies want to steer clear.
There are other things you can do to make your garden less welcoming to cats:
Plant some smelly plants. Happily, some of the things that smell amazing to humans are a proper turn off for cats. Plant some lavender, mint, lemon thyme and rue through your borders, especially where cats come into the garden.
Invest in some spikes for the top of your fences. Obviously, hedgehogs aren’t getting in this way, but a few spikes on top of fences could well put off kitty.
Rough surfaces. Cats don’t enjoy walking on gravel, bark or anything prickly, whereas hedgehogs will just pick their way around.
Clean Up! Cats are drawn to the scent of other animals poop. So when you see it in your garden, scoop it!
Cat Deterrents That Might Also Put off Hedgehogs
You can do some things to keep cats out of your garden that may also send your local hogs running.
Blocking up holes in fences. Hedgehogs need to roam just as much as cats do. So if you want hedgehogs to feed in your garden blocking up holes in your fences is not an option. Making the holes smaller though could be worth a go. Remember a 5-inch square hole is plenty big enough for hogs and will keep out a fair few off the fatter cats in your area.
Citrus Sprays. Cats hate the smell of citrus and citrus sprays are widely sold as cat deterrents. Citrus sprays won’t harm hedgehogs, but as hogs have such sensitive noses ard rely so heavily on their sense of smell, we would caution against using them near feeding stations, nesting boxes or highway holes. They might be worth a try on the top of fences if your furry invaders get in that way.
Ultrasonic Pest Deterrents. Again these are widely sold and can be quite effective. It’s claimed that they won’t harm birds and wildlife. They probably don’t harm hedgehogs, But we know that hedgehogs hear in the ultrasonic end of the sound spectrum, like dogs and bats. So the sounds the devices make, whilst inaudible to humans, probably sound quite unpleasant to hogs. In fact, several rescuers claim to have seen hogs flinch when they pass one.
Keeping Cats Off Your Hedgehog Food – Good Luck!
There are lots of things you can try to keep cats from eating your hedgehog food. And if this is a problem for you, we hope we’ve given you some new ideas to try.
A well-designed feeding station, with some extra obstacles at the entrance, is probably your best defence.
But if you have a skinny, determined cat, it’s unlikely that you can do anything that will keep the cat out and still let the hedgehog in.
In these circumstances, it’s better to admit defeat, put a little extra food out and wait for the cat to get bored. Which it surely will sooner or later.
We hope you’ve found this article useful and interesting. If you have questions or suggestions, we would love to hear them. Leave us a comment below.