Last updated on December 12th, 2021
It’s not every day we see cats chasing or harming birds. However, hummingbirds are in great danger when a cat is near, mostly because they are extremely small in size.
Hummingbirds, themselves, are not one of the regular birds perching on the trees around us or our rooftops. But they do end up entering the human-inhabited areas, especially when a wildland or a forest region is near.
And when hummingbirds start frequenting the cities or suburbs where domestic or feral cats are common, they are in danger! But, can a cat catch a hummingbird?
Cats can catch hummingbirds but not by chasing after them since an average hummingbird flies at 61 mph and a domestic or feral cat has an average speed of 25-30 mph. Cats can catch hummingbirds by slowly creeping up on them before they fly away or when flying too low then being snagged by the cat’s claws.
Can Cats Catch Hummingbirds?
All cats including both feral and domestic can catch hummingbirds since they have natural hunting instincts, which they’ve probably inherited from their wild ancestors like the lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, and so on.
It’s these hunting instincts that cats use to attack and catch prey, even when they don’t need to do it for survival.
For instance, domestic cats are getting good meals throughout the day from their owners, and hence, they don’t need to prey on weaker animals for food.
Still, we often find our fighter pet cats hunt for mice, rabbits, and other weaker animals. Hummingbirds are one of their prey.
Cats can attack and kill hummingbirds in any state, be it during their flight or when they’re motionless.
Since our feline friends are good jumpers, they can catch these birds directly from the ground after a good leap upward.
Similarly, cats can catch hummingbirds from a tree branch or fence by leaping sideways.
They’ll either jump from the rooftops and other elevated areas to attack a hummingbird when they spot one sitting on a lower platform.
In short, cats can catch and kill weaker animals and birds like mice, rabbits, and hummingbirds not only for food but also for the fun of it.
Cats can have a sharp focus on their prey, and this comes from their innate hunting desires.
Some cats may even leave the prey without killing it or simply kill it as an achievement to show their owners how brave or remarkable they are.
Special Features in a Cat’s Body that Allows Them to Hunt
Besides their hunting instincts, a cat’s body is specifically designed for hunting and killing.
We already know that our feline companions have extremely powerful rear legs, enabling them to leap or propel quickly to great heights and distances.
This is why a weaker animal that may have thought it’s sitting at a safe position higher up, ends up falling prey to its feline predator.
The front claws of a cat act as a sharp and strong hook to grab their prey while maintaining a firm grip to prevent any escape.
Cats basically use their front legs as a shock absorber. On the other hand, a cat uses its rear claws to tear off its prey’s flesh, such as ripping at the unfortunate animal’s belly.
Besides, cats have a sense of distance. They have sharp eyes that help them to see things at a faster frame rate than humans.
While we see at around 25-50 frames per second, cats can see at about 100 frames per second. This further means that cats can detect motion faster than humans.
What’s more interesting is cats don’t need to blink frequently to keep their eyes lubricated, thus allowing them to stay more focused while hunting their prey.
Also, these feline animals have an extremely fast response time that lets them shift from inactivity to active movements in a fraction of seconds.
Cats have the ability to kill hummingbirds indirectly, almost by surprise. They usually cause the bird to take quick actions in an attempt to escape.
Although hummingbirds can defend themselves and their territories effectively, there are unfortunate and tragic events where they’ll try to escape swiftly from danger seeing an approaching cat, but at times, they’ll fail in an attempt to flee.
For instance, while escaping in a hurry, hummingbirds may badly bump into rough objects, which may be fatal for them.
Do Hummingbirds Escape Upon Seeing Cats?
If a cat approaches hummingbird feeders, many may be discouraged. However, not all of them will flee immediately even though the “escape” reflex will increase within them.
Most of the time, even the bravest hummingbirds will escape after catching sight of a cat.
Don’t get them wrong. Hummingbirds are courageous, but they’re also very cautious.
It makes them observe new ways of approaching cats or other attackers. Hummingbirds also look out for human beings.
Furthermore, to stay strong as a team, hummingbirds gradually come closer in small numbers until they form a strong group.
It helps them feel less vulnerable to predators and more motivated and united.
At other times, some hummingbirds are even extremely comfortable with human beings to the extent that they’ll feed out from a person’s hand.
How Do I Keep Cats Aways from the Hummingbird Feeder?
You can try the following to keep your cat or other cats away from your hummingbird feeder.
Hang the feeder above the ground.
Try hanging your hummingbird feeder at a safer height above the ground, and it should be more than 5 feet.
Also, keep the feeder at a safe distance away from overhead or lateral platforms, such as tree branches, fences, rooftop, or other overhead platforms, from which cats may easily leap up or down to the feeder.
Felines can jump vertically upwards about 5-7 times their total body length.
Ideally, you should keep your hummingbird feeder at a minimum of 5 feet above the ground. However, to prevent super cats from reaching the feeder, 7-10 feet off the ground is safer.
Use a cat repellent.
It’s a good idea to spray an adequate amount of cat repellent in the area surrounding the feeder.
Since cats have a highly sensitive olfactory system, they won’t like the strong smell of the sprayed repellent.
And it’s not bad for hummingbirds as they have no sense of smell. So, these tiny birds won’t even know if there’s any cat repellent sprayed around the feeder.
You can use many harmless objects as cat repellents. For instance, these feline creatures have a strong distaste for certain smells like vinegar, citrus, cinnamon, and mint.
So, you can easily make a quick solution of cat repellents, such as making a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water and placing it into a bottle with a spray nozzle.
Alternatively, you can also boil orange peels for around 10-15 minutes. This will also work as an excellent cat repellent.
You can use some plants like Rosemary, which strongly repels feline species. So, try planting some Rosemary trees around your hummingbird feeder.
Use identifying devices
If it’s your own pet cat you want to keep away from your hummingbirds, try putting a collar on your cat’s neck that has a small bell.
It’ll help your hummingbirds to be aware of an approaching cat while it’s still at a safe distance.
Keep your cat indoors
Although this isn’t possible all the time, you need to take care of this during the peak hours when hummingbirds eat.
These birds need to eat during the first morning hours after sunrise and the last hour of the day before dark.
And both these two feeding times are extremely vital for the survival of your hummingbirds.
It helps them obtain essential nutrients to either start the day with greater energy or gain enough fuel to survive long nights.
Try to keep your cat indoors at least during these two peak hours, and it’s not that difficult because during these hours, cats, like human beings, are generally fast asleep or too reluctant to step outdoors.
Throughout the day, these adorable birds need to eat after every 10-15 minutes. So, if their favorite perching or feeding area is exposed to a roaming cat, these birds will prefer feeding elsewhere.
For example, they’ll prefer visiting other feeders in the surrounding area or choose to feed in an area that has fragrant nectar flowers.
As a result, you may end up losing your pet birds the moment they find some other place that’s more comforting and a better feeding area than yours.
So, it’s better to keep your hummingbirds safe and let your cat maintain a good distance from them.
And not just protecting them when they’re in your feeder, you also need to prevent an attacking cat from going near the hummingbirds’ nests.
Some Interesting Facts About Hummingbirds
Being the smallest migrating bird on earth, hummingbirds are one of the most vulnerable bird species, not only to other animal categories but also to other birds.
For instance, birds of prey or big birds, such as hawks, orioles, herons, owls, roadrunners, grackles, gulls, and even crows, can harm or kill hummingbirds.
Interestingly, hummingbirds can ward off large birds like hawks from their territories due to their aggressive nature. They’ve got the moves like no other bird.
Hummingbirds can fly in any direction – backward, forward, and even upside down.
Another fun fact about hummingbirds is that they weigh less than a nickel.
The bird is so named because it produces a humming sound when its wings beat fast during flight.