When I was feeding ferals cats I had a problems with startlings as well. They eat massive amounts of food. I never solved my problem but I found this in the Bestfriends.org archives. I am including the whole question and answer because they have some great suggestions for solving the problem of all kinds of wildlife eating cat food. Hope it helps.
Renee >>What about caring for feral cats when it affects wildlife? Question from Laura: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) seems like the best answer to solving the problem of feral cat overpopulation; it is a way of humanely dealing with the feral crisis and it works where traditional methods fail. However, there are serious problems with the way caring for ferals affects indigenous wildlife. The feeding stations attract raccoons, squirrels and other animals, creating dependence on humans in these animals; in some places the colony population goes up instead of down because people dump cats where they see them being cared for, and the cats hunt already threatened birds and other native wildlife. I am a strong and active proponent of TNR, but I am troubled by these problems. What is the right thing to do? Response from Sally: Thanks for your question. These are issues I have gone over with myself quite a bit and are not easy to resolve. I agree and believe that TNR is the best long term and most humane way of solving the feral cat overpopulation problem. The attraction of wildlife to cat feeders is difficult problem. It is hard to exclude very many critters by limiting the size of the feeder's opening, as anything smaller than a cat can get through. One way I have found to exclude undesired diners is by trying to temporarily manipulate the food presence. In other words, if nocturnal critters are the unwanted diners, then try to avoid having any food present after twilight. The cats will learn to eat during the day, especially if you begin the regime with something very sexy to them, like canned food or tuna/canned meat. If you have diurnal and nocturnal wildlife arriving at your feeders, you have more complicated problem, depending on the species involved. I have situations where starlings are eating me out of house and home during the day. I found I could create a barrier that they were afraid to breach, like light cardboard strips hanging over the feeder opening. This would probably not work for mammals like squirrels though. A raised platform on 4 legs, one at each outside corner of the platform, will keep out dogs, but still allow raccoons, possums, mice and rats to climb up one of the posts and access the food/water. To prevent this, design a raised platform on just one, stable, central post. There will be a considerable overhang lip of platform on all sides, making it impossible for non-jumping climbers, such as the above-mentioned animals, to access. Cats are wonderful jumpers and will have no problem leaping onto the platform to feed. Of course, the central post will need to be imbedded in dirt or concrete so it won't wobble! Each situation requires a different selective barrier of one sort or another. Sometimes you can only exclude the largest problem with your solutions, and just accept that others will be freeloading. In all instances, I recommend being extremely discreet about feeding. That means keeping feeding paraphernalia hidden and out of view of the public. I would reload my feeders at a time when folks are not around. If the cats are truly feral, they will stay out of sight for the most part, especially during the day when people are about. If your feeding operation is visible, it will attract feline haters who will cause problems and also encourage people to dump cats. Although you hear a lot and very loud concerns about cats eating birds, in fact, cats rarely are successful bird hunters. They are much better rodent hunters. Most birds can avoid cats and those that don't are usually fledglings or old/compromised birds. In the big picture, it is loss of habitat that is the significant cause in bird population decline. Cats probably don't even register on the radar screen as a significant cause of bird mortality. Documentation for this is available through Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org), along with more information about all aspects of your question. Laura, you are doing the right thing! It is impossible to please everyone and meet all needs. If only we lived in a perfect world... but then we would not have feral cats at all! We can only dream of that day and do the best we can to minimize suffering to domestic and wild animals.<< In a message dated 12/08/07 12:01:12 Eastern Standard Time, [EMAIL PROTECTED] writes: Message: 2 Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2007 19:11:11 -0600 From: "laurieskatz" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> Subject: feeding birds and feral cats To: <email@example.com> Cc: "Brubaker, Angela \[DOC\]" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> Message-ID: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252" I have a friend who feeds (and TNR) feral cat colonies. She has a new problem. The starlings are eating the cat food. Has anyone encountered this? Have suggestions for what works to feed cats, not birds? thanks! Laurie -------------- next part -------------- An HTML attachment was scrubbed... URL: http://mail.felineleukemia.org/pipermail/felvtalk_felineleukemia.org/attachments/20071207/0f68c9cf/attachment.html