I love my new garden – i just wish it didn’t come with a gang of neighbourhood cats | Emma Beddington

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I have been wondering why no one eats the bird seed at the front of the house: my husband has the answer. He recently sent me a picture captioned “This is why”: three muscular cats draped over the wall, inches from my feeders. Seemingly relaxed, they nevertheless project an aura of lazy homicidal menace. I wouldn’t want to walk past them myself, so it’s hardly surprising birds are put off.

I am learning that, when you move to the suburbs, you are allocated a quota of cats. Not your own: just some cats that are now part of your life, like it or not. By my calculations, it’s approximately 1.5 cats per head. We have the front yard gang, plus a sleek black puma-sized one that sits next to my small hens, appraisingly. The vegetable patch also has a cat tenant: a judgmental tabby who gets annoyed when I interrupt his busy schedule of digging up and defecating on my seedlings. Then there’s Derek, 20, confused and bony, often found by the back door emitting the haunting wail of a lost toddler (he’s my favourite).

Nowhere I have lived before has involved much feline interaction, so this is all new. I find my new feline neighbours beautiful and respect their general unbothered “vibe”. However, as a bird lover during fledgling season and as someone now responsible for keeping plants alive, I have been thrust, involuntarily, into the role of sworn cat enemy. I have acquired an ultrasonic cat repeller (my cat quota all sit in front of it, licking their bits) and am contemplating an eccentric installation of sticks to deter the seed-digging tabby. Sometimes, as if compelled by an external force or ancestral instinct, I find myself banging on a window, indignantly making shooing noises as a cat stares blankly back at me.

I suppose we are all just fulfilling our destinies: the cats being wild bird murderers (the New Yorker recently reported on research indicating cats are genetically far closer to their wild ancestors than dogs are to theirs). Mine seems to be gesticulating impotently at them through windows.

Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist

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