Feeding feral cats is such a noble, fun deed. But when you place food outdoors, you’re basically inviting all kinds of wildlife to a free buffet!
Sadly, cats could be hurt by many of these animals as they fight for food. In fact, some cats tend to avoid feeding stations that have high competition.
So, how can you fix this? In this article, we’ll discuss how to raccoon-proof your automatic cat feeder, since raccoons are pretty common everywhere.
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5 Steps to Build an Enclosed Feeding Station
A hungry raccoon is highly persistent. It will do anything to reach food. Since they find most of their food in trash cans, their number one solution would be to tip your food container. That’s where this design gets handy.
Step 1: Get a Container
Buy a container larger than your feeder’s size. Make sure it’s constructed with heavy-duty material, so as to withstand the possible scratches, bites, or whatever raccoons would do. For the same reason, I’d suggest buying a new container rather than using an old one.
Step 2: Cut an Entrance in the Container
With a sharp cutter, open an entrance on the lower portion of the front side of your container. The size should be about 4 inches in height and 6 inches in width, but these may vary according to your feeder model.
On the lower part of the entrance, cut additional small rectangles from both sides. This is where the bowl will be.
Try to make this entrance as small as possible. The goal is to open an area that will allow the feeder to dispense into the bowl. If you expose a large part of the feeder, raccoons would be able to scratch it, searching for food.
Optional: Use a Heat Gun
Since you’re using a heavy-duty container, it can be a bit tough to open a hole with a cutter alone. Using a heat gun wouldn’t only make it easier, it would also produce much smoother cuts, decreasing the likelihood of hurting cats.
Make sure you don’t touch the heated plastic as it can hurt you. It might be better to ask someone to hold the gun for you. This way, you’d instantly cut the heated areas before they cool. What’s more, you’d be totally focused on the sharp blade, decreasing the risk of cutting yourself.
Step 3: Cover the Edges with Tape
Even with a heat gun, cut edges won’t be safe enough for cats. Place thick duct tape around the edges to make it sofer. Test with your hand to make sure there’s nothing sharp anymore.
Step 4: Place Your Automatic Feeder
Place your feeder directly in front of the entrance. Now, here’s the essence of this idea. On both sides of the feeder, place any heavy objects you might have. This is what will make the station flip-proof, so the heavier, the better.
You can place a bag of dirt, a bunch of bricks, a pair of old barbell weights, or even a lot of full water bottles.
Step 5: Fix the Bowl
It’s important to fix the bowl to the container to prevent raccoons from moving it and leaving the food to fall on the ground.
To do this, attach a small rope to whatever weight you placed inside the container. Then, rotate the rope around the bowl and attach it to the other side. Place multiple binder clips to hold the bowl and the rope together.
Now you’re ready to give it a try!
Try These Additional Tips to Make It Harder for Raccoons
I always see people complaining a lot from how resourceful and skillful raccoons are. And it’s true! Raccoons have adapted to scavenging from urban and suburban areas. As their food gets scarcer, they always find a way to compensate.
So, aside from the design that we discussed, here are some tips you can do to outsmart raccoons.
Pick the Right Time
As you might already know, raccoons are primarily nocturnal. On the other hand, feral cats are crepuscular. This means that they tend to be active during the low-light periods such as early morning and early evening.
Since you’re using an automatic feeder, you can set the feeding time in the early morning to avoid raccoons.
Moreover, feral cats remember their feeding time perfectly. So even if no cats showed up in the first days, don’t worry, once they know, they’ll be hooked.
Make Them Jump
Raccoons are stealthy thieves, fast runners, and skillful scalers. But when it comes to jumping, they’re too chubby to do it! Guess who can jump effortlessly? Our beloved, graceful cats.
Try to place your feeding station on top of a central post. Such a design will be nearly impossible for a raccoon to scale onto, yet very easy for a cat to jump upon.
Putting tin sheets around the post would also make it harder for raccoons to climb from the post to the station.
If you can’t apply such a design, try using a high table with thin, metal legs that raccoons can’t scale. It’s a smart idea to grease the legs to make it even tougher for raccoons.
Secure the Surroundings
If raccoons are constantly invading your yard, maybe your neighborhood is to blame.
More times than not, raccoons get used to feeding on particular trash cans, then roam around the nearby houses for an extra snack. Securing the lids of the garbage cans with bungee cords can drastically decrease the raccoon presence.
If nothing of these works, you can try to use a rodent repellent on your lawn. Such repellents contain a special peppermint formula that raccoons naturally hate. However, it won’t affect feral cats, your pets, or even your garden plants.
To Sum Up
Hopefully, the ideas mentioned in this article will help you win against those bandit critters! As a general rule, any feeding station you make should be tip-proof and scale-proof.
If the design doesn’t work by itself, try to boost it with tin sheets and grease. Moreover, look around you and remove anything on which raccoons thrive, such as trash cans.
Last but not least, stay safe and don’t engage with any wildlife. People can contract serious infections, like rabies, from the tiniest scratches.