Cats will spend hours watching ponds and fish tanks, apparently waiting for a chance to pounce. They seem mesmerised by the sight of gentle, slow-moving fish, just ready to make a tasty meal.
If you value your fish, you will want to train your cat to respect them. You will also have to consider where you place and how you keep a fish tank in your home. But is the cat really likely to make a catch, or is fish-watching just an enjoyable pastime for the cat? Fish in tanks are relatively safe from the grasps of even the most playful kitten. However, always keep tanks covered and fish bowls well out of the reach of your cat, to put temptation at bay.
Q. Our cat spends hours watching the fish in our pond, but has never caught one. Should we be worried that one day the cat will catch a carp?
Cats are not really equipped to catch fish: they may like to watch them, but are more likely to chase after insects and amphibians around the pond, than to catch fish.
Q. Will our cat come to any harm if it chases the frogs in our pond?
No. Most frogs are quite harmless. However, there are some species of toad that are poisonous, so it is worth researching the wildlife in your area so that you can keep an eye out for such dangers.
Q. What mesh should I use to cover our pond?
Small gauge chicken wire, firmly pegged down all round, or rigid iron mesh, anchored in place under heavy stones should do the job. The idea of cats eating fish is an even more common theme than cats eating mammals and birds. However, if you have a cat you will probably notice it coming home more often with a mouse or a fledgling than with an ornamental carp.
Most cats are not prepared to take the plunge. Although cats love to drink – from sinks, ponds and other strange places – not many are happy in the water. But even in the water, few cats are fast enough to catch a fish: shadows and reflections play tricks on even the sharpest-eyed predator.
THE FISHING CAT
Among the larger members of the cat family, there is a species that is well equipped for hunting in water: the Fishing Cat (Felis viverrina) has partially webbed feet and an elongated body, and dives to make its catch – sometimes catching quite large fish.
The main danger with cats that are fascinated by fish is that they will leap into a pond and not be able to get out. It does not take much depth of water for a cat to drown, if it is disoriented with its face beneath the surface. Deep, steep-sided ponds should be covered with wire mesh, but make sure the cat can’t get trapped under the mesh. Shallower ponds should have gently stepped banks so that a cat can climb out easily.
- It’s difficult to keep your cat away from a pond, so make sure it’s safe. Cover the pond with mesh in order to protect both the fish and your cat.
- One breed of cat that loves to swim is the Turkish Van, named after the lake in Turkey where it habitually takes a dip.
- Cats seem to prefer drinking water from strange places – taps and hosepipes are favourites. Some owners declare that their cats are hoping for fish to appear from the outlet.
- Even the Fishing Cat is more likely to be found eating birds, reptiles and amphibians, such as ducklings, snakes, lizards and frogs, rather than fish.