Although I live in a distinctly urban environment, last night my cat brought to my attention the presence of two badgers in my small back garden. I was surprised. In fact I was very surprised. It is the first time that I’ve seen badgers in my garden although I routinely see foxes using a track behind my garden.
My surprise is partly due to there being no access for a badger to my garden. I have no idea how they got in because there’s a cat confinement fence around it. I’m going to check the garden today and will update the page afterwards (I am writing this at 6am in the morning in bed). UPDATE: As expected they had burrowed under the fence on the left side. This opening also explains why my cat has recently returned home via this route. This had bemused me to.
Their presence prompted me to check whether domestic cats are safe when badgers are around. Badgers are strong animals and when cornered can be aggressive and dangerous. That said, I love wildlife and I am perfectly happy to have them in my garden but I need to protect my cat.
Very low risk – Badgers are carrion eaters
My research indicates that it is unlikely, perhaps extremely unlikely, that a badger will hurt my cat. Cats rarely square up to a badger because they regard badgers as dangerous or a potential threat and avoid them. Badgers, for their part, would seem to be disinterested in attacking domestic cats.
The website badgerland.co.uk tells me that if a person sees a badger eating a domestic cat it’s almost certain to be a cat killed by some other means. Only in 2% of cases will a badger have killed the animal that it is feeding upon. In short, they eat carrion.
Provided my cat has an escape route – which he has – then all should be well. There appears to be one caveat which is that if a person is moving to the countryside and has a young cat it might be wise to keep the cat inside between dawn and dusk if badgers come into the garden. This allows the cat to become familiar to the new environment and to learn about badgers.
Cats are able to escape if required. If there is a cat flap (cat door) to the house they can escape through it or if there is a climbing frame to climb up cats can escape that way. It would seem that the key to providing safety for your cat is to provide an escape route and let your cat use their intelligence and speed to protect themselves.
There are instances when a badger might be dangerous to cats and dogs. This is when they are cornered and defending their cubs. But it appears to be very rare and they do not kill family pets such as cats and dogs unless under these particular circumstances.
I would expect some cat owners to disagree with my approach. Indeed many cat owners in America would regard my thoughts as irresponsible because they keep their cat companions inside the home at all times.
For me, it’s a balancing act between allowing my cat a chance to live a full life while taking steps to keep him safe. It will always be a compromise if you let your cat go outside. Of course, even inside the home domestic cats are not entirely safe, far from it in fact. There are many hazards inside the home including hidden chemicals in carpets and household plants to name just two.
As his guardian, I have to decide the balance of risk on behalf of my cat. I love wildlife and I believe that all animals have a right to live, which is equal to the human right to life, and it gives me pleasure to allow them to live in harmony with me and my cat.
An article I read recently in the newspaper said that one of the greatest relaxants for a person is to walk within nature for 20 to 30 minutes daily. In other words to connect with nature for half an hour a day. Doctors should prescribe it. I have always done this whenever possible and it unfailingly helps to make me feel better. We need to be part of nature and not distance ourselves from it. It takes us to our ancestral roots.
Letting badgers come into my garden and hopefully living in harmony with me and my cat should be good for us all.
P.S. I tried to film the badgers on my smartphone but it was too dark. I’ll try again if I see them again using a different camera.
Update: here is a camera trap video I made a few days ago (it is now 2nd August 2020). You can see the two badgers. My cat is also out at night. I am sure he bumps into them sometimes but keeps his distance.