CATS AND GARDEN PONDS

“The world’s most expensive water bowl”. Sometimes that is how my pond seems to me. I have on many occasions watched my cat Pippin interact with my pond. Many of you may think cats and ponds is a deadly combo that will result in diminishing fish counts in the pond and stinky breath on your cat. I have found from practical experience over the many years I have been working with ponds that the concept of cats fishing for their dinner or for sport in backyard ponds is something of an urban/suburban legend. Could it happen? Sure, but it is pretty unlikely.
I will say that a domestic cat given access to, let’s say, a fishbowl on a table top, may go after the fish, not so much for a meal, but more for playing; which may result in an overturned fishbowl. Cats going after fish in ponds however; not really an issue. The typical domestic cat has an aversion to water and getting itself wet, although, granted there are always exceptions to the rule; and if your cat happens to be one that does not hesitate to dive or wade into a garden pond for a bit of fishing you might be able to make a buck or two sharing a bill with the famous high diving horse of Coney Island!
My cat Pippin has had a pond for his entire life, all 12 years. He has a total routine with the pond when he is let out. Pippin will circle the entire pond, clockwise from one rock to another, stopping at the waterfalls for a drink, then completing the circuit of the pond before heading off into the neighborhood to make sure all is well in his world. This is his routine EVERY time he is let out during pond season. Pippin certainly acknowledges the fish and will sit, very relaxed, pondside casually observing them. Often times getting nose to nose with the koi when he goes to drink from the pond, the koi will actually go right up to his face with theirs. This is a fascinating look at two very different species of animals interacting….peacefully, if not even comically.
A large percentage of my pond keeping customers own cats and dogs. In 15+ years of being in the pond industry I have yet to come across a confirmed account of a cat going after pond fish although there is still plenty of speculation. I have had pond owners tell me that a fish disappeared and they just know it was the neighbor’s cat seen though they did not actually witness this feline abduction of their fish. I don’t know how the myth began but I can confirm from my experiences in this field dealing with many hundreds of ponds and situations that I have yet to come across any real problems with cats and ponds.
Dogs are another topic all together!….

25 Comments

sally

Sorry to burst your bubble but I have a large ‘stream’ in my backyard full of fish. I have witnessed on many occasions the neighbours cat scoop my fish out of the stream and eat them. I am yet to figure out a way to stop this cat from doing it. Sadly my fish will come to the surface when the water is disturbed as they think it is feed time….

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Mike Gannon

Hey Sally, my bubble is doing just fine. I always maintain that there are exceptions to everything, I do not claim anything 100%. I’m sorry to hear that a cat is doing damage to your pond. I will maintain that your situation is highly unusual and in 20 years of dealing with thousands of ponds you and 1 other person have ever reported cats actually doing any damage to their livestock. But of course, I know that it can happen.

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Carolyn

I have watched my abbysinian cat catch one of my koi and br\ing it inside for me. I managed to wrestle the fish from the cat’s jaws and released it back into the pond wher it swims still. However the cat is intent on camping out there to get the next one. I have a pond ringed by rocks lying flat, so have moved some to stand vertical and this seems to deter the cat as he cannot get close nough to the water now. I will wait a few days to see if he thinks out a solution and if so, the next step is fishing netting over the top of the pond. (And a large volume water pistol!!)

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Mike Gannon

Hey, thanks for checking out the blog. Although rare, there are times that cats will catch koi. Netting may be the answer to your problem…or a dog! -Mike

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Mark

Over the past few years I have around about 15 of my fish taken by various neighbour hood cats one neighbour came round and told me her cat had taken quite a few back home with it ,
I had one daring cat that actually used to go in the pond which I caught a couple of times splashing around in it
netting is best deterrent but looks such a mess over the pond I’ve recently purchased some plastic hexagon shaped fish guards that go round the edge of the pond & connect together which I’m hoping will deter them , time will tell ! So I know for a fact that cats do take fish from ponds …

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Mike Gannon

Hey Mark, thanks for the feedback. You have ALOT of cat activity by your pond and in your neighborhood! It must have been a somewhat funny site seeing a cat swimming in your pond, it must have had a major hunting instinct! Good luck and let us know if you find a good way to cat-proof your pond! -Mike

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Sasha

Hi Mike,
interested to read your article and all the comments. I am about to move into a rented house that has a pond, with x3 koi, and I have x2 cats. Any tips on preventing them from getting into the pond and going fishing? Is netting the best option, and is it safe for the cats? I’d hate to find them all tangled up in it…..
thanks
Sasha.

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Mike Gannon

Hey Sasha, thanks for reaching out! I would say that generally speaking there is not much that needs to be done to keep cats out of the ponds. We build and service many ponds and most are located within suburban neighborhoods with local cat populations. In 20+ years I am happy to say that I have never ONCE had an issue with cats! I’d say no special preparations are necessary. -Mike

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Abbie

Hello, My boyfriends dad has two ponds made from sleepers, he recons that putting a lip around the top (that over hangs the water so the fish can go under it) stops cats from his area being able to catch the fish, he hasn’t had any problems. However I have three cats that all love to hunt, and we are thinking about making a pond in the same fashion. I am unsure whether like you say, some cats just aren’t bothered, or whether the lip is actually working and would work in our garden with the cats. I’d hate to spend the money putting the pond in, and then not be able to make the most of it.

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Alan Perkins

One of our two cats has been practising with the fish in our large pond. He has now perfected the skill and has brought us a large koi (well over a foot long) and now almost daily we are seeing goldfish in the house.Really frustrating.

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Mike Gannon

Wow! your cat is quite the hunter! sorry for your fish loss though. -Mike

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Paul F

If cats taking fish from ponds is the exception to the rule I must be unlucky to live in the exception to the rule area. Every property that I look after in a large area that has a pond has an issue with cats taking fish and destroying netting to get to the fish, cats caught in the act come back once the coast is clear to carry on. nothing short of physical violence towards the cat works as a permanent fix.

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Mike Gannon

Thanks for the feedback Paul. There are definitely issues with cats and sorry to hear your area gets hit hard! Most domestic cats are not much of an issue, however I do think areas that may have higher feral cat populations (not saying that is your case) will deal with more predatory behavior. -Mike

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paula nichols

i hate using netting, i’ve never had to use it before. BUT, i moved my koi 200 miles away, 7 of them over a ft. long. the move went great. i built the new pond exactly the same as the old one. 5 ft straight down. never had a problem. but now, i am missing 4 of my beautiful koi. one i found in my parking area still alive, but he didn’t make it. my cats sit on the coping around the pond to get water and watch the fish. i’ll be damned if i can catch them i’ll have baptism services for ever single one of them i can catch. most of them are feral, but they are all neutered. if my big koi gets missing that i have had for over 15 years, so help me God, i will kill these ungrateful infidels. I’M MAD AS HELL. i’ve set up a game camera to see exactly what is happening. we’ll see.

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Mike Gannon

Hey Paula, sorry to hear this. Let me know what happens with the camera!! I’m not sure where you live but there are a few predators that could take fish from the pond. The camera will tell the story!! Good luck. -Mike

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Mariah

I’m glad to know cats will eat the fish, I am planning on getting a serval in a few years and I was wondering if getting a pond and filling it with koi would be a good idea so it can hunt for it’s own food like it would in the wild.

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Shelby

Wow! I can understand Paula Nichols frustration. But, odd she mentions God and killing the cats who are given hunting skills by God. I have a fairly new pond with 5 fish. There were 6, but I suspect that one of my cats who bring me gifts of mice may have had a snack. I placed nylon screen over the pond and secured it with stones. Can’t really see the fish too well. I am considering plexy glass on top of bricks surrounded with stones. I have an algae problem though. I have a small kidney shaped pond and waterfall from Menards. It has a pump and 2 filters. Any suggestions?

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Thelma

One goldfish taken every day this week and eaten. Also found the bodies of frogs and lizards. I have had my pond for thirty years and never had a problem before. Suddenly there seems to be cats everywhere. I dont want cats but they seem to congregate in my garden probably because I still have soil. One in particular is a good fisher and doesnt seem to have a home. I’m old now myself and there is little I am able to do about it. Sad though

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Mike Gannon

Sorry to hear this Pritam. Where are you from?? I get different feedback on cats from different parts of the world. I’m very interested to hear where you are from please. Thanks!! -Mike

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Pete

Could you take down this misleading advice, please? I followed it and now have goldfish covered in scratches from cats’ claws. No, they don’t dive in, they just hang out and wait for a fish to surface and then take a swipe. My fish are too big for them to actually catch but they’re now covered in bloody scratches that may become infected.

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