The clash between cats and birds is well-known.
Just think of Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird! According to the American Bird Conservancy’s 2014 State of the Birds Report, a whopping 2.4 billion birds in the US and 196 million birds in Canada are estimated to be killed by cats.
Cats have an instinct to hunt birds and small rodents, and even if they don’t kill them, a bite can lead to a deadly infection.
What’s a bird lover to do if they also love cats? Is it possible for cats and birds to peacefully coexist? It is! With careful attention and training, it is possible to keep both as pets.
Is My Cat a Danger to My Pet Bird?
Which Comes First – the Cat or the Bird?
Depending which animal you have first will determine what to be on the lookout for as you look to add the other to your family.
If you have a laid-back cat who doesn’t seem to have an active hunting instinct, you have a greater chance of successfully introducing most types of birds to your family.
If your cat is very playful and likes to “chirp” while sitting at the window watching birds, you ought to consider a smaller songbird such as a canary or parakeet who spends most of his time in a cage.
If you already have a bird and are looking to get a cat, it’s best to start with a kitten. An adult cat may already be set in his ways and could present more of a danger to your bird. If you do have a larger bird like a parrot or cockatoo, be aware that the bird may bite the kitten, and that is also quite dangerous.
How to Help Cats and Birds Cohabitate
Until you are 100% confident that your cat will not hunt your bird, they should never be left in the same room together unsupervised. As you train both your cat and bird, it may be possible for them to actually become friends, like these adorable buddies!
The most important first line of defense is a sturdy, heavy cage. You need to be sure that the cat cannot knock over the cage, and an inexpensively made one just won’t do. Also, the cage needs to be large enough that your bird can retreat from your cat’s reaching paws.
Carefully observe how your cat behaves when in the room with your caged bird. Is he constantly ready to pounce or does he seem uninterested? Depending on his reaction, you may need to take more time simply having the cat in the same room as the caged bird before allowing the bird out of the cage.
Once it seems that your cat is less interested in your bird, close the door to the room and open the cage.
If the cat comes at the bird, even in a non-threatening manner, loudly say, “no!” or spritz the cat with a water bottle. The ultimate goal is for both animals to more or less ignore each other, and short training sessions until that happens are best.
Don’t forget that while training, if you need to leave the room for any reason, your bird needs to go back in the cage.
Even with all the hype, many families have successfully included both cats and birds. Are you one of those families? What tips and tricks worked for you when integrating the new family member?
Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS is a locum veterinary surgeon who has worked in London for the past 8 years. She graduated top of her class in small animal medicine from UCD, Dublin. She is currently a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Linda is the resident vet for Woman magazine and a frequent contributor to People’s Friend Magazine, the Dogzone website, Vet Help Direct and Wag! Linda also writes content for the CVS veterinary group, Vetwriter and a number of other establishments.