Raising Cats & Birds In The Same House

Cats and Birds? In the Same House?

Cats instinctively react to movement. Birds tend to move around a lot in their cages, especially if a cat is giving them "The Look" from right outside the cage door. Do you have to give up the idea of cats and birds in the same house? No, but there are precautions to take.

For small birds, like finches, who are not used to being handled, who live in their cages always, the best solution is to keep the cat out of the room where the bird cage is set up. Some birds can become so overwrought at the sight of a predator that they have a heart attack.

To recap some bird-care basics - birds will need to be in a sunny but not overly warm room, where they can see out of the window or see themselves in a mirror. This will keep them from getting bored—boredom leads to plucking out their feathers, similar to biting fingernails or twisting a lock of hair in humans. They’ll also need visits from you on a regular basis, for company as well as food, water and cage cleaning duty. Music helps too. Birds like to sing or chirp along to the latest tunes too. As with any pet, it is up to you to become an expert in their care, so please find good bird-care resources and don't limit yourself to the advice given on a cat site.

A Bird's Life with Cats

To be safe, there should be a lock on the door. A sliding bolt works well and it should be high enough kids can’t reach it. If your bird likes to come out of his or her cage for a walkabout or to sit on a perch while the cage is cleaned, have a lock on the inside of the door too so no one opens the door while the bird is vulnerable. Cats are very fast.

Although most people think a larger bird like a parrot or a macaw could protect himself, the fact is that cats react quickly. Even a scratch can cause an infection in the bird and by the time it’s noticeable enough to the human that something is wrong, it’s often too late to save the bird’s life. One bite can also leave puncture wounds that are life threatening. Even if you can’t see the marks, if your cat has gotten that close to your bird, take the bird to the veterinarian immediately.

Keep in mind that once a cat catches a bird, he will be more than reluctant to let the bird go. In his mind, it’s his prey, not your pet, and he’s not going to give it up. This can cause even more physical harm to the bird. The cat is not being evil, not hunting because he’s hungry and not jealous of the time you spend in the room with the bird. It’s just that cats don’t distinguish between the feathered toy you brought home for him to chase and a real bird.

No amount of prevention or precaution will guarantee the safety of the bird. Mindful management is a must. Don’t just lock the door out of habit—have a routine and a mental checklist to follow. Running to grab the phone or to answer a child’s question can be a matter of life and death for your bird if the door is left open, even for a minute.

Cats and birds can co-exist but it’s up to you to make the rules for living and to enforce them, every time.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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5 comments on “Raising Cats & Birds In The Same House

nunnc84 November 23, 2020
I have canaries in a large iron cage. My kitten attacks the cage. My older cat occasionally attacks the cage. The kitten will sit and chirp watching for hours. The poor birds. Finally, the kitten is toning down the attacks; where I don't see them. I think its because I chase her with the broom when I see her charging the cage. She sticks to the cat tree next to the bird cage. I know, I asked for this fight by asking the two to coexist. I did not get a hook bill because of the damage the beak can do to the cat. I preferred flight birds because I am a beginner for birds.
    Furballsmom November 26, 2020
    Other methods of distraction or moving the bird cage if possible, (chasing with a broom is definitely not recommended) would be effective, and better for the kitten.
splasha1 June 3, 2014
Long ago we had black cat & Blue & Gold McCaw who used to "play." Well lets say the cat always loved to attack the birds long tail as it hung down from the open T-Bar in the room. One day bird decided enough was enough and sunk his beak into cat's tail and that was the last time cat ever went near bird.
pinkdagger May 21, 2014
Don't forget that pasteurella bacteria in cats' saliva is toxic to birds, even in small amounts. Cats and birds should never be allowed direct interaction, even with supervision, including sharing food and water sources or grooming each other. The most affectionate of actions can quickly sour, since both cats and birds groom themselves by mouth. Ingestion of pasteurella kills birds VERY quickly and there is absolutely nothing cute about that. Owners need to be vigilant and err on the side of safety - your cat may want to "play" (and playing is hunting), but birds likely see it a different way.   Cats and other pets need to be taught indifference towards birds and other small animals, and only be allowed in the same room with full supervision - no distractions. The birds will always make noise and move quickly, and their flapping will always be a trigger for cats to get excited, and cats need to learn that it doesn't signal play time for them. If you want to introduce your cats to birds, make it a slow transition. Birds are panicky and thrive on routine, so meeting a cat is a pretty big deal and they can get pretty flustered. Especially anxious birds can faint or pass away under duress, so don't push either animal past their comfortable limit.   Also, I know quite a few finch and canary owners who have very hand-tamed and sweet natured, velcro-like passerines. :) Any pet can be a tame, sociable, human-oriented pet if given the right time, socialization, and effort.   This page written by someone who owns/ed fish, parrots, rabbits, rats, cats, and dogs is really useful for summarizing some key points on "zoo safety": http://www.rationalparrot.com/zoosafety.html
sabbyjake May 21, 2014
I have 2 cockatiels and 3 Grown cats, the cockatiels walk around the house and the cats pretty much just leave them alone...they sometimes share the same food & water 2gether.

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