cat and bird

Cats and Birds: Can Predators and Prey Live Under the Same Roof?

Whoever invented the phrase “fighting like cats and dogs” obviously never tried living in a house with cats and birds.

These two creatures seem destined to have it out for one another. There was an entire cartoon based upon their rivalry. However, with a little hard work, you can get these guys to live together quite harmoniously.

Why can’t they just get along?

It’s important to remember that cats are carnivorous hunters. It’s in their nature to seek out smaller prey and, unfortunately, devour them if possible. Birds are particularly alluring to cats due to their bright colors and quick movements during flight. If you’ve ever tried dangling something bright and mobile in front of your cat you know how quickly they get excited. Birds are the perfect prey because they pose a challenge, and cats have a hard time resisting a little bit of fun before a meal.

Introduce them early.

The key to forming a bond between your cat and bird is to introduce them as early as possible. Adopting them both while young can go a long way towards creating a friendship, rather than mortal enemies in your home. If you’re introducing one of them into the home as an adult, you’ll still want to stage a meet and greet early on. Sheltering a bird from a cat in separate rooms only serves to make them more enticing prey for the cat. Rather, you want to treat the bird’s existence and normal and acceptable in the areas your cat views as its territory. Start slow of course, and don’t leave them alone in a room together. You’ll want to have the bird caged at a distance to start. If both animals seem calm you can try moving them closer together. If at any point the bird seems stressed, that’s a sign that you should take a break. Eventually, you’ll be able to have them right next to each other. Never allow your cat to pounce on the cage or attempt to swat the bird. Instead, stop it with a firm “No.” After a few sessions, if you feel comfortable that your cat won’t treat the bird like prey, you can try having them interact outside of the cage. Hold the bird or let it rest on your shoulder, and be prepared to act quickly if the cat is about the pounce.
cat and bird ©istockphoto/MasterShot

Don't encourage play between bird and cat.

One of the worst things you can do is encourage your cat to view the bird as a toy. What looks like simple playing can escalate to aggressive behavior in an instant. Instead, ensure your cat and bird are calm in each other’s presence. Additionally, never leave the two animals alone without supervision. No matter how wonderfully the two seem to get along, a cat’s instinctive behavior is always lurking beneath the surface. Inside of a home, it can be difficult for a bird to escape a cat’s clutches, as there are few places your feline friend can’t find a way to reach.

Don’t underestimate the bird.

While we’ve focused primarily on the dangers a cat can pose to a bird, don’t forget that some birds can handle themselves in a fight. Larger birds like parrots, parakeets, and toucans can deal out a lot of damage when protecting themselves. Their beaks and sharp claws can tear into a cat’s skin easily and lead to expensive vet bills. Some birds also carry diseases that can be picked up by your cat. When bringing a bird into your home, remember to purchase a cage that provides ample space while also remaining secure. There are plenty of options available that are designed to keep other animals out rather than simply keeping a bird in. These can go a long way in keeping your two friends safe and living together under one roof.

Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.
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