Tips To Living With Cats And Small Pets Harmoniously
Cats make wonderful pets. So do birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, mice and bunnies.
Can they live in the same house in harmony? Yes, if the human in the equation takes precautions.
Birds like a nice sunny room with a window. A little background music to sing along with is always appreciated. A quick hop from one side of the cage to the other or a few chirps is all it takes to catch a cat’s attention.
Cats are hardwired to chase anything that moves whether it’s people's toes under the blanket or another pet. Small birds, like finches, can easily panic themselves into a heart attack under the steely and unrelenting stare of a cat on the prowl. Stress may lead to plucking out feathers, similar to nail biting in humans. Appetite can also be affected—“too nervous to eat” is a real problem.
Larger birds, like macaws or parrots would seem to be in a safer position but not true. They’re more social and like to spend time outside the cage for exercise and companionship. A seemingly sleeping cat can cross a room to pounce a bird before bird or human can move.
Birds are fragile. A scratch can cause an infection. By the time it’s noticeable, it’s fatal. A bite is a puncture wound and equally life-threatening. If Kitty gets this close, take the bird to the vet, just to be safe.
Bunnies and cats can get along, according to the Rabbit House Society. Bunnies do like to establish who’s the boss—and between cats and bunnies, it’s Bunny who makes the rules. Rabbits have been known to charge cats during the first meeting so it’s advisable to let Kitty see Bunny in his cage first. During face-to-face visits, keep Kitty harnessed and leashed for a quick retrieval if things go wrong.
Guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice all need locked cages with openings small enough that Kitty can’t reach inside for a quick pat. It’s too easy to not-quite-close the cage door or for kids to want to show Kitty the new pet. “I've had cats and rats in the same house for years. Be careful and smart,” says Lorie Lewis, owner and publisher of Kings River Life online magazine. “A sturdy and reliable cage that a rat can't get out of or just as important, that a cat can't get open is vital.”
The best protection pets can have is a diligent owner. A sliding bolt, positioned high on the outside of the door, prevents kids from visiting—and letting the cat into the room. Put another on the inside to keep the door closed while the cage is cleaned, fresh food and water are doled out or it’s time for a stroll around the room.
Keep in mind that once a cat catches a bird or fuzzy pet, he will be more than reluctant to let it go. In his mind, it’s his prey, not a pet. The cat is not evil, not hungry and not jealous. Cats don’t distinguish between the feathered or fuzzy toy you brought home and a live animal.
No amount of prevention or precaution will guarantee the safety of all concerned. Mindful management is a must. Don’t just lock the door out of habit—have a routine and a mental checklist to follow. A moment’s carelessness can be a matter of life and death.
Sandra Murphy writes magazine articles about all kinds of animals, pets or exotics, marine life too, eco-friendly living and weird topics that catch her fancy. In her spare time, she writes fiction, mostly mysteries with a twist. With all the research, her browser history is intriguing to say the least. She lives in St. Louis with two bossy cats and Ozzie, a very tolerant dog.