—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
Can birds and cats really be friends? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you just toss a cat and a bird in a room and hope for the best.
It’s so important to always be aware, and use good judgment when you’re building a relationship between a cat and a bird. Also, the danger isn’t just your cat going after a bird.
Some birds are extremely large and have big beaks and talons that could harm your cat, so you also need to keep your cat safe too! Here are some tips to help the process go smoothly.
Remember that no matter how many precautions you take, an accident can still happen. This is true with pets and children, pets and adults, and pets with each other. But, preparing and training will decrease the chances of something bad happening.
You may read the advice and decide you don’t want your bird mixing with your cat, and that is okay too. However, some familiarity between species will help create mutual respect, and lessen the odds of either being surprised by the other.
Say your bird flies out of its cage and lands on the floor. You don’t want that to be the first time your cat sees your bird out of its cage, or it will be more likely to pounce on it.
The Type of Bird
Although birds are prey to cats, it’s important to consider where you live along with the size of the bird. In the United States, larger parrots aren’t something a cat would see in the wild.
They tend to move more slowly and don’t hop and flutter their wings as much as smaller birds (remember, a cat’s vision is drawn to movement). Your cat will likely be less interested in larger birds than smaller ones for this reason.
Small birds that tend to ring the dinner bell for your kitty include finches and canaries. This doesn’t mean you can’t teach your cat to properly interact, but you should use extra caution because they are more like the birds they watch outside and would hunt if given the opportunity.
Parrots, toucans, doves, and parakeets tend to be less interesting to your cat. They are louder, with big beaks and claws that will make your cat more likely to pass over them.
Even in the wild, if they encountered these birds, they’d probably move along, searching for smaller and easier prey. Now, again, this doesn’t mean if you have these birds, your cat will never go after them, but the chances are much lower than with finches or canaries.
An appropriate cage is the most important aspect of cats and birds living together. Make sure your bird’s cage is set up for safety:
Get a sturdy cage your cat and bird can’t open on their own, and that your cat can’t easily knock over. Great materials include stainless steel and wrought iron/powder-coated. You may need to get a special lock to put on the doors. Talk to an avian vet if you need help finding a lock.
Place the cage near a wall to help the bird feel more secure and make it less likely for the cage to be knocked over.
If the cage is on a table, you need to make sure the table is heavy enough that it can’t be knocked over. Do what you need to do to add some weight to the cage if it seems too light.
Make sure the bars are no farther than ½” apart. This will make it difficult for a cat to reach its arm in.
Arrange swings, toys, perches, branches, and other parrot enrichment items so your parrot has a place to hide if they feel threatened.
- Never allow a cat to enter the bird’s cage, even if the bird isn’t in it. You don’t want the cat to get familiar with an area that’s the bird’s safe haven. The cat should never think it’s normal to jump into the cage, so instead of leaving the door open, if your bird is on top of the cage, close the door but don’t lock it. Most birds will open it themselves when they’re ready to go in, and the closed-door is much less inviting to the cat.
- To begin introducing your bird to your cat, allow each to see the other at a distance. Keep the bird in its cage or a carrier to start, with the door closed. You can decrease the distance as long as you feel comfortable and don’t see predatory signs from your cat or stress from your bird.
What are predatory signs? A cat’s eyes will dilate and they’ll hold their bodies close to the ground if they’re in hunting mode.
- Hold these sessions in 10-minute increments. Continue to do this until it seems both are used to it. As long as your cat and bird both seem relaxed, you can continue to the next step.
- Hold your parrot on your finger and keep it close to you. Start at a decent distance away from your cat. As long as your cat doesn’t look like it’s ready to pounce, you can decrease the distance.
- Some people choose to stop here. If you want to continue, as long as your cat and your bird seem fine, you can allow your cat to see the bird at a close distance and even smell the bird. Do not let your cat to lick the bird because it could cause an infection.
- If your cat tries to do anything at any point in time that you deem as unacceptable, tell your cat, “No.”
- Always supervise your bird and cat if they are in the room together, especially if your bird is out of its cage. You may even choose to never let them out with your cat at all – and that’s okay too. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with.
- If an accident happens, call your vet immediately.
A Note on Kittens
While it’s easy to train younger cats, kittens have a curiosity that is off the charts. A kitten is more likely to be interested in a parrot than an adult cat, simply because the little ones are attracted to everything.
Kittens are also less likely to respond to social cues from a parrot than an adult cat because their excitement levels are so high. Even after following the directions above, always keep a watchful eye on a kitten, and never leave a bird out of a cage in a room with a kitten unattended.
Birds of a Feather
Your cat and bird can be buds, you just have to keep in mind patience, awareness, and supervision. And remember, if for any reason your bird and cat aren’t jiving, that’s okay. Just keep them separated as much as possible to keep both safe and sound.
BeautyofBirds.com, Training Your Dog and Cat to be Around Your Pet Birds - SAFELY!
The Spruce Pets, Can Cats, and Birds Live Together?
Pet Helpful, Can Cats and Birds Live Together in the Same House?
Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist