Almost 98 million pets live in American households, including about 32 million cats and about 12 million ornamental birds. Many animal lovers would like to give a home to several species, a canary is joined by a cat or a budgie can extend the family. But what is everyday life like with animals that are natural enemies in the wild?
The hunting instinct of the cat is innate – even if you have taken a house cat from a breeder’s household into your family and your furry nose has never had to look after itself. In the wild, wild small cats feed primarily on small rodents such as mice and smaller birds. Ornamental birds like budgerigar, canary, cockatiel and small parrots therefore fit perfectly into the prey scheme of the cat. Nevertheless, keeping cats and birds together is not impossible as long as you keep the safety of your animals in mind.
Keep cat and bird together: Set realistic goals
On the internet you can find cute videos of cats and birds as best friends across species boundaries. The little films make you laugh and raise hope that your own animals could one day become playmates too. If you want to keep cats and birds in the same household, one thing is especially important: set yourself realistic goals. There may be cases where cats accept smaller ornamental birds as family members or even play carefully with the smaller animals. In most cases, however, a pure mutual acceptance of the animals, in which the hunting instinct does not gain the upper hand, can be considered a success!
Because: Animals react instinct-controlled – and this applies especially to predators like our cats. Despite thousands of years of living together with humans, our house tigers are still predators inside and a smaller, fluttering bird fits perfectly into their prey pattern. Even with calmer cat natures the hunting instinct can take the upper hand. If you want to keep cat and bird in one household, you should keep one thing in mind: Safety first, for both animals. And since ornamental birds are usually physically inferior to cats, even one paw strike can be fatal. Therefore: Your cat should never have direct contact with the birds, especially not without supervision. Even if your bird is in a cage, a cat’s paw can still slip through the bars and injure the feathered animal. You should also think about possibly knocking over a smaller cage.
Nevertheless, keeping ornamental birds and cats is not impossible!
Bird keeping in the cat household
But how does the keeping of a bird in a cat household look like in practice? How can you integrate a cat into your family if you already give ornamental birds like budgies and co. a home?
A large outdoor aviary is a good way of keeping ornamental birds in a group and ensures that cats and birds rarely cross paths. If you do not have a large garden or cannot imagine to house a whole flock of birds, a large indoor cage can be a home for one or ideally several birds. If you keep your birds indoors, you should always keep a safe distance between your fur nose and the birds. Ideally this means: The cat is not or only under supervision in the same room as the bird cage. The bird cage or the aviary itself should be well secured and offer enough space so that your bird can avoid a cat’s paw that is curiously pushed into the cage.
To improve the acceptance between your cat and your birds, you should always be a role model. Treat your birds with respect and do not use the smaller animals to arouse the hunting instinct of your cat or to encourage her to play. Give your cat enough attention so that jealousy problems do not arise. If your cat lurks in front of the birdcage or even makes her jump, a clear “no” will help to clear the air. Your domestic birds are part of the family and your cat should understand this!
Last but not least, prevention is better than aftercare: a busy, well-fed cat will be more relaxed and will see your pet birds as interesting “cat TV” rather than a potential snack.
Lovers of wild birds are often not the biggest friends of cats, who enjoy outdoor activities in their own garden and the surrounding area. Why not? Well, as we have already seen, smaller birds are the natural prey of cats – and even well-satiated house tigers often cannot resist the cheerful fluttering about. Adult birds are, in case of doubt, very quickly out of reach of a cat, but sick, old or very young birds can quickly fall victim to a cat. Animal welfare activists argue that cats endanger the population of native wild birds – but so far no scientific survey could prove that this is really the case.
We wish you a wonderful time with your colourful animal family!