To maintain the safety of your pet bird, be mindful of the hunter instinct of the domestic house cat. Cats think of birds as prey to devour or at least objects to play with and tease. Sometimes a cat and bird living in the same household can be friends, or at least live peacefully together, but it takes a lot of training and persuasion. Don't rely on their compatibility when it comes to the welfare of your bird. Take precautions from the start regarding the safe housing of your feathered friend. Bird cages must be sturdy and cat proof when a cat and a bird are in the same residence.
The Hunting Instinct of the Domestic Cat
Remember that your sweet ball of fluff is actually a predator with razor-sharp claws, strong pointed teeth, keen senses of smell and hearing and sharp eyesight. Cats can leap vertically and pounce horizontally a distance of about six times their body length. They can also run in short sprints up to 30mph. (See Reference 4)
Your cat is not intentionally being cruel when it chases or swipes at your bird. It is a cat's instinct to hunt birds and other small animals. Most domesticated cats no longer intentionally kill to eat, as they are now usually well fed by their owners. They simply enjoy the chase and have an innate drive to run after any small object that moves fast.
Safe Bird Cages Made of Wood
Many wooden bird cages sold in pet stores are not safe. These cages often have bars spaced too far apart so a cat's paw, or even a bird's head, can fit through. Carefully select a cage that has bars properly spaced and smoothly sanded to prevent it from harming your bird. The bars should also be thick enough so that large-beaked birds such as cockatiels and parrots cannot bite through them. If you are making a cage yourself, choose hardwood so the bird can't gnaw pieces out of it. Secure the main door with a padlock, as birds are adept at using beaks to pry or push a latch open. Ensure the food and water dish openings and pull-out bottom trays are cat proof. Place the cage high on a table away from any object a cat can climb on to get to it. Have the cage fit the table so the cat can't jump up beside the cage. Choose a cage large and heavy enough so the cat can't knock it off the table if it lunges at the cage.
- Many wooden bird cages sold in pet stores are not safe.
- If you are making a cage yourself, choose hardwood so the bird can't gnaw pieces out of it.
Safe Bird Cages Made of Metal
When using a metal cage, follow the same precautions as for a wooden one. Additionally, make certain all joints are securely and smoothly welded so your bird won't be scratched by them and they won't give way with a flying leap from your cat. The bars must be thick enough so a strong-beaked bird can't pry them apart. Don't purchase a bird cage that contains zinc, as it is poisonous to birds. A metal cage may be light enough to hang from the ceiling on a very sturdy and tightly fastened hook. Remember the extreme measures a cat will go to and the extensive mental and physical assets it can call upon to reach the bird.
- When using a metal cage, follow the same precautions as for a wooden one.
Attempting To Have Your Cat and Bird Get Along
If you are attempting to train a cat and bird to coexist, do so when both animals are very young. Do not expect to bring an adult cat into your home and have it become buddies with your bird. Female cats are more prolific hunters, so get a male if you are going to have both a cat and a bird. Peaceful coexistence may be possible at times between your two pets. Cats are very independent and need calm, positive reinforcement instruction. With patient training a young cat can learn that any aggressive action toward the bird won't be tolerated. However, natural instinct can take over in times of mental or physical stress. It is very possible that a bird, especially a larger one, will tease and persecute your cat. "Tweety and Sylvester" scenarios often happen in real life. The irritated cat will frequently retaliate and the bird will be no match for its size, weight and weapons. Never leave a cat and bird in the same room when you are not at home. Having a safe bird cage gives added insurance for a peaceful home for you and your pets.
- If you are attempting to train a cat and bird to coexist, do so when both animals are very young.
- Never leave a cat and bird in the same room when you are not at home.