Can Cats and Birds Live Together?

Is it Safe for a Cat and Bird to Live Together? Find Out!

Tabby cat sitting on a desk staring at a blue parakeet
Some cats and birds can coexist. ted cat studio/Getty Images

Cats are naturally predators while birds are naturally prey so this can cause issues if these two kinds of pets need to live together. As is often depicted in cartoons, outdoor cats and even house cats will stalk and pounce on birds since these behaviors are very instinctual. But can these natural instincts be overcome by pet birds and house cats in order for them to coexist peacefully?

Cat and Bird Coexistence

A cat and bird can coexist in a home but you will have to take certain measures to ensure that a cat cannot physically get to the bird at any point. A cat's natural instinct to pounce, capture, and "play" with the bird can manifest at any time, instantly putting your bird's life in danger. But of course, each cat and each bird are different. Some cats will not care about a pet bird at all while others will make it its life mission to get at a bird. You will need to assess the personalities of your pets and always remain on guard if you allow your bird and cat to interact.

Natural Instincts of Cats and Birds

Cats in the wild will hunt, stalk, and surprise their prey, which can consist of small mammals, reptiles, fish, and even birds. It is fun for a cat to jump and catch items, living or not, and birds are no exception. Cats see birds as being fun to play with or as food and do not differentiate between pet and wild ones.

Most birds, both in captivity or the wild, will fly away at the slightest startle, noise, or observation of a cat if they feel the least bit threatened. The bird may even let out a cry to alert other birds of the predator. Birds kept as pets are not usually large enough to hurt a cat if they try to defend themselves but even if a large bird, such as a macaw, is approached by a cat, it is instinctively fearful and will flee if possible before having to fight.

How Are Cats Dangerous to Birds?

This may seem like an obvious answer but cats can hurt or potentially kill a bird very easily. It will hurt a bird with its sharp claws or can cause serious wounds and an infection from the bacteria in its mouth. Cats can also pull out important feathers needed for flight, balance, and warmth and cause serious mental trauma to a bird that has endured an attack or threat. Cats can even eat small birds.

Can Birds Be Dangerous to Cats?

Despite the fact that a cat is definitely more dangerous to a bird than a bird is to a cat, a bigger bird is still able to do some harm to an unsuspecting cat. Large parrots have strong beaks and claws that can cause damage to anything they decide to grab. They can grab and bite a cat, especially if the cat is scared and not trying to attack the bird. This is most often seen with shy or curious cats and frightened parrots that are acting out of self-defense.

Ways to Help Cats and Birds Coexist

Despite the fact that cats naturally want to catch and even eat pet birds, there are things you can do to help these species live together peacefully within your home.

  • Secure the Bird Cage - If you have a curious cat, make sure your bird has a secure cage or aviary that the cat cannot get inside so you do not have to worry about them when you are not home. Additionally, make sure that your cat cannot knock over the bird cage. Small cages like those used for canaries are often placed on tables and can be easily knocked over. Secure the cage to a stand or sturdy table or make sure the cage is heavy enough that your cat cannot push it around. Finally, use cage locks or carabiners to make sure your cat cannot open the bird cage doors.
  • Keep Them in Separate Rooms - Consider placing the bird cage in a room that you can keep your cat out of. A caged bird being stalked by a cat (even if it is safe behind bars) can cause the bird unnecessary stress.
  • Never Allow a Cat Inside a Bird Cage or Aviary - Do not allow the cat to spend time in the aviary or cage, even if the bird is not present. You do not want your cat to think of these areas as its own places and develop any sense of ownership or territorial claims.
  • Try to Introduce Your Bird to Your Cat - This is typically a very slow process and you should start by simply allowing your caged bird and cat to see each other from a distance. Eventually, you can lessen the distance between the two after ensuring both are comfortable and not stressed. Some people who have cats that show no signs of going into predator mode will take their bird out of its cage and allow the two to see each other without bars in the way. If you feel comfortable trying this, it must be done with great caution and awareness in case your bird tries to jump out of your hands or your cat tries to pounce on the bird.

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