Can I Get a Pet Bird if I Already Have a Cat?
If you’re like me, you can never have enough animals in the house, and the more variety, the better. But many cat owners worry about opening their home to new pets, specifically those of the smaller variety.
Birds pose a unique problem for cat owners, but, with some advanced planning and thoughtful matchmaking, you can ensure that a cat and bird live in perfect harmony.
Is Your Cat Bird-Friendly?
First, it would be best to consider your cat’s personality. Does your cat worry about typical prey, such as birds or mice, or are they the type to just nap in the sunshine all day long? Do they chase, pounce, or bite any of the cat toys you buy for them? The calmer your cat, the less of a threat they may pose to your new avian friend.
Cats are natural hunters, and, in the wild, birds are their natural prey. Your cat will not differentiate between a bird in the house and one on the windowsill, so keep that in mind.
It will probably be less stressful for everyone involved (human, feathered, and furry) to wait to get a bird until your cat is at least middle-aged. Trying to keep your new bird safe in a house with a rowdy kitten is a challenge you don’t want to take on.
Are You Ready to Commit to Bird Ownership?
Have you ever had a pet bird? If not, it’s always best to do some research first and talk to other bird owners to see if the responsibility fits your lifestyle.
Remember, birds live far longer than most pets (a parrot can live between 20 and 30 years), so make sure you are ready to commit to sharing a large portion of your life with your new feathered friend.
Birds are also highly intelligent, maybe even more so than cats. Their brilliant bird brains demand attention and socialization when raised as pets in captivity.
The larger the bird, the larger their brain, and the longer they live. These “brainiac” species, such as Macaws, Amazons, and Cockatoos, signal their frustration and boredom through undesirable behavioral outbursts. Be prepared for screaming, aggression, feather picking, and other compulsive behaviors if you aren’t spending plenty of time with your new roommate.
Vets and bird specialists recommend starting with as small a bird as possible. Parakeets and Cockatiels are great starter-birds with lifespans of either 5 – 10 years or 15 – 20 years respectively.
However, it is always essential to think carefully about which bird is right for you. A healthy and happy bird is like an intelligent dog or cat, requiring lots of attention, a variety of types of stimulation, and a healthy diet. Be sure to make an honest assessment of your ability to be a dual cat and bird owner, given the size of your home, your pet budget, and your amount of free time.
Steps Toward a Peaceful Coexistence
Once you make the leap into cat-and-bird ownership, there are a few steps you can take to keep the peace.
First, make sure to keep your cat and bird in separate rooms to avoid causing your bird unnecessary stress. Sneaky or playful cats can stalk their prey, and the last thing you want is your cat torturing your bird when they’re stuck in a cage and unable to fly away.
Invest in a Fortress to Keep Your New Pet Safe
The second step in keeping everyone safe at home involves buying the safest cage possible for your bird. Your birdcage should be durable (metal) so that your cat can’t break it easily (not bamboo). You want to choose the type of cage that you won’t need to worry about when you leave your cat and bird home alone together.
Don’t put your cage on a table or someplace where your cat can knock it over. Instead, look for a birdcage with a built-in stand.
Choose a birdcage without sliding doors, which can easily be opened by beaks and paws. Make sure the cage’s door has a locking mechanism that your kitty can’t figure out. Use cage locks or carabiners to secure the door as an added precaution.
Place the birdcage up against a wall. That way, it will be harder for your cat to knock over the cage, as well as provide your bird with additional security.
Never Allow Your Cat Inside the Bird Cage
Even if your bird is not in its cage, keep it off-limits for your kitty. You do not want your cat to think of the birdcage as part of its territory or a place to return to and explore.
Another reason to keep your cat out of your bird’s cage is that cat saliva carries bacteria that can be deadly for birds. The Pasteurella bacteria is mainly harmless to cats, but is bad news for our flying friends.
Making the Introduction
We all know the expression about curiosity and cats. Your cat will undoubtedly want to meet their newest roommate.
The Spruce Pets advises that you do allow your cat and bird to meet. They suggest a carefully orchestrated dating routine to keep everyone safe and happy.
At first, keep a large distance between your cat and the birdcage, such as across the room from one another. Then, allow them just to be able to see each other and watch each other. The idea is to “teach” your cat that your bird is a friend and housemate, not a toy or food.
Then, as they grow more comfortable with each other’s presence (usually over several days or introductions), you can try decreasing the distance between the two. Keep the first dates short, around only 10 minutes or so. If, at any point, your bird seems stressed, don’t let your cat come any closer. Instead, take a break, separate them, and try again later or the next day.
If your cat tries to jump on the cage or stick their paw between the bars, reprimand your cat or say “No” immediately. Use whatever training method you usually use to discourage them from getting too close or aggressive.
Watch for signs that your cat is going into predator mode: crouching, eyes opening wide, tail twitching when they see the bird, etc. Take the bird away and out of your cat’s sight if you see them giving in to their predatory instincts.
Challenging, But Not Impossible
Maintaining a peaceful coexistence between a pet cat and a pet bird will take time, energy, and work on your part. If you are a pet lover with previous cat and bird-owning experience, the chances of a successful fur-and-feather cohabitation are more likely. If you have a mellow, older cat and are considering a smaller bird, it might just work.
No matter how well everyone seems to be getting along, remember that deep down, cats are predators and birds are their prey. Always keep your guard up when you allow your cat and bird to interact.