Of Purrs and Birds

The wild housecat slinks across the living room, eyes bright and tail twitching. Across the room, she sees her prey, a pair of parakeets in a cage. Slowly, she moves into position, raises up to place her paws against a cage, then abruptly jumps away as the parakeet nips her whiskers. She backs away to lick her wounds. A loud flapping draws her attention. The parakeet circles his prey, enticing the cat over once again.

Such is the scene in my living room when cat or bird becomes frisky. Living with a cat and birds need not be a constant worry. While Sylvester and Tweety fight it out on the television screen, my cat usually ignores the chirps coming from the other end of the living room.

Not every cat/bird relationship will work out as nicely as mine, but following are some tips to help ease the strain.

Assure the cat you still care for him/her

When I brought my birds into my home, my cat ignored me for days. Her loving, doting owner had suddenly found somebody new to play with. Assuring your cat that you still care for it, will help alleviate any jealousy. It’s jealousy that drives the cat to dive for the feathered dinners stuck behind bars. Give plenty of attention to both pets, and soon the cat will see the bird as just another member of the family.

Don’t court danger

Only let your bird out to play when he can be supervised. A bird with his wings clipped suddenly becomes a meal on the run to your cat. In addition, don’t place the cage where kitty can knock it over and free its terrified inhabitants. If your cage stands on the floor, make sure that it is sturdy enough to withstand the occasional bump by the human or feline members of the family.

Discipline

If you do not want your cat anywhere near the bird cages, then invest in a water gun. This humane (and inexpensive) way of disciplining your cat will soon teach it that the birds are off limits.

The same thing goes for your birds. If you have one of the larger species, that thinks cat fur is a delicacy, teach it not to chew on the cat when it is near. Just like children, both parties in a dispute need discipline.

Be Patient

The first hours or days of cohabitation may be worrisome, but soon, that cat will ignore the chirps. Kitty will lay in a beam of sunshine, content that she or he is still the center of your life.

These four rules work well with smaller birds such as finches and parakeets. Larger birds will require more attention and patience, although the cat may not be as likely to try and attack a bird that may be as large as it is.

All may not be rosy, however, when an owner decides to mix cats and birds. An important consideration is that the cat MUST never be allowed to scratch or bite at a bird. Cats (and dogs) carry a small, gram-negative organism in their saliva called Pasteurella Multicocida. This bacteria causes osteoarthritis, which leads to septicemia and death, if introduced into a bird by a bite or a scratch.

If a bird is bitten, it has an 8-12 hour window before osteoarthritis occurs. This condition, which also affects older humans, causes swelling and damage to the joints, and the birds become paralyzed. If this is left untreated, septicemia, or blood poisoning, occurs which results in death. The best way to treat a cat bite is with tetracycline derivative such as docicycline or vibramycin.

Having birds and cats need not be a strenuous affair. With a little love, some patience, and some vigilance, your birds and cats will get along like old friends.