Cats, Dogs, Ferrets and Birds
By Eleanor McCaffrey Copyright© Notice: No portion of this text or photos
may be, copied, printed or reproduced for redistribution without
permission from site owner.

Health Hazards-Many animal lovers have fur babies as well as birds for companions. Fur babies are soft, warm and affectionate, snuggling up on our laps or against our feet on a cold Winter's day. Unfortunately, both cats and dogs carry bacteria in their saliva that can be lethal to our birds. One of the many bacteria that is carried in the saliva of cats is called Pasteurella. Although Pasteurella is harmless to cats, dogs and humans, it's  lethal for birds. Birds can die within 24 hours after being bitten by  a cat because the bacteria multiplies rapidly, spreading throughout a bird's entire system. Birds that are attacked by cats need to be tested for pasteurella and treated with the appropriate antibiotics that same day or they will die. Sometimes there are no visible wounds on a bird after being attacked or pawed by a cat or dog. The bird may have tiny puncture wounds and scratches on the body, caused by sharp teeth or claws, that are hidden by feathers, as well as broken bones. Birds should also be taken to an avian vet if they are touched by a cat's or dog's paws or if they come in contact with their food, toys or litter box, which also harbor harmful bacteria.  (Note: Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer after handling cats, dogs or another species of animal to prevent you from transferring harmful bacteria to your bird.)

Cats-- Don't Believe Television- A bird should never be allowed out of its cage when a cat is roaming inside of the house. Cats are known for their stealth and ability to hunt and kill small animals, especially birds. Cats are predators by nature and this behavior is instinctive. All cats, even those that have been de-clawed, can hurt and kill birds by pouncing on them, pinning them down and crushing them to death with their razor sharp teeth in a matter of seconds. Think about some of the behaviors you have observed in cats. Has your cat ever left a dead bird or other small animal outside of the door to your home? If your cat goes outdoors and you haven't been presented with the ultimate "gift", it's just a matter of time before your cat learns how to hunt.  Another example of a cat's predatory nature can be seen indoors. When we play with a cat, we dangle and wiggle toys that are attached to strings. Then we sit back and enjoy watching the cat chase, pounce and attack the toy. The cat really isn't playing. He's stalking something that he thinks is potential prey. It's not amusing or entertaining to see a cat pounce, beat and torture a chipmunk to death in the grass outside and it will be a tragedy if the next victim of a hunt  happens to be your cherished cockatiel or budgie. 

Man's Best Friend-,  has some behaviors that can hurt or kill birds as well. Birds are not safe around some types of hunting dogs, like the Siberian Husky or Irish Setter. These 3 species in particular are known for having killed squirrels, outdoor cats and pet birds. Other dogs that are family pets enjoying chewing on objects like stuffed animals, tennis balls and rubber bones. Dogs also like chasing things that move in the air like wooden sticks or Frisbees, then jumping up into the air to catch the objects with their teeth. A flying bird can be snatched  by a jumping dog's open mouth in a heartbeat,  resulting in a bird being crushed to death by a dog's very powerful jaw and sharp teeth. Sometimes friendly, enthusiastic dogs like to jump up and stand against bird cages as a form of greeting or to get a better view out of curiosity. Because of their massive body weight, a bird's cage can be knocked down and the bird may escape then if the dog pounces or hits the bird with a paw, a bird's fragile, hollow bones may break. Dogs that are running or playing in the same room can accidentally knock down the cage too. To prevent your bird's cage from falling over, avoid rough play that may excite your dog and don't allow dogs to run around in the same room that the cage is in. The best way to prevent an accident is to never allow your bird out of the cage when a dog is in the room.   

If You Have a Cat or Dog, and they get close enough to paw at or pounce on your bird's cage, they can literally scare your bird to death. Birds can and do get heart attacks as well as strokes from a sudden, severe fright and from sudden excessive stress. It's impossible to hide a birdcage from a cat or dog because birds are loud, vocal animals. They also leave their scent around the house by shedding feathers and feather dust. This scent can be traced by both cats and dogs due to their keen sense of smell. There are some common sense measures that you can take to protect your bird and to help prevent accidents and sudden frights.  Purchase a strong, heavy cage that is on a sturdy stand,  and place the cage away from tables and chairs so cats and dogs can not get higher or closer to your bird. Both cats and dogs can knock over cages, causing the bird to panic, fluttering around in the cage, possibly breaking blood feathers and fragile bones in the wings.

Sometimes the cage door opens during a cage fall, creating other dangerous situations.  Birds may be caught by the family pet who knocked the cage open or the bird may escape if a window or door in the home is open. Keep the birdcage door locked at all times with a child proof safety lock.  (Please don't use twist ties because they contain zinc, a toxic heavy metal). Your bird's safety is  compromised even further if you have small children. Children may let the birds out of the cage when it's not safe to do so. The use of a safety locks on cage doors will help but teach your children why it's not always safe for birds to be out of the cage. Also, make it a house rule that all family members ask you first if it's safe to take the bird out of the cage. When you go out of the house for a few hours or more, don't ever leave your cat or dog in the house with wandering privileges. Keep them in separate rooms with the doors to the rooms securely closed, using a hook and eye type closure. Cats and dogs can easily push open a door that is not closed properly. If you have cats, don't get you bird's wings clipped. Your bird needs to be able to take flight if he is frightened or attacked by a cat.

Frightening the Bird How could the adorable little fur baby's in this picture  hurt or frighten your bird? Easy. Your cat or dog doesn't  have to physically touch the bird in order to harm him. A dog or cat that is constantly staring at a bird or a  dog that is constantly barking or running around in the same room as your bird's cage will frighten your bird as well. Birds that are always frightened are under a great deal of stress and they are more prone to getting sick and developing behavioral problems such as screaming, biting and feather plucking. Many birds enjoy watching a cat or dog from a distance but they will be frightened if the animal gets too close to their cage. Birds may even talk or sing to a cat or dog. A cockatiel can learn to mimic the bark like a dog or the psst, psst, psst sound that you make to call a cat and they can performance can be highly proficient. Cockatiels can mimic the sounds so well that the family cat or dog  will actually respond to their call. Birds will also entice dogs by tossing food out of the cage for the dog to eat. Then when the dog jumps up to the cage for more food, the bird gets a severe fright. Pets wandering around the house at night can wake and startle your bird, causing your bird to have a "night frights".  During a night fright, a bird panics and starts flapping wings in an attempt to escape danger by flying out of the cage. Birds often breaking multiple blood feathers and fragile wing bones during a night fright. As much as many of us love our cats and dogs, having them around can make some birds feel frightened, stressed, threatened and insecure. 

Protect Your Bird from being seriously injured, disabled for life or killed by a cat or dog. No matter how old, friendly or uninterested they are in your birds, cats kill birds and so do dogs. Believe that the worst can happen to your bird too and that your cat or dog, as much as you adore them, can kill your bird if conditions are right. Teach your children about the hazards of sharing a home with a cat, dog and a bird.  Children should learn to love and respect all animals and they should not punish or be angry with one animal for behavior that is instinctive. If a cat or dog kills a bird it's not the animal's fault. From my experience with bird owners over the past several years, in every single case, the accidental death of a much loved bird was the fault of a devoted, devastated and guilt ridden bird owner. They either didn't heed the warnings about not allowing birds to interact with cats and dogs or they simply forgot to close the cage door or they forget that the bird was out of the cage. The only way to protect our birds from getting hurt by cats and dogs is to keep them away from our birds away from them.  The golden rule for people who own cats or dogs and birds should be this. "When in doubt, don't let the bird out because it's always better to be safe than sorry."

Ferrets, Other Fur Babies and Birds: Ferrets have become very popular as pets. Although the little guy in the picture looks harmless, don't let his appearance fool you.  Ferrets are meat eating predators that hunt, chase that kill birds, reptiles like lizards and snakes, rabbits, hamsters and other rodents. Even though ferrets have been domesticated, the fast movements of these small animals may trigger the the predatory instinct in ferrets, causing them to hunt and kill birds and other small animals. Ferrets are attracted to both the sounds and  movements of birds, even if the birds are inside of their a cages. These fur babies are also excellent escape artists and masters of getting into bird cages that they can reach. Since ferrets are also nocturnal,  your bird is more vulnerable to being attacked because you are not awake to supervise pets.  If you do have ferrets and birds, they should  be housed in separate rooms where they can not see each other and they should NEVER be allowed to interact with each other, even with supervision. If you are considering adding a ferret to your home zoo, resist the temptation and don't do it. Keeping your bird in the same room as hamsters, is also strongly discouraged. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, (active at night and sleeping during the day)  and although they certainly will not attack or harm your bird, their movement and sounds at night will startle and frighten cockatiels, causing night frights. Avoid keeping other rodents in the same room as your bird because they can carry harmful bacteria as well.

Special thanks to Denise, Lisa, Joy and JoAnn for sharing their fur babies with us!


Page Contents, Layout and Design Copyright© Eleonore McCaffrey  Cockatiel Cottage,
All Graphics Copyrighted by Credited Artists and are Not Public Domain

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