Bird lovers tend to be animal lovers in general, so it makes sense that we would have other pets. However, dogs and cats, as well as other animals, can pose a great threat to your parrot.
Many of my pets have grown up in the company of birds. In several cases, the birds were there first and the cats entered a household that was already geared towards birds. This helped to set the stage for what was expected of my cats, but in no way alleviated any dangers. A cat is a cat, and even those accustomed to birds will act on instinct sometimes.
I regret that I have woken up on two separate occasions to find “presents” from my cats beside me in bed. One was a mouse, the other a sparrow. Both were quite dead. The same cat that brought me the sparrow would show no interest in the family birds, but after he gifted me that morning, I knew that those instincts were there. It was a strange situation. The cockatiels would land on top of him while he was sleeping and he would barely open an eye in response. The worst thing he would ever do to them was stand on their tails as they walking past. I knew, however, that the cat was a capable birder and kept on guard whenever they were together. (The cat was terrified of Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, who would chase him all over the house, often catching him. There is a sparrow in heaven who is smiling at this fact.)
Several years ago, Linus became ill with a highly contagious disease. Because he and Theo, my goffins cockatoo, were housed in the same room, I sent her to live with a nearby friend for a couple of weeks. I was horrified when he sent me a picture of little Theo asleep cuddled up to his great dane. There are times when the two most unlikely animals can become the best of friends. But it is risky. This was not a risk that I was happy had taken place as the outcome could have had deadly consequences.
In addition to the immediate bite and pawing that can cause immediate and obvious physical damage or death; mammals, ourselves included, carry gram negative bacteria in our mouths. It can be deadly to a bird, who doesn’t carry that type of bacteria in its body. Claws can also have this and other bacteria present. Should your bird be bitten or scratched by any mammal, an urgent trip to the vet is necessary, even if it appears minor. We should not let our birds have contact with other pet’s toys for this same reason.
Sometimes an injury inflicted by your pet may not even be visible. Injuries or broken bones may occur without leaving a mark of evidence. Blood is not always present. Linus squeezed several parakeets to death in a former home and the only evidence of trauma to the birds was that they were dead. This is yet another good reason to keep large and small birds separated when not supervised.
Cats traditionally are bird hunters. With domestic cats, often it is not done out of hunger, but in the fulfillment of an instinctual need, or sometimes just for fun. There are breeds of dogs (such as retrievers, spaniels, and pointers) that have been bred as birders and the instinct to hunt birds is very strong in them even if it is not utilized. It is literally impossible for us to say we fully know our pets. While it might be true that certain behaviors are or are not likely in an individual animal, we do not share their instincts and cannot fully understand them. Always be careful, and very watchful should your pets share a common play area.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.