Parakeet and Cat Together / Cat SalivaAnyone who has seen Sylvester and Tweety cartoons knows that it is in a cat's nature to want to catch and eat small creatures like birds and mice. Most bird feeder owners have watched a neighborhood cat stalk around the edges of the area, eyes intent on the birds, waiting for their chance to pounce. It is not wrong of the cat, or bad, or inappropriate. This is what cats are born to do. This is how a cat survives and thrives in the wild. Cats are made to eat birds.
I have owned parakeets all my life, and I have also owned cats all my life. It is certainly very possible for budgies and cats to live together in harmony in a house! The key, as with much else in life, is to be a careful, attentive pet parent.
Yes, it might be that for five years your bird has been completely safe with your cat. However, every living creature has its tempermental moments. Maybe the cat is annoyed because his tummy is upset, and he's exceptionally cranky. The bird happens to land near his paw, and he swats at the bird more out of temporary annoyance than anything else. The one swipe can kill.
New pet owners might think it's "cute" to have their cats near their birds - gazing in the cage, only inches away. Remember that for the cat, their instincts tell them to eat feathered little creatures. This is honing their knowledge of the bird, for potential use later on. For the birds, every instinct in a bird's body is to FLEE FLEE FLEE from this very dangerous predator. The way birds stay alive is to get away from cats! Even if your bird seems calm, it may be staying as still as possible until the predator leaves. The extra stress on the bird's lungs and heart can cause serious medical issues.
Keep the cage up high enough that the cat cannot jump to it. Keep in mind that many cats can leap almost to door height! Look on YouTube for the videos if you doubt a cat's amazing jumping skills. Don't think that a cat in a cage is safe. When I was eight, my cage setup in my room was that the cage was suspended from a pole in the center of the room. It was one of those poles that went up, curved around the cage, and then had a hook. So the cage was at higher-than-my-shoulders height (for an eight year old) that I had to reach up to - and it was in the very center of the room. The cat still managed to leap up onto the cage and pull the parakeet THROUGH the thin bars to eat it. You can't blame the cat. Eating birds is what cats do. You can't blame the keet - it was helpless! It is the responsibility of the keet parents to ensure the keet is safe from harm.
Cat Saliva and Parakeets
You'll find many web pages out there perpetuating the idea that all cat saliva is somehow toxic to all parakeets. This is NOT true. Rather, cat saliva (and dog saliva) can sometimes have bacteria in them. Just like dirt can have bacteria in it, and the basement floor can have bacteria in it, and so on. However, you don't tend to get dirt of basement floor grit all over your parakeet! However, if you somehow managed to let your cat lick your parakeet, now that bacteria set is on your parakeet - and the parakeet's sensitive system can quickly be overwhelmed by it.
It's not just parakeets that are affected by this type of bacteria. If you had an open wound - let's say a paper cut on your finger - and you let your cat lick the wound, now that bacteria is coursing through your system. There are a number of reports of people getting fairly seriously sick as a result. There's a reason you put band-aids on wounds - to keep out dirt and bacteria.
An additional reason that people sometimes believe the "all cat saliva is toxic" myth is that cat teeth and cat claws make deep, thin holes in the body. These are puncture wounds. Those teeth and claws - as mentioned - have bacteria on them. So it is like the cat is taking a needle and injecting bacteria deep into your system. Your normal cleaning things you do for wounds - washing them with soap, etc. - doesn't get that bacteria out. So it's far more likely to fester and cause problems, compared with say a paper cut. This is the same sort of reason that nail puncture wounds are so dangerous. Anything that makes a deep but narrow hole into your body is hard to clean properly.
Cats clean themselves by licking their entire bodies - repeatedly. So a cat's entire body is coated with saliva. Make sure, before you take your parakeet out to play with her, that you wash your hands well. You don't want to pet your cat, have your hands coated with cat saliva and bacteria, and then go transfer all of those items onto your parakeet's body.
So what's the take home lesson? First, keep your keets safe and away from your cats except when you are physically there in the room. Even if you're there, don't let your parakeet out when the cat is around. Second, make sure you always wash your hands before you interact with your parakeet, so you do not accidentially transfer any bacteria on her.
In the situation where your parkaeet accidentially gets either touched by the cat or touched by you after you've played with the cat, I highly suggest getting a fresh bathtub quickly into the keet's area and trying to encourage her to wash. Also, keep an eye on your keet for any sign of illness. It's likely your keet will be fine - after all, not every cat has a dangerous bacteria in it - but it's always best to be safe!
Parakeet Household Safety Checklist
Parakeet Safety Medical Kit
Cat / Parakeet Info Homepage
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