Keeping your bird safe from other pets
We go to a lot of trouble to make sure our pets are happy and healthy. As a responsible bird owner, you learn all of the things that can be hazardous and take steps to protect your feathered friend. But what about your other pets? Can birds and dogs, or even birds and cats, live in a home together?
Sometimes, the love we feel for our pets can blind us to the dangers that they represent to each other. A small fluttery animal like a bird is especially vulnerable to attack from dogs and cats, who have a strong prey drive specifically geared birds and other small animals.
It doesn’t matter how sweet and friendly your dog or cat is on average because you simply can’t train instinct out of an animal. If a bird is hurt by another pet in the same home, it never the fault of the animal. Animals will act as their instincts dictate and it’s up to us as pet owners to be responsible for their safety.
That isn’t to say that having a dog or cat is completely incompatible with having a bird, just that you need to take specific precautions to protect the safety of all your pets.
Luckily, I’ve put together a small 5 item list to get you started on your path toward a safe environment for all your pets. This list is only some starting precautions you should definitely take to protect your bird, but if you want more in-depth information, be sure to check out my list of references at the bottom of this page!
5. Consider Carefully
Owning a bird is a big responsibility, that requires dedication and research. Owning a bird when you already have other animals is an even greater commitment.
Cats and dogs are instinctively predatory animals, and they will see your bird as a prey item. In addition, dog, cat, or even human saliva can be very dangerous to birds. If you are even considering getting a bird and you already have another animal, be prepared to do some exhaustive research on compatible bird breeds and safety precautions you’ll need to take.
One thing people tend to underestimate when they consider adding a bird on top of other pets is the time commitment involved. If your bird lives in a house with other animals, then it’s best if your situation allows you to be home to monitor your pets all day. If that you can’t stay home, consider portioning of a room in your house as a bird room in order to keep them separated from other animals.
If you are considering adding a bird to a household that already has animals, I suggest you start your research on exactly what that entails by scrolling down to the bottom of this page and reading all of the links I have listed under “References”. There is a lot of valuable information there that will help you make an informed decision.
4. Introduce them slowly.
One of the most harrowing moments of getting a new pet is introducing them to any pets you already have. It’s hard enough with cats and dogs, but it can be a special challenge with birds.
The best way to introduce a bird is very slowly. If you have a room in your house where the animals can be introduced through a window, that would be ideal. At no point during an introduction should either pet be physically able to touch each other.
It is possible to train your animals to behave around each other. Training is probably a wise precaution so your animals don’t react negatively toward each other of a cage or bird room is left open accidentally. It’s not possible to train a dog or cat to be completely safe around your bird, but training does lessen the likelihood of a tragic accident occurring in your home.
The key to training any animal is always going to be consistency and patience, and there are some pretty good instructional guides available if you need help along the way.
3. Reconsider your dog and cat toys.
It can be a challenge to keep animals with predatory instincts away from a fluttering, feathery temptation like a bird, even if you have generally well-behaved animals. Another animal will see a bird as a prey item and the more you can discourage this association, the better off your bird will be.
A good way to discourage prey associations is to get rid of any toys you may have that resemble small animals, as well as any toys with feathers.
When a cat gets excited over a feathered toy on a string, or a dog goes nuts over a toy shaped like a duck or a raccoon, what’s really happening is that they’re tapping into their instinctive prey drive.
Encouraging your animals to play with toys like these can easily spell disaster for your bird, so it’s best to remove them from your home entirely.
2. Discourage inappropriate behavior Early and Often
If your bird (or any other animal) displays aggressive behavior like biting or clawing, it can easily cause your other animals to react in kind, which can end in injury or even death for your bird. From the first moment you get an animal, it’s your responsibility as a pet owner to discourage bad behavior, not only so you have a more peaceful home, but also in order to keep your pet safe and healthy.
Many people assume that because birds generally aren’t out in public as much as something like a dog, it isn’t as important to train them for good behavior. Believe me, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Training is just as important for birds because it teaches them behavior that will keep them safe, and discourages behavior that could lead to them harming themselves or the people and animals who live with them.
Even if it wasn’t a matter of safety for the bird (it is), training is important so that you can lead a happy life with your bird. Hundreds of birds every year are given away by people who never took the time to train them, and are then unhappy with their misbehaving bird.
Taking the time to train your bird will lead to a more pleasant life for your whole household and if you need more help with it than Google can provide, there are some great instructional guide you can get to help you!
1. Monitor your pets!
The number one, most important thing you can do to protect your bird while they’re out of the cage with other animals in the house is to pay attention! Even in a house without other animals, you should always closely monitor your bird when they are out of their cage.
There are so many common household hazards for your bird to get into that you should never leave them out when you aren’t carefully watching them.
This is doubly true when you share your house with other pets. In fact, just monitoring is often not enough when your bird is loose in the house with other animals. I would recommend that if you have your bird in the same room as a dog or cat, you should keep them in a harness or on a leash so that they are easy to restrain if they decide to go after your bird.
Never allow a situation where you other animals have direct and unrestrained access to your bird. It’s a good practice to always have a hand on your pet if they are in the same room as a bird.
You can generally tell if your dog or cat is planning to pounce or is getting too excited by feeling their muscles tense up, which you’ll be able to feel if you keep a hand on them. If you’re holding your bird, you’ll feel tension through their feet.
With Great Feathers comes with Great Responsibility
Bringing home a bird when you already have animals is a challenge, but one that can be met with proper preparation. Your greatest weapon against an unhappy home with multiple animals is forethought.
Before you make your decision, do lots of research. The more research the better. Make sure you understand what you are getting into, and do your best to prepare. Birds and cats can live in the same house, birds and dogs have even become friends on occasion!
It is important to remember that owning a bird isn’t for everyone, and having a bird alongside other animals is a task for an even smaller percentage of people.
Too many birds are abandoned every year through no real fault of their own, and I want all of you to do your best not to contribute to that number. You also may want to consider if adopting a bird might be the right choice for you.
It’s not a decision to be made lightly, but caring for a bird can be incredibly fun and rewarding for the right person.
Do you have any good stories about raising a bird with other animals? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Good luck on your avian adventure!