I so enjoy visiting my many friends who own pet birds. I would like to get a bird as a pet for myself, but I am concerned because of my cats. Can a bird be kept with cats?
Yes. You must be ready to give the matter some thought and preparation. The simplest solution is to place the bird’s cage where the cat cannot get to it. Cages for small birds are not very heavy and can be mounted on a wall or hung by chains from the ceiling. For the first few days the cats will silently sit, calculating every angle of approach to what they consider an exotic meal. Once they decide that all avenues are fruitless, the bird will be ignored.
A cage for a very large parrot, like a macaw or a cockatoo, will most likely be too heavy to take off the ground. Most cats ignore a bird too large to eat. If they do come near the cage, the giant parrots will frequently nip the cat, training the feline to stay away. You must use your judgment in determining the nature of your cat. I know of three cats that are housed in a basement. A mated pair of Sulfur Crested Cockatoos are in the same area, contained in a sixteen foot long flight cage. Though the cats enjoyed climbing on the aviary when it was first built, since the introduction of the cockatoos, the cats stay off the wire. I am sure that the cockatoos have instructed the cats to keep away! The cats make sure that no rodents set up residence in the area.
Cats can be trained by the persons that care for them to stay away from flights that contain small birds that can’t defend themselves. Whenever the cat approaches the aviary, yell at it. Keep a straw broom handy. If the great hunter jumps on the wire, smack the cat with the fiber part of the broom. This will startle but not hurt the cat. Soon the feline will decide that the sport is not worth the trouble.
The same method can be used for smaller cages. It is more difficult to train a cat that a small cage is off limits , for the bird is more tempting in a cage. Unfortunately, though cats can be taught to stay away from cages and flights, it is very hard to teach a cat to not molest a small bird. If a finch, canary, or parakeet is loose, all of the cats instincts tell it to catch and kill the bird. Small birds should never be allowed to fly free around a cat. Even the large parrots should only be allowed out with a cat under careful supervision.
In several bird stores, I have seen cats that were kept with birds since the cats were very young kittens. These cats completely ignored all birds, even small baby parrots that were being hand fed. The bird professionals that own these stores have high praise for the cats value in keeping the shops rodent free.
There is no reason that you can’t enjoy the companionship of both cats and birds.
Is it cruel to keep a bird in a cage all of the time?
That depends on the bird! For finches and canaries, their cage is their home. These birds should have a cage large enough for them to get proper exercise. Letting finches and canaries fly loose is an act of cruelty. Their cage provides them with a feeling of security. Wide open spaces provoke feelings of terror and panic, not the joy of freedom. For these little guys a cage is not a prison but a sanctuary.
Parakeets are usually better off kept in the cage at all times. A tame, wing clipped keet may enjoy the close company of its owner. Many people do let parakeets out to fly about the house. For any bird flying at liberty, care must be taken that all windows and mirrors are either covered or kept away from the birds. Caution must also be taken with opening doors, fans, cooking, and electric wires. Many plants, chemicals, and paints are poisonous. Your loving pet may chew on them with dire consequences.
Pet parrots must be taken out and handled as often as possible. For these intelligent birds, play and companionship are as necessary as food and water. Sometimes a parrot will become rather aggressive on top of his cage. This is because the bird thinks of his cage as his castle and is prepared to defend it. The solution is to have a stand or playpen located away from the cage. Take the parrot out of the cage and immediately place it on the stand or playpen. Your pet will consider this as community property and will enjoy socializing with you there.
A parrot should always be wing clipped before being taken out. Your pet shop or veterinarian can perform this service for you. Only let the bird out under supervision. The bird might harm itself or get into trouble by destroying furniture or other objects.
If a parrot is not tame enough to take out of the cage, think seriously about why you are keeping it. If you don’t enjoy the bird’s company, it probably doesn’t enjoy yours. I am sure that the bird has not committed any crime that merits a lifetime of solitary confinement. The humane option is to consider placing the parrot in a breeding situation. You can then purchase either a tame parrot or birds like finches, parakeets, or lovebirds that are happy in pairs and don’t require human companionship.
How do I go about giving my bird a bath?
Small birds, budgies, canaries, lovebirds and finches, bathe by splashing around in a bath dish. Your pet shop can supply you with a special little tub that is either placed in the cage or attached to the door. The water should be room temperature. As soon as the bird is finished, remove the bath. You don’t want the bird to drink the soiled water.
Allow a new pet to get accustomed to his home before offering baths. Birds must feel secure before they will take the chance of getting wet. If after several weeks your pet has not taken the plunge, put a few pieces of greens in the water to catch his attention. Clever little tubs are available with mirrors for the birds that likes company when washing up!
You can help a larger bird groom itself by misting it with one of the good bird bath sprays. Don’t spray a cockatiel or cockatoo with anything that contains oil. The peculiar powdery feathers of these birds are damaged by oils. Lories and lorikeets bathe like the smaller birds by jumping in a dish. A heavy dog bowl serves the purpose very well.
The cage bottom must be cleaned after the bird is done bathing. A damp cage floor will quickly develop unhealthy molds and mildews.
DON’T ever try to give a bird a bath like you would a dog or a cat. Restraining a bird, wetting it, and sudsing it, will probably result in the bird’s death from either shock or chilling. In rare circumstances, a veterinarian or someone under a veterinarian’s direction will scrub down a bird that has been covered with oil, paint, or some other noxious substance. This is an emergency procedure that must only be performed by persons that have received proper training.
An `old timer’ suggests that I add more protein to my birds diet by offering monkey chow soaked in milk. Is this a good idea?
The answer is very simple. NO!
When monkey chow, dog food, or cat food is moistened, bacteria immediately start to grow on the kibble. Within twenty minutes the number of germs is so high that the food may be considered rancid. This even happens in a refrigerator._ Just imagine how rotten the concoction will be after several hours on a hot humid day.
High in fat and difficult to digest, dairy products are not good foods for birds. A small amount of yogurt or cheese may be given to your pet as a treat.
Birds are very different from monkeys, dogs, or cats. You don’t have to be a trained Biologist to notice that this is true. Their nutritional needs are also very different. If you are feeding a bird food that is a product of scientific research, no extra protein supplement should be required. Careless feeding is a sure fire way to throw your bird’s diet way out of whack.