Many parrot lovers are also fans of other companion animals. For instance, besides my Blue and Yellow Macaw Sam, I have two cats (Chelsea and Millie) and a dog named Emmett.
However, multi-species animal lovers need to be aware of certain issues when adding other animals to a parrot household or adding parrots to households with other animals.
First, they must determine what category these other animals belong to. Are they predators or prey?
Predators often have eyes located in the front of their skull (e.g., humans, hawks, ferrets, etc.)
Eyes facing front give predators the ability to focus on and target their prey.
Preys often have eyes located on the sides of their skull (i.e. cows, deer, Guinea pigs, rabbits, etc.)
Eyes on the side of the head give prey a larger field of vision.
Prey can see more around them, helping them to notice predators that may be sneaking up or approaching them.
From a psychological perspective, this is important to understand.
While many of my clients stubbornly insist that their parrots are not afraid of their huge cats, this is simply not true.
Many owners are fooled because parrots have adopted the sport’s rule that attack is the best form of defense.
This means parrots do not wait for the attack of a large predator. Instead, they take the offensive and attack first – which does not mean they are not afraid. Quite the contrary!
Parrots and cats are not natural friends unless you have an unusually placid cat.
Even if the animals were childhood friends, a kitten will generally grow up to be a bird-hunting monster. So it can’t be guaranteed that childhood ‘friends’ will remain so.
The best you can hope for is mutual disdain, with each pet happily ignoring the other.
In the beginning, you may have to give the cat a few blasts of plant-mister water to deter her hunting instincts – even this requires some training.
The hostility of cats will vary depending on the size of the bird.
Small birds are definitely in danger from cats, and many trainers find aversives (such as a water pistol) to be quite effective for teaching cats to stay away.
Medium-sized and large parrots are rarely in danger from attacks from cats, as cats tend to avoid them.
The predator-prey relationship is generally based on a size differential.
My Macaw Sam (who has an extremely dark sense of humor) has thoroughly enjoyed training multiple kittens and cats over our thirty-five years together, and a bitten tail is generally all it takes for cats to learn to stay well away.
However, never allow a cat to share a room with any sized parrot without very close supervision.
Cats can carry deadly bacteria on their claws and a scratch can be fatal to a bird over a matter of hours.
Therefore, a cat-scratched bird is a true emergency even if it seems fine, as it needs antibiotics immediately.
We’ve all seen those adorably cute photos of parrots cuddling up to cats.
This relationship is not only bad due to the slim but real risk of disease, but it is also against nature’s flow.
However, some owners decide to devote the time and effort needed to make their parrot and cat enjoy each other’s company.
Naturally curious and social parrots find this easier than cats, whose idea of inquisitiveness involves chasing, pouncing, and clawing.
A person who wishes to pursue this unadvised path must meet three essential requirements.
- The cat must be very docile
- The parrot must be hand-trained, and
- You must always be present when the animals are together.
At a safe distance, introduce the parrot to the cat on your hand.
Don’t continue training if the bird is about to panic or the cat is about to pounce. Take your cues from the animals.
Watch out for any signs that your cat might lash out or pounce, and reprimand her with a firm “No!”, or whatever other word of dissuasion you use.
Avoid shrieking at her, though, as that will panic both the parrot and the cat.
It’s okay to allow the cat to watch and sniff the bird and let her see that it’s just another part of the household or an extension of your arm.
And let the parrot see that the cat is no more interesting than the average cushion.
And please do not allow your cat to sleep on top of your bird’s cage! It’s amazing how many people allow this.
It cannot be relaxing for any size of bird to have a cat (no matter how benign) on top of its house.