Q. My cat constantly stalks our pet bird and acts like he’s ready to eat her for dinner. Can I do anything to change this situation? A. Felines hunt birds not because they’re malicious, but because that’s what Mother Nature hardwired them to do. Stalking, pouncing and batting at prey are behaviors that even domesticated cats act out every day, in the form of chasing lights cast on the walls or playing with feather toys and mice. And while your cat may not have to catch his own dinner, he’s still a born hunter, and his predatory behavior can transition from play to true predation when a live item of prey is conveniently located within the same household.
Cats, Birds and Stress
In the Looney Tunes cartoons, Tweety Bird doesn’t really worry about being caught by Sylvester; he knows (as do we) that he willl escape. In real life, however, pet birds aren’t always so sure of their safety, and they can become highly stressed when housed with cats who treat them as a potential meal. The psychological trauma of being stalked, swatted at and pounced on creates an unhealthy environment, even for a bird who is safely protected by a cage — after all, your bird doesn’t know that the bars of the cage are going to stop your feline from getting her.
Stress can have various negative effects for birds, according to veterinary sources, including suppression of the immune system and changes in feather growth. Birds who are hunted inside a cage are put in a situation where every encounter with the cat simulates a life or death situation: The bird’s instincts tell it to flee, but the cage won’t allow it.
The threat isn’t only imagined either. Felines are skilled at batting at prey, and can work their paws through the bars of a cage, or swat at anything that happens to slip out, like a bird’s tail feathers. Even a minor injury can turn into a life-threatening infection for your bird. There’s also danger of the cage being knocked over or the bird escaping when the cage is unlocked.