Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cats with Tame Birds, a Tale of Five Bourkes and one Splendid Parakeet

Sweet Patches asleep on a pillow.
This is a cat story. I've talked about my cats with the birds before, but our cats never cease to amaze me!

I have six very tame birds within my menagerie of over a dozen parakeets. Five are Bourkes and one is a Splendid. These favorites of mine get to come out of their cages for free flight and lots of attention fairly frequently.

When they come out to fly around I generally keep them confined to two rooms of the house where it's safe. They can fly back and forth between the two rooms (living room and kitchen), visiting the other birds and my husband or me by landing on our shoulders, arms or hands.

Baby birds being handfed are in box inside cage.
Patches likes being near their electric heater too.
When the birds are allowed free flight, the cats are either outdoors, or shut in a bedroom. It's not that they aren't always trustworthy when the birds are in their cages, but why tempt fate with birds who are flying everywhere.

Yesterday, after the birds had been out of their cages for about an hour, it was time to put them away. I'd been puttering in the kitchen over dirty dishes, watering plants, and assorted odd jobs while the birds flew on and off me, tickling my ears, flying onto my hands and generally having fun. Of course, they'd made lots of wild flights into the living room, circling around many times. They like to exercise and chase each other.

What makes this time different is that when I walked into the living room to gather them back to their cages, our elderly calico cat stood up on my desk chair, leisurely stretching. On the wood floor about five feet in front of her was my Splendid, Rainbow, walking around on the ground as he likes to do. She could easily have leaped on him! The birds had flown over and around her for an hour or so and she had made no attempt to harm them! She could easily have swiped or pounced on several of them while I was in the kitchen and I might not have known.

Patches likes keeping me company as I
pursue another past time, knitting.
Now, this is a cat we have not had since she was a kitten. I think it's easiest to train cats you've raised. However, she was a sickly stray who survived in the woods near our home for at least four or five months before I was able to catch her and get her well. We've rescued other cats that we didn't keep, but in very short order she walked up to our big Malamute/Lab mix and rubbed up against him. I figured if she was going to make friends with him that easily, she deserved to stay with us. Besides, she's very pretty. 

Over time we've come to trust our cats enough that we don't worry about leaving them alone with caged birds while we're outside in the garden, or off to another room to work on a project or something. However, if we expect to drive away to go shopping, to church, or wherever...then we confine the cats to a bedroom or let them outdoors if that's where they prefer to be when the weather is nice. I don't leave them alone with our birds for hours at time. Yet, we have accidentally left a cat asleep in a chair and gone off for a full day, only to find it was in the house all that time with access to the birds, but nothing happened.

But, leaving them alone while the birds fly free is a different story. A bird's flight should excite a cat, right? One swipe and a cat can bring a bird down. I've seen Mockingbird's with a nest in a lime tree chase a cat who ignored them until one day she reached up and killed one. Fortunately, the bird's mate continued to feed and raise their young, but it never again dived at that cat.

One of my favorite cats of all-time, Mei-Ling. Introducing her
to a baby Bourke while also getting him used to her. Notice she
has no claws out. She's curious, but not overly so.
She quickly lost interest.
Sleek black Mei-Ling has been with us since 7 weeks of age and is now 4 1/2 years old. I'd be less surprised if she ignored free flying birds.

Yet, as a stray Patches survived many months alone by hunting birds, mice and anything else she could catch! With yesterday's peaceful acceptance of birds flying all around her, she has gone up in my estimation by over 100%. My husband says she knows which side her bread is buttered on and isn't going to risk being tossed out. Not, that I'd do that. Nor will I deliberately release the birds in her presence again. Why tempt fate.

Oh, by the way, our big old "Malamutt" is safe around the birds too. He's even had them land on him. He doesn't particularly like it, but he doesn't hurt them. They think he's just one more member of the family, which he is. Smile.

May all your pets bring you boundless love, comfort and blessings.

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