Saturday, February 5, 2011


Cats love to watch birds, and can be taught to leave them alone.
Many years ago, before I had a cat of my own, I visited a home with a big, beautiful, solid gray cat that slept on the sofa. On an end table next to the cat rested a cage with two cockatiels. I was incredulous that the cat didn’t bother the birds and asked if the cat had been raised from a kitten with them.

“No,” they said, “we got him as an adult from the animal shelter.”

“Why doesn’t he bother the birds?”

“He never has. He’s just a good cat.”

Since then we’ve had many cats and our experiences with them and the birds have been mostly positive. Here are a few that I hope you’ll find interesting and won’t be afraid to introduce a cat into your life…if you don’t already have one.

PAWS CAT: Possibly the worst experience—which wasn’t really so bad—was with Paws. He lived to be 19 years old and over time co-existed with many tame birds. However, when he was very young, we had a pair of white zebra finches in a bamboo cage in the family room. My two children at the time were instructed to never leave the cat alone with the birds. If they were leaving the family room, they were to take the cat into their bedroom with them and close the door.

Well…one day I went shopping and when I returned and opened the front door, I immediately heard “chee, chee, chee!” It was an obvious distress call from one of the finches. Somehow the bird had exited the hanging bamboo cage (never did figure out how), and Paws had him! There were white feathers everywhere. I yelled at the cat! I chased the cat! He ran under furniture! He ran from room to room! Always with the bird in his mouth, feathers flying!

White zebra hen & pied mate. Young in nest.
After what seemed like forever, with me chasing and yelling, he finally dropped the bird! It was limp and lifeless. I picked it up, carried it into the kitchen and gently dripped cold water on the edge of its bill. I don’t know what convinced me that it wasn’t dead…maybe because there were no visible wounds and no blood on the white feathers. I put the unconscious bird on the floor of the cage and left it there. The next morning, it was sitting next to its mate, singing and acting like nothing had happened. Still fearful, however, I gave our zebra finches to Magnolia Bird Farm a few days after the “cat event.” If I had kept the finches, I doubt the cat would ever have gone near them again.

One lesson I’ve learned about birds. They can knock themselves out and still recover, so don’t give up on them right away. For instance, hummingbirds often fly into windows, can appear dead, and still recover. Once a bird is stiff, you can figure it’s a goner…


Black cats are usually intelligent and have a sense of humor.
PANTHER CAT: One of my favorite cats was sleek & black, named Panther. Our youngest son had a tame blue budgie named Skybird. He lived in a cage in our son’s room. Well, the inevitable happened. One day the bedroom door was left open. I heard a crash and rushed into the bedroom. The cage was on the floor, split apart from the fall. The bird was up on the curtain rod, looking down nonplussed. No cat to be seen. I leaned down to look under the bed and drug a cringing Panther out. In the middle of his black nose was a red divot. He’d put his nose up to the cage and been bitten. In leaping back, he apparently knocked the cage off the table. Bird was fine, and Panther never went near Skybird’s cage again. Later, we added another budgie and two cockatiels. They moved into the family room where both Paws and Panther ignored all four birds. By the way, that was the only time that sweet budgie ever bit any living thing. Smile.


Blue Point Birman. Our sweet Barley-cat loved the finches.

BARLEY: This gorgeous blue-point Birman actually came from an animal shelter. He joined our family when he was five years old. At the time, we had two cages of white and pied zebra finches behind closed doors in our bedroom.

These were not the same finches Paws went for in his youth. By now, Paws was elderly and had long ago proven to be reliable around birds. It wasn’t long before we found that Barley was safe around them too.

Two successful pairs of zebra finches.
A pair is in each cage.
The cages were on hooks from the ceiling and he would stretch out on an inside window ledge and watch them. Now, this was a cat that could jump straight up and onto the top of the refrigerator from a standing position. His high jumps were amazing. If he’d wanted to reach one of the cages hanging near him, he could easily have done so, but all he ever did was watch them. They raised numerous clutches and none of the birds feared Barley. They were very used to being watched by his incredibly lovely blue eyes. I still miss him.

This is really Muffin, Me-Too and Fancy in our window seat,
not far from cages of birds. The birds are family too, and left alone.
MUFFIN, RAGS & ME-TOO: These three black and white guys were all related, I’m sure. Two were strays from a nearby horse ranch that was sold for an apartment complex. Many of the barn cats were forced across a highway when demolition began. Neither the former owners or the new buyers seemed to care about rescuing the cats, and those of us who lived in adjoining neighborhoods didn’t know about them until several appeared in our neighborhood.

None were house cats, yet they weren’t wild either. Those who survived oncoming cars crossing the highway entered our adjoining housing development. Unfortunately, I saw several who didn’t make it. There were four I know of who found homes among kind people.

Muffin made friends with our old Paws cat, and eventually I was able to lure him in with food. He was a sweet guy who only wanted to please. I could even tell him to go get in his bed at night and he did! Scolding him once for looking at the birds caused him to ignore them from then on. Muffin’s brother, Rags, (as in the two Ragamuffin’s) survived on his own for three more years before we coaxed him in. But, he never got along with Muffin, so we didn’t keep him even though he ignored the birds and got along with our two small dogs. Two weeks after Rags left, Me-Too showed up, hungry and injured. He was a juvenile, very likely a son of Rags, although we had each cat neutered within a day or two of their arrival.

Me-Too, being young, quickly acquiesced to Muffin and they became friends. Me-Too (as in I’m here too), was always friendly and out-going. He never bothered the birds. In fact, we once made an 8-hour trip away from home and back, not realizing we’d left Me-Too asleep in a window seat inches away from several cages. He never bothered a bird, and probably slept the entire time we were gone.

Pretty Fancy was a Snowshoe from the Animal Shelter.
FANCY: This pretty Snowshoe cat joined Paws and Muffin before Rags or Me-Too came along. She was a replacement for Barley when he passed away. She, too, came from an animal shelter, age unknown.

It was her blue eyes that reminded us of Barley that won us over. Again, she quickly accepted the birds as part of the household furniture. Speaking of furniture, it’s always been easy to train our cats to leave the birds alone and to stay off counters and table tops, but furniture is more difficult. We are regularly reminding most of them NOT to scratch the furniture, and to use their scratching posts instead.

Fancy, like Barley, was already de-clawed when we adopted her, so neither she nor Barley had an issue with scratching. I do believe both of them had overly sensitive feet, however, because of the de-clawing. Neither one wanted their feet handled or touched. I can only assume there was some discomfort from losing their claws, which also included most of their toes. Fancy, like most female cats, was quite a huntress. She caught countless mice and other small rodents. I never saw her with a bird or found a dead one though. I really believe being expected to leave the indoor pet birds alone can carry over to outside birds too…a very good thing.

MEI-LING: I have a special fondness for black cats, and when looking at a litter of black kittens, intending to adopt one, she chose me. I stood across the room and called, and she was the one who came. Ever since, she’s been my constant, loving companion. I love my birds immensely and they give me great pleasure, but I wouldn’t trade Mei-Ling for any bird, or even any number of them.

Mei-Ling currently lives with us. She is
one of my favorite cats of all time.
As a kitten she quickly responded to a scolding voice. As of this day, she won’t go near a bird unless I hold it up to her and tell her it’s okay to look at it. Once I was hand feeding a baby bird, fully feathered, that decided to fly and landed smack-dab right in front of Mei-Ling! I don’t usually put the cats outside if I’m only hand feeding. Well, Mei-Ling froze until I came and picked up the baby. She made no attempt to harm it. Although, I was also yelling, “No Mei-Ling” at her and she knew why. She has internalized that birds are “off limits” much more than the cats we adopted as adults. Mei-Ling will be five in May, 2011.

PATCHES: This pretty calico has been with us for four years now. Judging by her missing teeth we think she’s very mature. She appeared on our back porch one cold November. My husband tried to feed her, but territorial Me-Too chased her off.

A few years earlier we had moved to the country and knew all our rural neighbors and their pets and she wasn’t one of theirs. I thought she might have been dumped, but no longer believe that. I prayed for that pretty little stray for months before I saw her again. In January it snowed and I worried about her out in the forest all alone.

Then in March I saw her! It’s a long, spiritual story, but we were able to bring her home and heal her bloody ears (mosquitoes), get her wormed, shots, etc. Her stomach was bloated and I wondered if she was going to have kittens. We always spay and neuter. Because she’s so pretty and kittens are so much fun, I actually hoped she was expecting. I would have enjoyed the kittens without any guilt over it. Smile. However, Patches was already spayed.

Patches' favorite window seat viewing site. Our birds don't fear her.
There are four Splendids in this cage.

We soon learned she isn’t afraid to climb into a car’s trunk. That’s how I think she ended up away from her original home, wherever that was. If my niece hadn’t seen her behind the suitcases in their trunk one day, Patches would have ended up thousands of miles away before the trunk was opened again.

We call her Patches only because so many calico’s are already named that and we thought she might find it familiar. She’s used to it now, but in retrospect I don’t think it was her original name. I could have called her what I wanted to, which was my miracle cat, “Miry-cat.”

In spite of Patches’ advanced age, she too quickly learned to leave the birds alone. However, like Barley, she loves to lay nearby and watch them.

Patches was a stray we took in. She's not young, but quickly learned
never to scare the birds. She watches them without getting excited,
and doesn't harm them.
When I let the tame birds out of their cages, I always send the cats outside or into a bedroom with the door closed. One morning though I didn’t realize Patches was not outside…my husband had let her in and she was curled up on the couch. Normally, the birds come out for a flight of 15 minutes to a half hour. Rarely, maybe an hour of play time with me. Well, this morning, I sat down at the computer and let time get away from me. The birds flew everywhere, including all over me, around the computer, over and onto the couch. When I finally came out of my “computer daze” and realized I should put them away, it was two hours later!

I turned around in my chair and saw Patches. She looked at me, got up from the couch and leisurely stretched. Shocked I picked her up and took her to a bedroom. She’d had every opportunity to snatch a bird out of the air if she’d wanted to, even had them walking on the back of the couch just above her. She never made any effort to try to catch one…Amazing…If ever she were going to be tempted, the opportunity was there. Living wild in the woods for many months, she had to have done a lot of hunting. In fact, once I removed a chipmunk from her mouth and held her as it ran off into the woods, unharmed. Now, she leaves them alone too.
This white Budgie lived to be over 12-years-old. Despite how it looks,
the dog never hurt fact they became quite friendly with each other.
Never leave your dog or cat alone with your bird, however.
It's best to ALWAYS be present, just in case.
 God bless cats & dogs. They can be trained.

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