Will my cat's fur really kill my bird?

by Dani
(South Dakota)

Hi there! I am wondering about the safety of training birds and other pets to interact with one another. Obviously teeth and claws are a danger and great care must be taken and pets never left unsupervised together. However, I find two conflicting messages out there about what is the safest way to own birds and other pets.

One thought is that, especially in case of an accidental escape, all pets should be taught to live in harmony with one another. In the other corner, people are screaming about "normal flora" and how even touching a cat's fur which has remnants of dried saliva on it will kill my beloved parrot. Is this a legitimate risk? And how much so?

In a house with several birds, which cat poses the most threat, the one who licks herself and allows birds to preen her fur, or the one who sees the birds only as fluttery prey? What about a dog? Thank you so much for your time!

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Jan 06, 2013
Can cat fur kill birds?
by: The Avian Vet

I never recommend allowing different species to interact. Even when someone is successful and broadcasts it on video internet or in a show, not gives the impression that everyone can do this and bad things happen,. My suggestion is to always play it safe and don't trust other animals to interact with birds with no chance of an incident. Even supervised, unforeseeable events can and to occur. I thin it is all about the level of risk one is prepared to face.

There is a legitimate risk here with only coming into direct contact with the fur. Bacteria primarily reside on the mouth, anus and everywhere in-between, and given that cats and dogs lick themselves to be 'clean' these bacteria are deposited onto the fur. The problem with cats and other mammals (including humans) is the presence of normal flora that is not so normal to birds and in fact is pathogenic. But with cats, the harbor a particularly nasty bacteria called Pasturella multocida. It is very pathogenic to birds. If it is able to enter the blood stream say through a bite or scratch then a bird potentially could die within 24 hours. If the bacteria is ingested, say from preening the fur of a cat, it is still pathogenic, although less so and generally not deadly, unless untreated. Immediate treatment for bites and scratches and even if there is a suspicion of a bite or scratch. When ingested, sickness can occur as soon as 3-5 days. How susceptible depends partly on the bird's health and much preening the bird does. For example, a bird on a seed diet, with a water bowl instead of a bottle, has not been vaccinated, is an egg layer, or has another health problem, etc. or a bird that preens the cat daily versus preening the cat once, will be more likely to develop disease from ingesting the bacteria from fur for example. All birds regardless of health status will become ill and die from a cat bite or scratch if antibiotics are not administered within 12 hours. I recommend they be seen within 2 hours. Dogs do not typically carry this bacteria, but they have other bacteria that can cause serious infection. The common problem with dogs is if they attack a bird, they usually cause crush injuries.

It depends on when and if the bird is allowed out of the cage. If the cat who likes fluttery prey is in the room, then this cat poses the most threat when the bird is out of the cage (supervised or not). With the bird inside of the cage, this cat is still a threat, but less so. Access increases the risk of threat exponentially. The cat that allows the bird to preen its fur is posing more of a risk, as compared to the other cat in the situation of the bird being inside of the cage. Again risk is increased in an unhealthy bird and heavy exposure. Dogs often enjoy fluttering and chasing too. Neither should ever be trusted completely.

Dr B

Dec 13, 2012
Cat fur dangerous to birds?
by: Tracie

Dr B will eventually answer this, I hope. I have had many friends that had cats and birds and as long as the cats and birds were not out at the same time they did not get hurt.

I do NOT suggest this, but one neighbor actually had a cat that like to sit on the cage and get "preened" by the bird. So if the fur kills birds then that bird should have died years ago.

She was taking a BIG chance in my opinion, because the saliva of cats is toxic to birds.

Dec 12, 2012
Cat fur killing birds
by: Anonymous

There really is no safe way to have birds and other animals live together in harmony. Even when supervised, accidents happen in the blink of an eye. What were once friends can turn to mortal enemies in a milisecond. It is not a good idea to let a bird preen anything other than itself. If the cat goes outside there's no telling what is on the fur. If it's an indoor cat it still has it's own pet dander, dust from the litterbox and loose hair.

When my cat was alive she was too fat to jump on the table where the bird cage is kept but she would still sit on the floor and stare. I never let the bird out of the cage with the cat in the room. Sometimes I would bring the cage into the living room when I watched TV and put it on the coffee table. Even though I was "supervising" the cat ran over to the cage and pulled it down off the coffee table with the bird in it. (Big heavy cage, strong cat). Luckily, the cage didn't break open but this happened within two seconds while I was sitting there.

We don't know how our pets' minds work or what will make them "snap" so it is never a good idea to let them mix together.

Dec 12, 2012
Will my cat's fur really kill my bird?
by: Linda

First of all stop allowing your birds and cats to touch each other for any reason. You must understand that cats and birds are natural enemies. The bird is the prey, and the cat is the predator. Nothing will ever change that, and since it is how both were made, there is really nothing to change. They may appear to be "friends" while you are watching, and the truth of the matter is allowing the cats that close to your birds is going to get them killed. It's not their fur that is the problem, it is the fact that you are defying nature here and actually thinking it will make a difference in how these two species see each other.

The other thing is that your birds are picking up dangerous bacteria when they are close to the cats. Birds have only gram positive bacteria in their bodies, so when we allow them to be on the floor or ground or to interact with animals and humans who carry lots of gram negative bacteria all over them and inside them, the birds will get sick. Wash your hands everytime before handling your birds and make sure clothing does not have cat hair on it. When sick with colds or flu, you must wear a surgical mask while feeding, watering and cleaning bird's cages, toys, etc. A sick person's breath is poison for the birds in that they are getting large amounts of bacteria with your every breath. Any Avian Vet will suggest the same thing.

You are walking a very dangerous road here, and all I can say is for you stop putting these two species together in any form or fashion. If nature meant for cats and birds to be "friends" nature would not have made one a predator and the other the prey.

Keep them apart, and do not allow your birds onto the floor or anywhere near the cats. Animals act very differently when the humans are gone. I've seen cats climb onto a bird's cage and torment it with me watching. As to what could have happened with me gone, I don't want to think about. We put a welded wire door into our bird's room to keep both our cats securely OUT of the equation. Bad things happen when dogs and cats are left alone together too. How these creatures act when we are around to referee is entirely different from how they act when we are gone. Keep this in mind because your birds are in danger everytime you leave the house. This is just how it is, and you can either listen to the truth or continue this coming together until your birds are killed while you are out of the house, and it will happen.

I hope this helps to clear up matters for you. Put birds into room of their own and install a welded wire door so the cats cannot have access. You don't want to use a wooden door because this closes the birds off to interactions with family. You want some kind of welded wire door so birds can see out, and family can see in and be with birds in a safer way. I recommend welded wire because it is stronger. Cats have no problems tearing up screen wire.

Thanks for writing,

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