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One Bird, or Two?

I have heard many stories of birds getting along famously with dogs, cats, other birds and even a gerbil! I have also heard devastating stories of birds being left for “two minutes” together, or with other species, that resulted in a trip to the vet, or worse.

Birds of a Feather

The old saying holds true: birds of a feather DO flock together. If you look outside a window right now the probability of seeing a flock of wild geese, doves or finches is very high. Birds in the wild are extremely social. Together they find food, scout nesting locations, scan the environment for predators and huddle together to keep warm during cold nights. Wild parrots are no exception to this rule and most species can be found in flocks of hundreds, or even thousands.

Human beings are also very social creatures and thus we tend to project our lifestyle onto our pets. While it is certainly adorable to “let them play together”, in captivity there are several considerations to take into account before opening any cages:

Reasons To Keep ONE Bird

  1. If you are looking for a pet bird that will adore you, I recommend keeping your bird separate from others. Think about it this way: as human beings we prefer to spend time with other humans above all else. While we love our pets, it is innate human desire to have companionship with our own species. Birds are no different. Over time, your pet bird will come to prefer the company of another pet bird over humans in the household. This can lead to a very disappointed family.
  2. I have heard many horror stories of large birds biting off the toes of smaller birds, likely out of curiosity for those sausage-like appendages wiggling on the perch. In most of these cases, the owner claims the birds were “friends” before the incident and that she/he was “right there” when it happened. Personally, it is not a risk I am willing to take. If, despite this information, you really want two birds that will “play together”, I recommend getting two of the same species. While accidents can still occur, they are less common when the birds are equal size and communicate in the same language.
  3. Straight and simple: one bird produces less mess and fewer expenses than two.

Reasons to Keep TWO Birds

  1. Some owners love birds but are not comfortable handling them outside of the cage. In this case, keeping two birds (of the same species) in a large cage together is ideal. The birds are company for each other, and the owner can enjoy their antics without feeling pressured to interact with them directly.
  2. Some species, such as Linnies, come in an array of colours. If you truly cannot decide between blue and green, getting two birds would solve this dilemma.

Birds with Dogs

In my household, when the dog is loose all of the birds are secure in their cages. As a precaution, the dog is well trained with the command “leave it”, but is closely monitored regardless. Dogs have strong instinct to react to sudden movement. A tennis ball flying through the air and a bird started off its perch look very similar in the eyes of our canine companions.

 

Birds with Cats

Cats are incredible predators, biologically programmed to seek out prey and given the tools to catch it. I certainly understand why you want to have a cat and a bird in the same household. Both make wonderful pets, and they can each be appreciated for their differences.

Since I am often asked for my opinion on this topic, I have included below a few concerns you might think about bringing a bird into your home:

  1. Even a very old, or well-trained cat can be perceived as a threat to your bird. Mot humans would be uncomfortable with someone standing outside and staring at them through the living room window. Likewise, some birds feel very insecure when a cat sits below their cage watching their movements or, worse, put his paws on the cage and actively tracks them.
  2. Compared to dogs, cats’ senses are heightened and their reaction times are faster. I have heard so many sad stories of the bird becoming startled, taking off, and ending up under the paw of the family cat. It is not the cat’s fault. They are reacting on instinct. In one example I heard not too long ago the family re-homed their cat after he attacked and killed their pet Budgie. The mother said her 8-year-old daughter couldn’t look at the cat without becoming upset and angry, blaming him for the accident. This is a sad situation all-around: a bird was killed, a cat was sent away, and a family lost both of their pets. This could have been so easily avoided had the family waiting to get a bird until after the cat had lived his natural lifespan.

“Solutions” to the Above

“Oh, it’ll be okay. I’ll just keep my bird in the bedroom upstairs behind a closed door where she’s safe, and go play with her every day.”

Look, I get it: you really want to make this work and are trying to find a happy-medium. That said, think about your children, or try and remember your own childhood, for just a moment. Most childrens’ bedrooms are full of their favourite things: books, movies, stuffed animals. Despite all of this no child wants to spend all day in his bedroom, all by himself.

Birds are very social creatures. Your bedroom might be beautiful, and the cage might be enormous, but what the bird wants is to be in the heart of your home, right in the centre of the action, able to see you through the day. Birds left alone in a bedroom all day (able to hear the action below them, but not able to participate) can become depressed or anxious in time. It’s just not an ideal situation for them. Birds in a more communal space feel as though they are part of family activities even if they are inside of the cage at the time. This placement also allows you not to feel guilty if it is a particularly long day and you are unable to take time to bring your bird out to play.

“It’s alright. I’ll keep the bird in the living room and I’ll just lock the cats downstairs when I take her out of the cage”

Refer to #1 above. My concern here is not your plan for when the bird is out of the cage, but rather the situation the rest of the day. Some birds feel very insecure when a cat sits below their cage watching their movements or, worse, put his paws on the cage and actively tracks them.

The Bottom Line

I have been working with birds fo a long time and have yet to find a true solution that enables families to have cats and birds in the same household without sacrificing the needs of either pet. For this reason, it is our policy not to sell birds to families who have one or more cats in the home. Every breeder will have their own policies in place, and another breeder might be happy to offer you a bird for your cat-friendly home.

If you have a system that works well I’d love to hear it and would be happy to re-consider our policies, and/or add it to this web page for others to benefit. Please call me at 705-957-7200.