We own 2 cockatiels but also love cats, so we're wondering whether it would be possible to have one without endangering the birds?

Would a kitten growing up with these birds be friendly with them, or is bird hunting an instinct that cannot be unlearned?

It might be relevant that the cockatiels are not really tame and don't let themselves be petted. They probably would keep their distance from the cat as well.

2 Answers 2


I am hoping that someone with more experience with cats and birds will provide a better answer to this question, with "how to" direction. But here is part of the answer.

Cats are naturally drawn to the types of movements that birds (and prey animals in general) make, there is nothing you can do to to stop them from having an interest in birds. Regardless of the species (see related) being introduced, every member of your family (human or otherwise) will need some type of planned meeting and supervised visits to live successfully together.

Cats and Dogs have the ability to differentiate members of the household from those not belonging to the household. But is up to you to provide the training. In my rabbit volunteer capacity I get a lot of questions about cross species interaction, one of my recurring examples is that just because a dog barks at the mailman, does not mean they will naturally be aggressive to all people...

A couple of decades ago, I lived on several acres with, a multitude of animals. I had a cat who was free roaming, primarily to keep non-family critters (i.e. mice) away from the grain. At the same time I had free roaming chickens and lots of baby chicks. The mother chickens and myself were able to convince cats that baby chicks are family. One spring I had several baby turkeys in a pen, and one cat in particular, had a strong attraction to watching them. He would leave the baby chickens alone, and never made any move to kill one. But he would sit outside the pen, watching those turkeys for hours, his tail twitching in that way that implies what he is thinking about doing to those turkeys.

Well one day, when the turkeys were all twice as big as him, I scooped him up and let him join me in the turkey pen. He decided he really did not have a desire to actually be "IN THE PEN" with turkey's and made his desire to be on the other side of the wire, very clear very quickly. I let him back out, and a few minutes later he was back watching the turkeys with his tail doing that little twitch.

So my part of the answer is; while the hunting instinct cannot be unlearned, it can be directed. A cat can learn to except a bird as part of the family. This will not keep it from going after wild birds, but those in the shared space that are "family" can be safe.


From my experience, it's possible for a cat to accept birds as part of the household but there are limits and risks.

Some things I'd recommend:

  • Make sure the bird cage is sturdy and hung from the ceiling (if small) in a location the cat can't reach (this can be a challenge, since cats can jump a long way, and you don't need the cat trying to get at these 'fun playmates' and winding up hanging from the bird cage).
  • If the cage is too big to hang, make sure it's not going to be tipped over. Birds frighten easily, and a tipped cage can bend enough that the bird can get out. At that point, the cat's instincts could well take over.
  • If the birds are tame enough to be let out of their cage, and especially if they're wing-clipped, make sure the cat is shut out of the room when the birds are out. Even if the cat knows the birds are part of the family, bird movements will trigger the predator instincts.
  • Try to make sure you don't have vermin. My family lost a much-loved peach-faced lovebird (tame and wing-clipped) because a mouse ran up a curtain too close to the bird cage and when the cat went after the mouse he knocked the bird cage loose. Instinct happened, and that morning we were greeted with lovebird feathers all over the living room and a happy cat who'd had a lovely chase (until then, the cat had ignored the bird and birdcage. But having a distressed bird flapping around in his territory was just too much temptation).

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