It’s likely that you have a cat that likes to hunt. Even if you give them delicious food, it’s natural for cats to still want to hunt. If you’re like the author, you’ve probably noticed your cat watching birds and maybe even jumping at the window when a bird lands on the windowsill. When your cat is outside, you might have seen them sneak up on and catch a bird. If this sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably wondered if cats eat birds.
Indeed, cats do consume birds. However, not every cat will devour the whole bird; they tend to avoid consuming the beak, gizzard, wing belly, tail and upper feathers, as well as large bones. Cats engage in bird hunting as a form of “sport” and for the mental stimulation it provides. Typically, cats resort to eating birds when they lack sufficient nutrition from their regular diet.
In this article, we will explore the reasons behind cats eating birds and whether it is a common behavior for them. Additionally, we will discuss the types of birds that cats tend to prey on, the safety aspect of this behavior, and the potential health risks for cats consuming birds. We will also offer advice on how to handle the situation if your cat catches a bird and provide tips on preventing your cat from hunting birds.
Why Is My Cat Eating Birds
There are a few reasons why your cat might be eating birds. It could be because your cat has a natural urge to eat them, your cat is feeling hungry, or your cat is getting tired of its usual food. Let’s explore each of these reasons:
1. Your Cat Has A Biological Need To Eat The Bird
Cats require taurine, an amino acid, for various essential functions such as maintaining good eyesight, a strong immune system, proper heart functioning, and healthy digestion. Taurine is naturally present in animal meat.
Cats require a significant amount of Taurine, but they are unable to produce enough of it on their own. As a result, many cats engage in hunting and killing birds to fulfill their requirement for specific nutrients, such as taurine. If your cat is consuming birds, it may be due to its craving for additional taurine.
2. Your Cat Is Hungry
It’s simple: when cats are hungry, they will go after birds and other animals to fill their bellies. If you have feral cats that you use for pest control but don’t feed, you might have noticed that they hunt instead of going after the rodents.
If your cat hasn’t been able to catch any rodents and is feeling hungry, it will go after whatever it can find, like cockroaches, geckos, and birds.
3. Your Cat Is Bored With Their Diet
Cats enjoy having different options for their meals. If your cat becomes uninterested in the food you provide, they may go hunting to satisfy their craving for a new flavor. It’s a good idea to mix up your cat’s diet to prevent boredom and ensure they receive a variety of nutrients.
Is It Normal For Cats To Kill And Eat Birds?
It’s totally normal for cats to hunt and devour birds. Cats are born hunters who rely on hunting for their survival in the wild. Even our pet cats have kept their natural instinct to hunt, so it shouldn’t come as a shock if you witness your cat catching and eating a bird.
Did you know that cats in the United States are believed to be responsible for the deaths of approximately 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds each year? This information comes from a study published in the Nature Communications Journal in 2013!
Cats are natural meat-eaters and their bodies are built to digest meat. They can even handle bones, which provide important minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.
If your cat’s body signals that it requires certain minerals, cats have a natural instinct to seek out fresh bones as a source of those minerals. Moreover, chewing on bones can benefit a cat’s dental health by making their teeth stronger and fulfilling their urge to gnaw.
Do Cats Eat Birds When They Catch Them
Not all cats eat birds when they catch them, but some do. If a cat is hungry, it will probably eat the bird to satisfy its hunger. However, if your cat is not hungry, it caught the bird for the excitement of the hunt.
Cats find it more challenging to catch birds compared to catching rodents or geckos. Cats are able to patiently wait near the hiding spot of rodents and seize the opportunity when they come out. Once the unsuspecting rodent emerges, cats swiftly attack!
However, because birds can fly, cats have a more difficult time catching them. Cats are agile creatures, and it’s not uncommon to witness them performing impressive acrobatics while attempting to catch a bird. They twist and turn in the air, creating a remarkable spectacle.
When cats see birds, they sometimes make a throaty trill sound. This noise is not a cry for help, but rather a sign of frustration because the cat knows it can’t catch the prey.
If a cat wants to function properly, it may eat a bird to get the taurine it needs. Taurine is an amino acid that cats don’t naturally produce enough of.
Is it Safe For Cats To Eat Birds
If a bird is healthy and free from disease, it is safe for cats to eat it. However, if the bird is not in good health or has parasites, it can be dangerous for your cat.
A cat can digest meat and raw bones, but it’s not safe to give them cooked bones. However, feathers and beaks can be a challenge for cats.
Cats are unable to process feathers and beaks because the molecular makeup of bird beaks and feather spines is beta-keratin. The digestive system of cats is not equipped to break down and digest beta-keratin.
In addition, cats that consume feathers might face challenges when attempting to swallow them. Feathers can obstruct a cat’s airways and respiratory system, leading to difficulties. Similar to hairballs, you might observe your cat attempting to expel the feathers by coughing.
Another thing to think about is that feathers can poke holes or cut a cat’s mouth or throat. When a feather breaks, it forms sharp edges that can cause problems for a cat.
It’s a good idea to avoid using feathers as toys for your cat because of the reasons mentioned earlier. Additionally, feathers used in toys are usually colored. If your cat bites into one of these feathers, it might end up ingesting some of the dye.
Can Cats Get Sick From Catching A Bird
If the bird is not in good health or has parasites, it can make your cat unwell if they catch and consume it.
Just like other animals in the wild, birds can have parasites like roundworms or tapeworms. If your cat catches and eats a bird, it can get infected with these parasites.
Cats can contract a common disease called ‘Songbird Fever’ or salmonellosis from birds. This disease is caused by a specific type of salmonella bacteria that is transmitted among birds through their droppings.
Cats find it challenging to catch birds as prey. However, if a bird is unwell or feeble, it becomes easier for a cat to catch and handle.
The cat that catches a bird may not realize that something is wrong with it before eating it. After being eaten, the cat can get sick from salmonella, also known as ‘Songbird Fever’.
Signs to watch out for in your cat if it has ‘Songbird Fever’ are throwing up, feeling tired, not wanting to eat, having a high body temperature, and seeing blood in its poop. To treat it, your cat will need fluids and antibiotics. If your cat catches ‘Songbird Fever’, it can stay sick for about a week to 10 days.
Cats have the ability to get Bird Flu, also called Avian Influenza. Even though cats can get infected with the H5N1 strain of Bird Flu, it’s important to note that they cannot pass it on to humans.
It’s important to mention that it’s not common for a cat to eat a dead bird that it didn’t catch itself; cats usually don’t eat dead animals.
Can My Cat Die From Eating A Bird
Cats typically don’t die from consuming birds. However, if a bird has transmitted a disease to your cat, it can be fatal for them.
While most cases of ‘Songbird Fever’ can be treated successfully, there are times when your cat may not fully recover. This can be due to underlying problems such as old age, a weakened immune system, or being very young.
In the worst possible situation, if your cat has difficulty with the feathers of a bird in its throat, it could suffocate and pass away. If you witness your cat consuming a bird, make sure your cat is okay and consult a veterinarian if you’re uncertain.
Should I Stop My Cat From Eating A Bird
It’s important to prevent your cat from eating birds because, as mentioned, birds can carry and transmit parasites or diseases to both your cat and possibly to you.
If your cat is not accustomed to consuming birds, the meat and feathers of the bird can cause irritation in your cat’s stomach, leading to vomiting or regurgitation of their feathery meal.
It’s not common for a cat to eat dead animals, so it’s unlikely that your cat would get sick from eating spoiled meat. But if you’re not sure if the bird your cat is eating was recently killed by your cat, it’s best to remove the dead bird carefully and get rid of it.
Make sure to wear gloves while doing this, as wild birds may have diseases that can spread to humans.
What Kind Of Birds Do Cats Eat
Cats typically go after and devour small birds. Birds like wrens, sparrows, and finches are often on the menu for them.
Every now and then, cats may go after bigger birds like pigeons or even chickens, but this doesn’t happen often.
Ornithologists believe that cats pose a significant danger to bird populations. In New Zealand, cats have been responsible for the disappearance of at least six bird species that are unique to the region. Since cats are not native to New Zealand, the local flightless birds are not equipped to defend themselves against these feline predators.
In the South Atlantic Ocean, on Ascension Island, there were feral cats that hunted sea birds and were responsible for the decline of certain sea bird communities. In 2002, a mission was initiated to eliminate all cats from Ascension Island.
After the project was finished, birds that hadn’t been seen nesting on the island for a while have come back, and the local bird populations have increased.
According to Pete Marra, who used to be in charge of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, cats are responsible for the extinction of around 33 bird species.
How Do Birds Get Caught By Cats
Cats sneak up on their prey, like birds, by getting low to the ground and slowly moving towards them while keeping a close eye on them.
Cats will take breaks between each step and hope that the bird doesn’t realize they’re getting closer.
Some cats have coats that allow them to blend in with shadows, making them difficult for certain birds, like Passiformes, to see. These birds have eyes that are designed for bright colors, which are helpful for catching insects like dragonflies or ladybugs.
When a cat gets near enough, it will jump and hit the bird with its paws and claws. This can often hurt the bird enough for the cat to grab it firmly.
Occasionally, a bird may attempt to fly away when it spots a cat, but if it’s not fast enough, the cat will manage to catch it.
Like many cat owners will agree, cats are smart creatures. It’s pretty normal to see a cat sneak up on a spot where it knows birds often hang out.
This could be a feeder or bird bath. One of the author’s cats is always attempting to get to the roof where bird nests are located.
It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of birds that cats catch are not healthy or strong.
How Do I Stop My Cat Catching Birds
There are a couple of things you can try to prevent your cats from catching birds.
Keep Your Cat Indoors
Keeping your cat indoors to protect wildlife is becoming more popular, although it may be challenging depending on your cat’s behavior. Some US states have even made it a local law to keep cats indoors, and there is a proposal to do the same in Perth, Australia.
If it’s not possible to keep your cat inside all the time, try to at least keep them indoors during sunrise and sunset, when birds are more likely to be in danger.
One alternative could be to create a special area for your cat, like a rabbit or ferret enclosure, where they can spend time in your garden. This way, your cat can still enjoy the outdoors while ensuring the safety of birds.
One option to prevent your cat from hunting and wandering is to install an underground electric fence on your property.
Put A Bell Onto Your Cat’s Collar
The sound of a bell can serve as a useful signal to birds, alerting them to the presence of a predator. Adding a bell to a cat’s collar is a cost-effective measure that can decrease the likelihood of cats successfully catching birds. (According to a study by McGregor et al. in 2015, feral domesticated cats have a 32% success rate in hunting.)
According to the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, when a cat wears a bell, it catches 41% fewer birds!
Special cat collars have been created to alert birds when a cat is nearby. These collars use bright colors that birds, such as the Passiforme, can easily notice. They have been effective in reducing bird fatalities, while still allowing cats to catch rodents.
Spay And Neuter
By getting your cat spayed or neutered, you can decrease any aggression in your cat. This can help stop your cat from hunting birds unnecessarily.
Moreover, if your cat is unable to have babies, it won’t become a parent to unwanted kittens and contribute to the growing number of cats.
Interact And Play With Your Cat
Spending time and playing with your cat can help decrease their desire to hunt. Using safe toys that stimulate their hunting instinct can also make them too tired to chase after birds.
Keep Your Cat Well-Fed
It’s unlikely that a cat owner who cares about their cat won’t make sure their furry friend has enough food. However, if this happens, one way to decrease cats’ bird hunting is to make sure your cat is well-fed so they won’t hunt out of hunger. Make sure to give them a diverse and nutritious diet.
What To Do If Your Cat Catches A Bird
If your cat manages to catch a bird, you can try diverting its attention by using its favorite toy or offering it some food. It’s not a good idea to chase after your cat because it will likely just flee. If you chase or yell at your cat, it might become anxious around you or mistake it for a game. Remember, your cat is simply acting on its natural instincts and shouldn’t be scolded for hunting.
If you happen to catch a bird and get hurt, you can bring it to a shelter or vet to see if they can help.
If a bird is no longer alive, it’s important to get rid of it. Make sure to wear gloves and take precautions when dealing with birds, as certain birds can transmit diseases that are harmful to humans.
Things To Consider
Keep your cat’s vaccinations current. This will help safeguard them from any illnesses that a bird might have.
Cats can also get fleas or ticks from birds, so it’s important to make sure your cat is protected. You can use a flea collar or give them regular treatments to keep them safe.
Fast Release Collar – Make sure your cat’s collar has a fast-release feature. This allows your cat to get free if they get tangled up, like in tree branches.
Transmission of Diseases to Humans – Humans can catch certain diseases that birds may carry.
If your cat has caught ‘Songbird Fever’, you need to keep a close eye on yourself for any signs and be sure to wash your hands really well after touching your cat.
As stated before, certain birds might have the Bird Flu virus. Although it is currently not possible to get bird flu from cats, if you are taking away your cat’s prey or helping a hurt bird, you need to be cautious about the dangers of handling a wild bird and take necessary safety measures. This involves wearing gloves and facemasks, as well as regularly washing your hands.
If you’re unsure about your cat after watching them catch or eat a bird, it’s always a good idea to consult a veterinarian for advice.