Cat on bird house looking at a bird

Chasing and catching mammals and birds is very much in a cat's instinct.

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What should I do if my cat ate a bird and is sick?

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Does your cat like to go outside and hunt birds? Does it often catch and eat our feathered friends? Then read on to find out what could happen if your pet gets sick as a result.

If your cat has eaten a bird, there may be several reasons why your cat is sick. They may vomit up feathers and bones, which are irritating their stomach. The bird may have been carrying a disease, which can affect your cat. If your cat is sick once, but is otherwise fine and continuing to eat and drink their own food normally, you should not need to take any action. However, if your cat has vomited several times, seems unwell or is not eating or drinking, then it’s best to have them checked by a vet.

Can eating a bird make a cat sick?

It is unusual for cats to eat birds that they have not chased and killed, so they are unlikely to eat carrion (animals and birds that have been dead for a while). If a cat is sick from eating a bird, it is usually because the stomach has been irritated by the feathers and bones. However, if the vomiting is prolonged or your cat is lethargic or seems in pain, it may be due to more severe damage to the stomach, or if the bird was ill and may have passed an infectious disease on to your cat.

What should I do if my cat catches a bird?

If your cat catches a bird and the bird is alive, offer your cat their favourite treat as this may cause them to drop the bird. Do not pursue your cat, as they are likely to run away. If the bird is still alive, put it in a sheltered place outside, as it will be highly stressed. Bringing it indoors will likely cause further stress. Keep your cat away from the sheltered bird if possible – try enticing your cat inside with their own food or treats. If your cat has caught a bird and is eating it, again offer some tasty treats to encourage them away from the bird. Monitor your cat for any signs of illness.

Is it safe for cats to eat birds?

Your cat may eat a bird with no ill effects. However, it is best to discourage this behaviour for several reasons. Firstly, the bird may be carrying a disease that could make your cat unwell. Secondly, eating a bird may irritate or damage their stomach. Thirdly, cats are a major reason for reduction in garden bird populations, and chasing and killing birds should be prevented where possible. If you have birds nesting in your garden, try to keep your cat indoors and only allow them outside when supervised – especially when the juvenile birds are fledging (learning to fly and leaving the nest).

Why did my cat kill a bird?

Cats are natural stalk and pounce predators, and chasing and catching small mammals and birds is very much in their instinct. Most domesticated cats will not eat what they catch, as they have a balanced diet provided by you. If your cat seems hungry and often eats what they kill, it’s a good idea to check their diet with a vet to make sure they’re getting everything they need in their regular food.

Can cats and humans catch diseases from birds?

Birds can carry diseases such as salmonella, bird flu and Chlamydophila, which causes a severe flu-like disease called psittacosis. These diseases can affect cats and even people. As such, a cat could catch those diseases from a bird and then pass them on to their owner. Always wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly when handling birds.

When should I see a vet?

If your cat has vomited several times, seems uncomfortable in their tummy or is lethargic and unwell, it is important to speak to a vet. The vet may advise feeding you cat some bland food, or advise that your cat needs to be seen, depending on the severity of symptoms and how long your cat has been unwell.

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