Birds of a Different Feather
by Robyn Bright
January 1, 2013
Under the right circumstances, birds of different species can co-mingle with each other and even other animals—pet owners simply need to be armed with the rules of engagement.



One of the best things about people being able to take videos at home anytime is the ability to capture their pets doing fun and sometimes very silly things. The most popular pet videos are those that show pets snuggling or playing with each other—especially ones featuring different species such as a parrot and a cat playing together.

Different types of pets can get along very well and can even become playmates when usually their nature would have them attacking one another or one animal making a meal out of the other. At the very least, it’s important to have an understanding of how different species of pets can get along, even if there’s no physical interaction between them.

Unlike most commonly kept pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits, where there are many breeds within a single species, there are many species of caged birds. However, these bird species do share one common characteristic—they are very social in the wild, often living in flocks, or at least pairs. Therefore, birds of the same species can usually be kept together in captivity, although doing this often causes a tame bird to bond with the other bird and become un-tame. Choosing different species of birds can help keep this from happening, although in most cases it is best to let them have their own cages.

Birds, like many other animals, can become territorial around their cage, so once an owner knows that two birds will get along, it is best to let them socialize and play in a neutral setting, such as a play stand. Still, pet owners need to take two things into consideration before pairing up birds of different species: size and personality.

Large parrots such as a macaw could easily hurt or kill a small bird such as a parakeet by accident or through aggressiveness. A bird that is very shy should not be put with a more outgoing pet bird, or the timid one will most likely get harassed or hurt. Be sure to tell bird owners to watch their pets carefully at first to be sure they are getting along. The play stand should be new to both birds and big enough to allow them to interact when they want to, while giving them space to move away if they get grouchy at each other.

A warning should be given about one group of parrots, the parrotlets. Sometimes called “little piranhas,” these parrots can be extremely aggressive and are even known to kill their own mates, so caution must be taken. Lovebirds can also be extremely aggressive for their size.

Age is another factor in how pets get along. Keep a young pet alone for too long and it may be virtually impossible to introduce another pet. It is best for pet owners who plan to have more than one animal to introduce them to each other while they are young—especially if they are to interact with each other openly.

If birds are going to be kept in a home with dogs or cats, it’s a good idea to bring the feathered friends into the home first, especially if they are a smaller species. This way, if puppies or kittens are added later, they can be trained to stay away.

When I bought two Himalayan kittens many years ago, I already had a parakeet, three pairs of zebra finches and one pair of Gouldian finches. Finches move around a lot, so it took no time for the kittens to go after them. I would make a hissing noise and give them a squirt of water if they got too close to the cages. They soon learned that it was fine to watch the birds, but it was not okay to try to eat them. Since they’ve grown up, the cats have had a few different birds come and go out of their lives, but they’ve never tried to hurt any of them.

Older animals, and those let outside such as outdoor cats and hunting dogs can be very difficult to train away from eating smaller pets. If this is the case, it is usually best to keep the smaller pets in a separate in room with a closed door.


Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.