Can A Cat Get Sick From Eating A Bird


Cats are natural hunters with an instinct to chase and kill prey. Although birds aren’t a normal part of a cat’s diet, it’s not uncommon for an outdoor cat to capture and eat a bird from time to time. While this may seem like normal cat behavior, there are some health risks associated with cats eating wild birds that owners should be aware of.

In this article, we’ll look at the potential dangers of cats eating wild birds, including transmission of parasites, bacteria, and viruses. We’ll also discuss prey model raw diets, how to reduce your cat’s risk of illness from birds, signs of sickness to watch for, and when to take your cat to the vet. By the end, you’ll understand the health implications of your cat eating birds and how to keep your feline hunter safe.

Dangers of Eating Wild Birds

There are a few diseases that cats can contract from eating wild birds that pet owners should be aware of. The two main ones are salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria found in the intestines of birds that can cause salmonellosis infection in cats. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Salmonella spreads through the feces of infected birds, so cats are at risk when eating wild birds raw. Cats with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible. According to one study, over 5% of free-living Canada geese carried Salmonella bacteria (

Campylobacter is another bacteria commonly found in the intestines of wild birds that can spread to cats eating birds raw. Campylobacter infections cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain in cats. Research shows that Campylobacter colonizes the guts of many avian species, posing risks for predators like cats who eat birds (


Cats can contract various internal parasites like roundworms and tapeworms from eating infected birds, mice, and other prey [1]. Roundworms are one of the most common feline parasites, with Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina being species found in cats. These worms live in the small intestine and can cause digestive upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. Tapeworms like Dipylidium caninum use fleas as an intermediate host and can be transmitted when cats ingest infected fleas while grooming. Tapeworms absorb nutrients from the cat’s intestines, leading to weight loss and failure to thrive.

Diseases Transmitted by Birds

Birds can carry a variety of concerning diseases that can be transmitted to cats if they eat infected birds. Two of the most notable diseases are psittacosis and Newcastle disease.

Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever or ornithosis, is a bacterial disease caused by Chlamydia psittaci that can infect parrots, pigeons, sparrows, ducks, and other birds. The bacteria is shed in bird droppings and nasal discharges. If a cat eats an infected bird, they can become infected with psittacosis which can lead to symptoms like fever, respiratory issues, and lethargy in cats. Psittacosis can also be transmitted to humans and other pets. [1]

Newcastle disease is a viral disease affecting birds like pigeons, chickens, and wild birds. The virus causes respiratory illness in birds but can also infect cats that eat diseased birds. Signs of Newcastle disease in cats include fever, eye discharge, tremors, and difficulty breathing. Newcastle disease is very contagious among birds but poses low risk for human transmission. However, it can be fatal in cats so prompt veterinary care is essential if Newcastle disease is suspected. [1]

Prey-Model Raw Diets

Prey-model raw diets aim to replicate the natural diet cats would eat in the wild. This involves feeding whole prey animals such as mice, rats, rabbits, and birds. According to Perfectly Rawsome, benefits of prey-model raw diets include healthier teeth and gums, improved digestion, a shinier coat, and reduced allergy symptoms. However, there are some risks associated with raw meat diets. Bacteria like salmonella and pathogens from prey animals can potentially make cats sick. It’s important to source animal carcasses from reputable places and store and handle them properly.

How to Reduce Risk

There are some steps cat owners can take to reduce the risk of their cat getting sick from eating birds:

  • Freeze or cook any raw meat diet before feeding it to your cat. Freezing to 0°F for 3 weeks or cooking to 160°F kills parasites like Toxoplasma (according to The Humane Society). This includes any whole prey or prey model diets.
  • Supervise your cat when they are outside to prevent hunting. Use bells, pheromone deterrents, or other humane devices to alert birds and discourage stalking (per National Wildlife Federation).
  • Move bird feeders at least 10-12 feet away from hiding places for cats, or use pole-mounted or hanging feeders well above ground level (according to YourCat Magazine).

Taking precautions with raw diets and preventing bird predation can reduce health risks if your cat does manage to catch a bird.

Signs of Illness

There are some common signs that a cat may exhibit after eating a sick bird. These include:

Vomiting – One of the most obvious signs is repeated vomiting or gagging. This is the body’s way of trying to expel the harmful pathogens or toxins ingested from the bird. Vomiting may be prolonged over several hours or days. There may also be specks of blood mixed in.

According to PetCoach, “These signs can be caused by an obstruction (especially if he ingested bones and feathers) or a toxicity (perhaps something that was on the feathers like pesticides).” [1]

Diarrhea – Along with vomiting, some cats may experience bloody or loose stool after eating birds. The gastrointestinal tract is attempting to flush out the infectious agents. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration if prolonged.

As PetMD explains, “The clinical signs associated with songbird fever include fever (obviously), lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea that may have blood in it, and vomiting.” [2]

Lethargy – A sick cat will often become lethargic and sleep more than usual. They may have little interest in play or interacting. Lethargy indicates the cat is conserving energy to fight illness.

According to Wamiz, “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.” [3]

When to See a Vet

In most cases, a cat eating a small amount of birdseed or suet will not cause any major health issues. However, if your cat exhibits concerning symptoms after ingesting bird products, it’s best to seek veterinary care. Look for the following persistent symptoms as signs to take your cat to the vet:

  • Repeated vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy, weakness, or lack of appetite
  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Neurological symptoms like tremors, seizures, or uncoordinated movements

According to veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec, some of the more serious conditions that can arise from a cat eating birds or bird food include pancreatitis, intestinal obstructions, and toxicity from contaminated or rancid products (Source).

It’s especially important to seek prompt veterinary care if your cat ate a wild bird, as they can transmit dangerous parasites and infectious diseases to cats. Wild birds may contain Salmonella, Campylobacter, giardia, tapeworms, fleas, ticks, and more. Get your cat checked out if they ingested parts of a wild bird to ensure proper treatment.

With quick veterinary attention, most cats recover fully after eating birds or bird products. But left untreated, symptoms could worsen or even become life-threatening. Don’t hesitate to call your vet if your cat exhibits any persistent gastrointestinal, respiratory, or neurological symptoms after bird ingestion.

Preventing Bird Predation

There are several effective ways to stop cats from killing birds and other wildlife. Using collars designed to warn birds can help prevent successful hunts. Birdsbesafe is a type of brightly colored cat collar with a collar cover that makes jingling noises to alert birds and small mammals (source). Studies show these collars reduce kills by up to 54%. Plain bells on collars are less effective but can still help (source).

Keeping cats indoors or supervising time outside is the most reliable way to protect wildlife. Outdoor cats with outdoor access should be closely monitored when roaming. Deterrents like water spray bottles can also discourage hunting behavior. Planning play time and enrichment activities indoors reduces cats’ desire to hunt (source). With supervision and deterrents, cats can enjoy the outdoors while keeping wild birds and animals safe.


In summary, while cats eating wild birds does pose some health risks like parasites and diseases, these can be mitigated by proper preventative care from your veterinarian. It’s best to keep cats indoors and use deterrents to prevent them from catching and eating wild birds. If your cat does manage to catch a bird, monitor them closely for any signs of illness and see your vet promptly if issues arise. Proper prevention and vigilance are key to keeping your cat happy and healthy even if they get ahold of the occasional bird.

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