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C2011-05

Dear Christopher Cat

My cat Chloe sits under the bird feeder for hours, hoping to catch a slow bird. Occasionally she’s successful. Is this risky?

Christopher Responds

Certainly for the bird -– and potentially for Chloe as well.

Various strains of Salmonella bacteria that cause severe intestinal disease in cats, dogs and humans have been found in wild birds, on bird baths and feeders, and in the soil beneath bird feeders.

For example, Salmonella typhimurium, which causes songbird fever, spreads from bird to bird through fecal contamination. Sick birds are easy prey for cats.

A cat that eats an infected bird, whether alive or dead, becomes ill within a few days with fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting. The disease lasts about a week, though full recovery make take as long as three weeks. Some cats die of it.

Salmonella bacteria can be cultured not only from the infected cat’s feces but also from locations within the cat’s home.

To prevent Chloe from getting Salmonella, keep her inside, away from birds and their feeding stations.

Use bird feeders that can’t easily be contaminated by bird droppings. Regularly disinfect bird baths and feeders with bleach, and rinse well to ensure that all the bleach is gone.

Practice good hygiene when you scrub bird baths and feeders and clean up under bird feeding stations so you remain free of Salmonella infection.

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