Subject: Re: Cat scratches on birds
Date: May 4 12:19:52 1995
From: James West - jdwest at

Here's another perspective on the issue of bird mortality following
encounters with cats. I have "rescued" more cat-caught birds than I can
count, and, if they weren't in good enough shape to immediately fly away,
they have died, just as others have reported, even if they had no visible
injuries. But for several years I always did a post-mortem on the victim
while preparing the skin for the local natural history museum. There were
easily detectable internal injuries in almost every case. Birds caught by
predators don't "play possum," they struggle violently, and a cat's
efforts to keep a grip on its trophy without immediately killing it seem
to result in internal injuries as a rule.

On Thu, 4 May 1995, Christopher Hill wrote:

> On Wed, 3 May 1995, Chris Maack wrote:
> > In response to the question of whether cat bites/scratches on birds that
> > "get away" cause the birds to die soon thereafter: in bird rehabbers
> > experience, yes, quite often. We have gotten birds retrieved by cat owners
> > who had no obvious breaks in the skin and appeared to be recovering well for
> > 3-5 days, then suddenly keeled over. If we have given the bird antibiotics
> > promptly after its cat encounter (i.e. within hours) and it was big enough
> > to receive the antibiotics by injection (robin sized or larger), it has a
> > pretty good chance of recovering. Right off the top of my head, without
> > going through our histories, I think about half our cat-got birds die.
> >
> Chris - was there any sign that the birds that keeled over after 3-5 days
> died of an infection? What you describe (no broken skin, "healthy"
> appearance for a few days and then keel over) seems consistent with head
> trauma, too. That is, a cat might pick up a windowbanged bird, which dies
> several days later from the head trauma, no fault of the cat's staph
> infected claws and teeth.
> Chris Hill
> Seattle, WA
> cehill at

JAMES WEST Slavic Dept. Univ. of Washington DP-32 Seattle, WA 98195
Tel: 206-543-4829 Fax: 206-543-9285 E-mail: jdwest at