Cat Food, Cross Species Eating

Can Birds Eat Cat Food? When Is It Safe For Birds?

Can Birds Eat Cat Food?

Birds can occasionally eat small amounts of dry cat food, as it can be a source of protein for them, but it’s not ideal for their long-term diet. Wet cat food is less suitable due to its higher fat content and soft texture that is inappropriate for most birds’ digestive systems.

Birds Eat Cat Food

Nutritional Content of Cat Food vs. Nutritional Needs of Birds

Cat food, whether dry or wet, is high in protein and fat content to meet the nutritional requirements of obligate carnivores like cats. A typical cat food might contain.

  • Protein: 26-30% in dry food, 10-15% in wet food
  • Fat: 10-20% in dry food, 5-10% in wet food
  • Carbohydrates: 30-40% in dry food (often less in wet food, as it’s primarily made up of water)
  • Cats also require specific amino acids like taurine and arginine, which are abundant in cat food.

Birds, on the other hand, have varied diets depending on the species. Seed-eating birds require.

  • Protein: 10-15%
  • Fat: 4-5%
  • Carbohydrates: 50-60%

Insectivorous birds will require higher protein levels, but still not as high as those found in cat food. They also need other nutrients like calcium and vitamins, which may not be present in the right ratios in cat food.

Additionally, cat food lacks certain nutrients that birds require, such as vitamin A and certain antioxidants found naturally in fruits and vegetables, which are part of many birds’ diets.

Overall, while the high protein and fat content of cat food can provide a temporary sustenance to some birds, especially insectivores, it does not match the nutritional profile that birds require for a balanced diet. Over time, feeding birds cat food could lead to nutritional imbalances or deficiencies.

Nutritional Content of Cat Food vs. Nutritional Needs of Birds

When is Cat Food Good for Birds?

Emergency Feeding

If no other appropriate food is available, wet cat food can be a temporary emergency food for injured or orphaned wild birds, particularly insectivorous species, until they can be brought to a wildlife rehabilitator.


Wildlife rehabilitators sometimes use cat food as part of a rehabilitation diet for certain types of birds, such as swifts and swallows, because of its high protein content and soft texture, which can be easier for debilitated birds to eat.

Supplemental Feeding

Some may add small amounts of cat food to the diet of insectivorous birds to supplement protein intake during periods of high stress or when the birds need extra nutrition, such as during growth, molting, or recovery from illness.

Breeding Season

During the breeding season, some insectivorous birds may benefit from the additional protein in cat food, which can be similar to the high-protein insects they would feed their young.

Captive Insectivores

Birds kept in captivity, such as certain types of finches or other insectivores that cannot be provided with a steady supply of live insects, might be fed cat food occasionally as a protein source.

When is Cat Food Good for Birds

Risks Associated with Feeding Cat Food to Birds for a Long Time

Feeding cat food to birds for an extended period poses significant risks due to the mismatch in nutritional requirements. Birds consuming cat food can suffer from nutritional imbalances, as the food lacks essential vitamins and minerals birds need and may contain excessive protein and fat.

This imbalance can lead to liver and kidney problems due to the high protein load, and obesity from high-fat content, which is particularly dangerous for birds as it can affect their ability to fly and may lead to fatty liver disease.

Furthermore, the absence of specific amino acids and micronutrients necessary for birds can result in compromised immune systems and poor feather quality, severely impacting their overall health and survival.

Risks Associated with Feeding Cat Food to Birds for a Long Time

Best Diet for Birds

Seed and Grain-Eating Birds (e.g., Canaries, Finches, Sparrows)

  • A variety of seeds and grains should form the bulk of their diet
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits can provide essential vitamins and minerals
  • Cuttlebone or mineral blocks for calcium and other necessary minerals

Insectivorous Birds (e.g., Swallows, Swifts)

  • Live insects such as crickets, mealworms, and flies
  • Specialized insectivore diets available commercially
  • Occasional fruits and soft foods for variety and additional nutrients

Nectar-Feeding Birds (e.g., Hummingbirds, Lorikeets)

  • Nectar solutions, which can be made at home with sugar and water or purchased commercially
  • For some species like lorikeets, specialized nectar pellets or powders are available

Omnivorous Birds (e.g., Crows, Jays)

  • A mix of seeds, grains, fruits, insects, and meat
  • Commercially prepared pellets designed for omnivorous birds can be a good base diet
  • Occasional supplementation with appropriate human food leftovers can be beneficial

Carnivorous Birds (e.g., Birds of Prey, Raptors)

  • Whole prey items such as mice, rats, and chicks to provide a natural diet
  • Bones and feathers included in the prey help in digestion and provide calcium

Parrots (including Budgerigars, Cockatiels, Macaws)

  • Commercially prepared pellets designed for parrots to provide a balanced diet
  • A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts and seeds, in moderation, as treats

Also Read: Can Raccoons Eat Cat Food?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can birds eat wet cat food?

Birds can eat wet cat food in emergency situations or when specifically recommended by a wildlife rehabilitator, but it is not suitable for their regular diet due to its high protein and fat content and lack of essential avian nutrients.

Should I allow wild birds to eat cat food?

It is not advisable to allow wild birds to eat cat food regularly as it does not meet their nutritional needs and can lead to health problems. It’s better to provide foods that mimic their natural diet, like seeds, fruits, and insects.

Can parrots eat cat food?

Parrots should not eat cat food because it lacks the necessary balance of nutrients parrots need and could lead to serious health issues due to its high fat and protein content that are not ideal for a parrot’s digestive system.

Can pigeons eat cat food?

Pigeons should not regularly eat cat food as their diet typically consists of seeds and grains. Cat food does not provide the appropriate nutrients for pigeons and could disrupt their digestion and cause malnutrition.

Can chickens eat cat food?

Chickens can eat cat food occasionally as a treat, but it should not be their primary diet. Cat food is high in protein and can be beneficial in moderation, especially for molting chickens. However, it’s important to ensure that the bulk of their diet consists of proper chicken feed to meet their specific nutritional requirements.


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