Songbird Fever in Cats: A Warning

Have you seen the warnings we’ve posted about the salmonella epidemic affecting songbirds? There’s another side of it too, and it’s one I have firsthand experience with. I hope that this warning might save both birds and cats.

This is my daughter, and this is her best friend, Happy. As an advocate for both wildlife and cats, I have always been dedicated to keeping my pets safely indoors, but, as many cat owners know, accidents happen. When Happy slipped out the front door a few years ago but was safely home within a few hours, I didn’t think much of it.

In the weeks and months that followed, Happy came down with a mystery illness that his vet couldn’t identify. He has horrible, bloody diarrhea and nasty vomit. He lost over half of his body weight. His fur fell out. He had pale gums and rancid breath. I was terrified I would have to break the news to my daughter that she would have to tell him goodbye.

Six months into Happy’s mystery illness, his veterinarian finally made a diagnosis: songbird fever. It happens when a cat eats a bird infected with salmonella. The reason it took so long to diagnose was that I had told my vet that he was an indoor cat, and it hadn’t occurred to me that he could have killed a bird in just a few hours outdoors!

Happy slowly recovered, but had permanent damage to his body from it, and the ordeal cost thousands of dollars.

Happy didn’t deserve this, and neither do your cats. Just as importantly, songbirds— which are already suffering from habitat loss, climate change, window collisions, wind turbines, and more— don’t deserve to become snacks or toys for domestic cats.

Please protect wildlife and your own pets! Keep your cats safely indoors, where they can have the long, healthy, and happy lives that they deserve.

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