Budgies are able to live with some other small birds (see Keeping budgies with other birds, above), and will usually be happy with larger birds such as parrots in the vicinity, as long as these are not allowed to perch too close to, or on top of, the budgie cage.
A budgie with a guinea pig
Non-carnivorous pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and chickens do not pose a threat to budgies (unless you have a territorial male with a mean streak). Watch the animals carefully when they are free-roaming in the same room. In the same way as an outdoor pet will often ignore wild birds, the mammals (and the chickens) will probably ignore the budgie. The complication lies in the world ‘probably’, as all animals have different personalities, and a cheeky budgie who nibbles a placid rabbit’s ear may be in for a nasty surprise.
Placid pets together in a confined space tend to find their own balance. It’s very rewarding as an owner when all your pets seem to get on just fine, but you can never take the equilibrium for granted, so be vigilant and be prepared to scoop your budgie to safety if necessary.
Budgies and Dogs
The relationship between budgie and dog is usually an easy-going one, with the proviso that some breeds will never be able to curb their chase-and-kill instincts. Dogs will show a natural interest in the budgies, and the trick here is to minimise anxiety for the birds while making sure the dog is able to check out the newcomer (and the same applies if the birds were installed before the dog).
When introducing the animals, make sure you have the dog under control, and allow him to have a good sniff at the cage. Let him watch the budgie moving around. If he begins to bark or jump up so that he knocks the cage, calm him down and make it clear that he’s welcome to watch and sniff, but not to play with the cage or bark at it.
The budgie will remain a novelty for a week or so, after which your dog will probably lose interest, and barely raise his head even when the budgie is enjoying a cage-rattling flap-and-squawk. The point at which this disinterest takes over will depend on the breed of dog; but many well-trained dogs will soon get the message that they must leave the bird alone.
Budgies and dogs can become friends
If your dog is well-behaved and not knocking the cage, your budgie will simply view it as another element of the room and get used to it. The birds’ ability to ignore a large, barking animal can be surprising, and it will be the four-legged pet rather than the two-legged one that has to deal with the excitement. If you’re bringing a new dog into an established budgie household, the bird will probably be even more placid and unruffled. He won’t enjoy having his cage pushed about, but he will treat the presence of the dog in the same way as he would treat any newcomer – with business-as-usual indifference.
It’s possible to take this passive budgie/dog relationship further by allowing the animals to interact when the bird is outside the cage. This peaceable set-up is not going to happen automatically, though, even between a budgie and a dog who no longer gets over-excited by the cage and its occupant. A free-flying budgie is a different proposition altogether, and most dogs will instinctively chase and bite.
Many breeds are unable to learn that the budgie is anything other than prey. Jack Russells and other terriers, for example, have been bred to find and kill small animals. You can’t expect them to ignore hundreds of years of selective breeding just because you happen to have brought a budgerigar home.
The key to an out-of-cage relationship is always the dog. If he’s a non-hunting breed, extremely well trained and passive, you’ll be able to perch the budgie on or near him without reaction, in the same way as you can (with a very well-trained dog) put food close to his nose without him eating it, until you give the word of command. If he’s not that well trained, don’t let dog and bird meet face to face. And never allow your dog to lick the budgie – the birds are prone to catching diseases through other animals’ (including humans’) saliva.
Budgies and Cats
Don’t be fooled by all the cute photos of budgies perched on cats’ heads! This is not a natural relationship, and it requires a very placid, friendly cat to achieve it. Any feline who spends most of her time outdoors controlling the rodent and garden bird population and runs a mile at the sight of a stranger in the house will never form a friendly relationship with a pet budgie.
Even a cuddly cat who likes to spend her day curled up in your lap or draping herself across the shoulders of house guests will instinctively know that the small feathered thing is an item of food, and will need to be trained to think otherwise. It’s slightly different with a larger and more intimidating pet bird such as a parrot, or even a cockatiel, but budgies are small and mouth-sized, so always beware.
Budgies and cats are not natural alllies
If you’re confident that your laid-back cat isn’t going to enter killer mode – and only you, as the owner, can judge – introduce your budgie via your finger. Watch out for any signs that your cat might lash out or pounce, and reprimand her with a firm “No!”, or whatever other word of dissuasion you use. You don’t want to shriek at her, though, as that will panic the budgie. Allow the cat to watch and sniff the bird. If it’s on your finger, she’ll associate it with you, and will come to treat it with the respect and affection she shows you.
You’re not entirely in control of these introductory sessions. The budgie might decide to fly from your finger, and the proximity of a fluffy cat’s head might inspire him to hop aboard. A flapping bird might bring out the cat’s hunting instincts, so you can’t afford to take your eye off the game for a moment. Some cats ‘get it’ straight away. The bird is an appendage of your finger, or a fellow member of the mixed-species household, and she’ll accept it with a purr and a yawn. But you should still never leave the animals alone, and should always exercise a certain amount of caution and vigilance.
If in doubt, don’t. Cats and budgies do not have to form relationships, and you can simply bar the cat from the room during free-flying sessions. That is without doubt the safest option; but there is still a chance that the cat might make a sudden appearance, which is where a familiarity between the two animals becomes a potential life-saver. Someone opening a door unexpectedly could let other pets in too, so you really do have to make sure everyone knows the budgie is out and about, and that closed doors must remain closed.
Budgies and Puppies and Kittens
Young dogs and cats will want to play with your other pets rather than hunt or attack them. However, with a bird as small as a budgie, an innocent romp with a young animal can result in broken legs, wings or necks; and scratches and bites that would glance off a fellow kitten/puppy or large parrot can hurt a budgie and lead to infection.
So, unlike adult cats and dogs, puppies and kittens should not be allowed to interact with budgies outside the cage. Once they are older they will be accustomed to the bird, and you can then consider introducing them beak to nose.