Cats need to make their own entertainment. Many cats pass countless happy hours watching birds from a window. In doing so, the cat may start to make a chirping sound.
When a cat watches birds through a window, hunting instincts are roused. Chirping is a sign of feline excitement. As Biological Conservation explains, birds are the most common prey of domestic cats. In addition to excitement, the cat is also imitating the birds. Cats are born mimics. The cat is hoping to trick birds into coming closer, so it can pounce upon them.
Feline chirping can have a dark side. Eventually, a cat will grow frustrated by its inability to reach prey. The chirping then becomes a more agitated chattering. Remove the cat from the window at this stage.
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Why Do Cats Chirp at Birds?
If your cat watches birds from a safe distance, it will invariably begin to chirp. Oftentimes, this is linked to excitement. Your cat is struggling to contain its exhilaration at the prospect of a hunt. For a predatory feline, birds are the easiest and most tempting prey.
These predatory instincts could also lead to mimicry. Cats are born imitators. They will copy the actions of other felines, and even their owners. Cats will also instinctively mimic the sound that birds make while going about their business.
Cats are natural predators, and typically silent killers. Cats take great care to mask their steps when stalking prey from behind to avoid detection. Despite this, an excited cat will chirp when it sees birds.
Most of the time, the cat simply cannot stop itself. Chirping is an expression of pure joy, akin to a child’s squeal when handed a gift. The sight of birds has roused a cat’s hunting instincts. The fact that it cannot reach the birds through a window is adding to the anticipation.
Take a look at your cat in this situation. You will observe the following examples of body language.
- Ears pointed upward, facing slightly forward
- Eyes wide, pupils darting as they follow birds
- Whiskers pointed forward, away from the face
- Tail held low and likely twitching
These are all signs that your cat is hyper-focused on the birds it can see. The chirping is a side effect. Unfortunately, excitement can turn to frustration.
It is not impossible that your cat is just excited to see birds. Some cats like to watch birds, having no ill intentions toward them. Your cat could be enjoying watching the movement of flying birds. This does not necessarily mean it plans to hunt.
Alas, while inter-animal friendships are possible, they are rare in the case of cats and birds. It is not unheard of for gentle cats to befriend birds, but it remains far from likely. Ultimately, cats and birds occupy different ends of the animal food chain.
With this in mind, it is inadvisable to allow a cat to interact with birds. Eventually, a cat’s instincts will get the better of it. This is a potential friendship that will invariably end in tragedy.
Despite being fiercely independent, cats are natural imitators. They will copy the actions and behaviors of their owners, and other pets in the home. As predators, cats can also imitate the sounds of their prey.
A case of feline predator imitation was documented by Fabio Rohe of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Rohe was observing wild ocelots in the Brazilian Rainforest when he noticed something unique. A hungry feline imitated the call of a baby tamarin monkey.
The impression was substandard and fooled nobody. The intention was clear, though. The ocelot was hoping to convince other monkeys that a baby tamarin needed assistance. When the cavalry arrived, the ocelot planned to ambush and pounce.
There is obviously a world of physical difference between a wild ocelot and a domesticated housecat. In terms of instinct, the two animals are closer than you may realize. Domesticated cats will still imitate the sound of their prey. In this instance, this means chirping at birds.
Initially, this will be to tempt the prey to come closer. The cat is trying to convince the birds that it is no threat. A windowpane will muffle this sound, keeping the birds safe. In the backyard, birds have no such protection.
The cat will chirp while it stalks. This serves two purposes. It sets the birds at ease, seeing no reason to suspect they are being hunted. In addition, it masks any sounds the cat may be making. By chirping, the cat is just adding to the cacophony of background noise.
My Cat Chatters at Birds
Chirping at birds will eventually give way to chattering. You will know the difference between these two sounds when you hear it. Chirping is a soft coo, which could be described as a happy sound. Chattering is louder and more aggressive.
The source of this chattering is simple frustration. Your cat wants to hunt – it is one of the most primal instincts that cats have. The opportunity to do so is in plain sight. Unfortunately, the presence of a window is preventing this from happening.
Another potential explanation is that the cat is picturing a killing blow. When cats hunt, they kill by biting into the neck of prey. Chattering can resemble a series of these swift, sharp bites. The cat is growing more and more agitated at the sight of its prey.
For a cat, this is a form of mental anguish. It does not understand why it cannot reach the birds. This will slowly and steadily build a sense of resentment and aggression.
When a cat starts chattering, you need to remove the temptation as cats can see through glass. Eventually, frustration will get the better of the cat. It will start to scratch the window. This may damage the glass or hurt the cat’s paw or claws.
If there is any way of the cat reaching the birds, it will take it. This can be determinantal to your cat’s health. It will look for an opening in the window, potentially climbing onto a high balcony. As the cat is antagonized, it risks falling and hurting itself.
If none of this happens, the cat will still be living with frustrated instinct. It will need to hunt something. This means that it will take out aggression on the next thing that passes.
If you are lucky, this will be an insect. If an unfortunate fly lands on the window, the cat will hunt and kill it. This will go some way to satisfying the cat’s instincts. A small bug is a poor substitute for a bird, though.
It’s likelier that your cat will take out this anger on another pet, or yourself. If another cat or dog enters the room, it will receive a claw swipe. Alternatively, the cat may stalk and hunt you. This will culminate in the cat ambushing and biting at your ankles. Avoiding this is a three-step process.
Distracting the Cat
Before you do anything else, you should distract your cat. This means providing alternative stimulus. This is the first step to calming your cat down.
Start by playing music. Don’t do this too loudly. You do not want to startle the cat. It is already in a heightened emotional state. Rather, you are trying to softly supersede the sound of birdsong. Give the cat something else to listen to, and potentially imitate.
The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery explains how cat-specific music soothes anxious cats. Anxiety and frustration can be two sides of the same coin in felines. Playing this music will soothe your cat’s agitation.
When your cat starts to calm down, double down using scent. Cats have an excellent sense of smell. Your cat can likely smell its prey, even through a window. Distract from this using an appropriately calming scented candle or essential oil. Potential examples of this include:
Avoid the temptation to use a scent that you know your cat dislikes. While this could create an unwelcome association with birds, it should be avoided.
Removing the Sight of Birds
Once the cat is appropriately distracted, remove the sight of the birds. This is as simple as pulling down a blind or closing the drapes.
Cats are intelligent and will know what you are doing. What’s more, cats will remember that birds were in the vicinity. Cats can have long memories pertaining to things that matter to them.
Cats do not rely heavily on their vision, though. According to The European Journal of Neuroscience, a visually deprived cat depends upon other senses. In this case, the cat will be trying to smell and hear the birds.
As you have provided alternative stimulation for these senses, the cat’s ears and nose will be distracted. This means that the spell will be broken. The cat will forget about the prey it was previously so desperate to obtain.
Despite this, the cat will still be experiencing heightened instinct. This must be channeled to prevent aggressive behavior.
Satisfying Hunting Instincts
Reach for your cat’s favorite toy. You’ll need to play with your cat so it can channel those frustrated hunting instincts. A feather or toy on a stick is better than a laser pointer at this stage. You want a game that your cat can ‘win’.
Do not let your cat capture its prey immediately. The cat needs to feel like it has earned its reward. There is no sport in the hunt otherwise. You should carve out at least five minutes to play before permitting the cat to pounce. Ideally, play for around twenty minutes in total.
Once the cat is sated, offer it a treat. This will complete the satisfaction of instinct. The cat will feel as though it hunted prey and was rewarded appropriately. This will complete the calming process. The cat will groom itself and take a nap after such intense excitement.
Almost all cats chirp and chatter at birds through a window. This behavior is amusing until it becomes dangerous. Allow your cat to watch birds for its own entertainment. When the cat grows frustrated, it is time to distract it.