Think getting your cat and dog to get along is tough. How about getting your pup and pet snake to be pals? Check out what our animal expert has to say about interspecies pet friendships and find out if your pet is ready for one.
There's nothing like a cute animal video on YouTube to warm the heart, especially when it shows an against-the-odds friendship.
If a crow can play soccer with a dog and a bunny can share a cushion with a cat, then there's hope for humanity, right? But before you start throwing cage doors open, find out what Dr. Julie Hebert from the Montreal Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital has to say about interspecies hangouts.
1. Rats and cats
In the YouTube video Rat Loves Cat, a large rodent is smitten with its ginger feline housemate, following her everywhere, climbing onto her back and snuggling up on the rug. "This kind of friendship is really more of an exception, especially when we're talking predator and prey," says Dr. Hebert. "But it can work if your cat is not a hunter, and the two meet really young."
The vet also warns that you should never leave them alone. "We often see people come in with an animal injured by another pet that has been its friend for years. One day the cat maybe wasn't feeling well and something happened," she says.
2. Birds and dogs
Bird Loves Dog shows a rough-and-tumble friendship between a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and a feisty Australian magpie. "We see birds and dogs getting along a little more often, but we still have to be cautious," says Dr. Hebert. Hunter breeds should never be allowed to interact with pet birds, and ideally, this kind of interaction should happen between a small dog and a bigger bird.
"I'd actually never let a dog and bird play together like they do in the video," says Dr. Hebert. "Their size is so different, and if the dog misjudges things, it could break the bird's wing or leg."
She also warns that dog saliva and excretions can be fatal to birds. "In the video we see the bird picking at the dog's nose; it could get septicemia and die within a couple of days."
Contact play should not be allowed for this reason, but Dr. Hebert says that birds often love taking snacks from their feeding bowls to pass to friendly dogs, and this, of course, is fun for both.
3. Puppies and pythons
The sparring puppy-python relationship in the video A Snake and a Dog Can Be Best Friends might be better classed as frenemies. "I don't think the snake is having fun," says Dr. Hebert. "It looks afraid, and the dog is too excited. He could easily break the snake's neck."
Venomous snakes are obviously not a good match for a furry or feathered friend; in fact the vet advises against letting any reptiles come in contact with your other pets. "They can carry salmonella," says Dr. Hebert. "If a dog touches a snake, it could get really sick."
4. Cats and birds
Possibly the world's mellowest cat befriends a chipper little budgie in Cat Playing With a Bird. As is the case for dogs, Hebert warns that bacteria in a cat's saliva can be lethal to birds.
On top of that, winged creatures are an even more tempting prey than rodents to felines. "They move too quickly," says Dr. Hebert. "A cat is likely to see the bird as something to play with, and could easily snap a leg with its teeth."
Bigger birds, such as parrots, might work out with a cat that shows no hunter impulse. "But you should also always be there," Dr. Hebert warns. And just be aware that it may well be the cat that needs protection. "Big parrots often bite them if they get too close." Gradual exposure is key to see how each animal reacts to the other, and a spray of water is useful to keep your cat in line if he gets too close too fast.
5. Cats and bunnies
Cat and Bunny Best Friends is cuteness overload with all the snuggling and purring and sheer joy that happens when these two furry critters hang out. "Cat and rabbit friendships happen often," says Dr. Hebert. "Often a rabbit just thinks of the cat as another rabbit." You still need to exercise caution though; if the rabbit seems afraid, go slow with the introductions. In general, the bigger the rabbit, the less it will behave like prey.
So while interspecies bonding is a beautiful thing, it has to be handled carefully to make sure fur and feathers don't fly. If you have any doubts about your own pets' compatibility, play it safe and get your fix on YouTube.