Patient of the Week: Mourning Dove on the Mend After Cat Attack

By Ashley Lema, Wildlife Rehabilitator

On January 13, we received this bruised and battered Mourning Dove from Southeast Portland. They had the common misfortune of being attacked by a cat, and although they were lucky enough to escape with their life, they were left grounded–unable to fly and extremely vulnerable to predators. Here at our Wildlife Care Center, a cat attack is by far the most common reason we receive our injured animals. The good Samaritan brought the bird to the center immediately, and on exam we found an injured wing and a lot of missing feathers. Staff administered pain meds, antibiotics, and fluids to support them initially.

The dove is currently still in our care, and will be for some time as the flight feathers and tail feathers regrow. All of these feathers are critical to flight, which is their only efficient method of evading predators. We are hopeful that the bird will be releasable once its feathers grow back, but we also can’t be sure that the soft tissue injuries to the wing aren’t impacting the bird’s ability to fly until we can assess it in flight. In the meantime, the bird has the medical attention its wounds require, a safe place to recover, and the time to regrow their feathers. If all goes well, we’ll be able to release the dove back to their home in SE Portland in a few weeks when they are able to fly again.

Mourning Doves are named for their sorrowful song that sounds like “coo.” (Listen here.) They are slender, with a long pointed tail that tapers like a “V”. They forage on the ground, eating mostly seed and regularly swallowing small gravel to help them digest harder seeds in their gizzards. They can also store food in their crop; an enlargement of the esophagus which forms a pouch located in the bird’s neck. Doves are fascinating because they will actually produce crop “milk” — a non-dairy secretion they regurgitate to feed their young. They nest in trees and can be found all over Oregon!

Here’s How You Can Help!

What to Do If Your Cat Brings a Wild Animal Home

  • Do not just let it go! Even if it looks fine to you, birds can appear uninjured to the untrained eye due to their feathered bodies and unique anatomy. Without an examination from our experienced staff, we cannot be sure that the animal didn’t suffer from any fractures, punctures, soft tissue trauma, or crushing injuries. Cats also have extremely harmful bacteria in their mouths that can lead to infection and the death of an animal if left untreated, so even with just a minor scratch the animal needs skilled medical attention.
  • The best thing you can do is contain the animal in a securely closed (but ventilated) box and keep the animal quiet and undisturbed until you can transport it to your closest wildlife rehabilitation facility. 
  • Do not offer food or water, as this can unintentionally harm the animal. Not only do wild animals have very specialized diets, and there can be severe consequences for feeding them the wrong foods, certain illnesses and injuries (like starvation) are exacerbated by food and water without taking medical precautions. Many wild animal species don’t drink from bowls or still water, but they can spill the water and get wet and cold, putting their lives at risk. Some animals can even drown – particularly if suffering from conditions that affect their mobility or balance.
Wildlife Care Center Manager Stephanie Herman has a towel in hand, ready to catch the Mourning Dove for their daily weight check.

How To Protect Our Wild Neighbors and Your Cat

  • Please keep your cat indoors, or set them up with a lovely catio if you are able (an outside enclosure for your cat) to give them fresh air and sunshine. You’ll keep wildlife safe, and also protect your cat from hazards like vehicles, cat fights, poisons, fleas, internal parasites, and predators. Learn more on our Cats Safe at Home website, a project done in partnership with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon that aims to create a safer and healthier environment for wildlife and cats. Many folks on our annual catio tour ended up building their catio after losing a beloved pet to an outdoor hazard.
  • If a catio doesn’t work for you, you can keep your cat just as happy indoors by providing them with some vertical space, (like a cat tree) and/or access to window sills, a place to scratch (which many cat trees come with) and regular play time!
Graph of 2018 intake circumstances. Cat attacks consistently hold first place every year, with over ¼ of annual intakes.

Here at Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center, we accept new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation. 


Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we had to operate our Wildlife Care Center this past year with about 20% of our normal staffing and with about a 25% increase in our annual patient admissions. We were left with the difficult but necessary decision to discontinue providing follow-up updates on patients brought into our center so that we could focus on the daily care of the animals. And while we simply cannot write a story about each animal, our goal for this fresh and bright new year is to show you what we can: in the form of a weekly patient update! 

Check in every Thursday for our “Patient of the Week”; with information on the species, the circumstances that brought the animal in, and preventative advice so you can be a better steward for our wildlife!

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your work helps us to save lives.