7 ways to get the best from your bird and develop a great relationship with them
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
I had a teacher in seventh grade who was always harsh toward me. Not surprisingly, I didn’t like her either. Always prone to headaches, I began having them even more when I was in her class. The stress was so bad that I ended up going to a different school in the middle of the school year.
The harm that can be done by teachers, bosses or family members who are quick to criticize and punish and who never offer praise is long-lasting. You may have experienced the aftereffects yourself.
But have you ever considered that your pet parrot is just as sensitive to your attitude when you interact with him?
Mary Poppins had it right when she advocated a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. It works for behavior in humans AND animals. The following tips can help you win your parrot’s trust and affection.
1. Look for opportunities to reward him for doing what you like. Is he playing quietly with a toy or staying in his playpen? Offer sweet words, a favorite treat or a neck scratch.
2. Spend time with your bird every day. Time spent together is an opportunity to build and reinforce behaviors you want, such as stepping up on your finger, playing with toys or cuddling with you.
3. Talk to your bird. Conversation is an integral part of any relationship. Tell him about your day, practice your Italian, discuss the weather. Whether or not birds talk back or understand what you say, they recognize that you’re communicating with them, and that’s important.
4. Know what your bird likes. Lots of birds enjoy neck scratches or snuggling, but not all of them. Figure out what your bird likes -- playing with a favorite toy, maybe -- and make that part of your daily routine.
5. “Hire” your bird. Parrots are smart. They need jobs to stimulate their ever-thinking bird brains. Give your bird a puzzle toy to figure out, a hard nut to crack (an almond or Brazil nut is perfect for this purpose) or last month’s fashion magazine to rip up (drape it over the top of the cage and feed groups of pages through the bars). Providing an outlet for your bird’s perfectly normal destructive tendencies is a great way to channel them so that he doesn’t find his own job chewing up your cookbooks or destroying your drywall (ask me how I know about those habits).
6. Give your bird choices. Parrots don’t have much say-so in their lives. You chose their cage, you’re the one who buys the toys and you’re the one who chooses the food. That’s stressful! How would you feel if you didn’t have any control over your life? In birds, that stress manifests in weight loss, either loud shrieks or not vocalizing at all, feather picking or fear of new things in the environment. Ways you can give birds choices are to let them decide when or if they want to interact with you, provide a variety of toys they can play with or offering an array of different fruits and vegetables so they can pick out favorites.
7. Avoid punishment! When you yell at your bird or smack the side of his cage in anger, he may respond by trying to escape, avoiding you, behaving aggressively, becoming fearful or simply giving up.
Living with a bird should never mean being a dictator. That’s not the relationship friends should have, and in a perfect world, your bird is your friend. Be consistent and show your bird what you want and like through rewards and praise. You’ll both be winners.
Don’t have a parrot? These tips work with dogs, cats, bunnies -- and people, too.
get a kitten?
Q: My neighbor’s Siamese cat just had kittens, and she’s giving them away. Seems a lot easier and less expensive than getting one from the shelter. What do you think?
A: We don’t deny that it can be hard to go to the shelter and choose from among many kittens. Getting one from your neighbor could work out, but there are several factors to consider before you make your decision. We call them the “ifs.”
If you like the personality of your neighbor’s cat. If your neighbor’s Siamese is in good health and your neighbor can show records of regular veterinary care. If your neighbor is raising the kittens in the home and giving them lots of socialization. If you don’t care that the kittens won’t have registration papers. If those “ifs” are all OK with you, then this could be a convenient way for you to have a new BFF (best furry friend).
But wait! You should also consider all the benefits of adopting a kitten from the shelter, especially if your local shelter has a great foster program. The adoption fee may be $150 or more, but the kitten you take home will already be spayed or neutered and microchipped. That’s a big chunk of change right there. And if the kitten has been in a foster home, he or she is used to being handled and already accustomed to life in a house, with all that entails: the sounds of blenders and vacuum cleaners, and maybe the presence of a dog, another cat or kids.
What we don’t recommend is getting a kitten who is being given away or sold at a grocery store or flea market. You have no way of knowing how the kittens have been raised, whether they’ve been socialized, what veterinary care such as vaccinations or deworming they’ve received or what their parents’ temperaments are like. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Protect pets from
-- Lots of pets love to lick their people, but that can be hazardous if tongues come in contact with medicated creams. The Food & Drug Administration has received reports of dogs dying after accidentally ingesting creams containing a chemotherapy drug called fluorouracil. The drug is commonly used to treat many cancers in humans, including some types of skin cancers or a precancerous condition called solar or actinic keratosis. Signs of poisoning can start within 30 minutes and include vomiting, shaking, seizures, difficulty breathing and diarrhea. Prevent your pet from licking any topical cream or other solution on your skin or from gnawing on tubes containing them. Keep tubes well out of reach, and dispose of them in a place where your pet can’t get to them. Ask your doctor if it’s OK to cover the treated area with clothing or gauze to prevent licking.
-- Does your dog need a brow lift or eyelid surgery? What might be considered cosmetic procedures in humans can help dogs by relieving the pressure from heavy folds of skin that press down on eyes, impeding vision and pushing hairs onto the cornea and causing ulceration. After his surgery, Bentley, a 2-year-old Clumber spaniel, no longer runs into things, and his behavior has gone from shy and nervous to more confident and curious.
-- September is National Preparedness Month, and it’s not too late to put together an emergency evacuation kit that ensures you can care for your pet in the event of a wildfire, flood, earthquake or other disaster. Include one to two weeks’ worth of food, bottled water (in case you don’t have access to potable water) and medications, vaccination records, a first-aid kit, collapsible food and water dishes, a blanket or other bedding, litter and a litter box for cats, and a favorite toy or two. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.