Caring for Birds

Birds are the third most popular pet today, trailing dogs and cats. Birds can be wonderful companions, but they are not easy-care pets. Even smaller birds need special care and attention to be happy and healthy.

Birds crave interaction with the family and also need quiet time. Because birds are so sensitive to air quality, they need to be protected from many household products. Spray cleaners, hairspray, even the chemicals given off by Teflon-coated pans, can harm or kill birds. You need to guard against drafts in the winter and provide dark, quiet time at night.

Finches can live 10 years, while cockatiels and parakeets can live 20 years. Because they are very different from dogs and cats, birds need a veterinarian who is an avian specialist.

Living Space and Exercise

When it comes to a cage, you will want to invest in the largest cage that you can afford. A wide cage, with room for the bird to move horizontally, improves their quality of life significantly. The cage bars should be close enough to keep your bird inside, smaller birds need closer bars. You will want a cage will be easy to clean, so avoid wood or wicker. The material and placement of perches is important, too. Some people create a safe room for their birds so that they may enjoy exercise time outside the cage. Glass, mirrors, and ceiling fans can pose dangerous hazards to birds who can be injured by flying into them.

Birds love to preen and bathe, and they enjoy a shallow water bowl for baths. Some birds like to be spritzed with a mist of water from a spray bottle. If your bird’s nails start to curve around or if they are having trouble standing on a perch, it is time to take go to a vet for a nail trim.

Birds need mental stimulation and most species of birds love toys, especially those that can be safely chewed or manipulated. Many birds need a place to hide and you can purchase hide-away tents or boxes for them. Some birds like seeing themselves in a small mirror in their cage.

Proper Diet

Food and water bowls should be within reach of a perch, and need to be thoroughly cleaned daily. As birds eat, they leave seed hulls in their food dish, so it is important that their food dish be emptied and filled fresh each day.

There are commercially available seed blends and pellet diets for seed eaters (finches, canaries) and hookbills (parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds). Birds also enjoy apple or orange slices and greens like romaine; some species enjoy other vegetables and foods, too. Seed-eating birds may need grit to properly digest food and some birds benefit from a cuttlebone. A little research or a discussion with your avian veterinarian will help you learn about the best foods and treats to offer your birds and will help you stay away from things that may be harmful. (For example, chocolate and avocado can harm birds.)

Health and Wellbeing

Most birds prefer to have a friend; in most cases a male and female pair works well. Unlike a dog or cat, spay/neuter surgery is not recommended for birds, but your avian veterinarian can provide simple advice on how to prevent the addition of baby birds.

If your bird should begin plucking feathers, this may be a sign of stress or boredom. When birds are sick they often try to hide their illness. Watch for swollen eyes, diarrhea, stains around their vent, sitting in one place with feathers fluffed during the day, labored breathing or wheezing. If you notice any of these symptoms get your bird to an avian veterinarian immediately.

Larger birds are rewarding pets for the right person, but they have needs that are more challenging to meet than smaller birds. Their care can be expensive and they require a varied diet. They can also be noisy and messy. Large birds are very social, have a great need for attention, and can outlive us, with some parrots living 50 or more years.

Birds can be marvelous companions and there are often birds in need of adoption. For more information on bird care and adoption visit Reno Area Avian Enthusiasts at or Avian Welfare Coalition at Nevada Humane Society sometimes has birds available for adoption too.

Choosing the Right Pet for You

For as long as I can remember, I have had a strong attraction to animals. I begged my parents to take in every homeless kitten and puppy that I saw, always promising to be a responsible and attentive caregiver. Once I was old enough to make my own decisions, I quickly acquired a menagerie of dogs, cats, goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, finches, and fish. As my adult life moved on, my pets became my friends and extended family and life without them became unthinkable.

Sharing your life with an animal has many wonderful benefits that bring great joy in a variety of ways. It also implies a level of responsibility for these creatures that are now entrusted to you. So if you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, it’s wise to study the needs of different types of pets to find one that will best suit your lifestyle. Each type is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing, and demands on your time. Knowledge will help you make the best match for you and your family – ensuring a happy animal, a good relationship with your pet, and an easier time dealing with any challenges that might arise.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider what type of pet to get:

• What type of animal is the best fit for your home? Do you mind living with pet hair, a litter box, or the occasional wear-and-tear caused by pets?

• If you have children or share your home with others, have you spoken with them about acquiring a pet? Will everyone in your home welcome an animal?

• If you rent, do you have permission from the property owner?

• How much space do you have inside and outside your home? Will you need a fenced yard? If you get a cat, will you want an outdoor enclosure (a cattery) so your kitty can spend time safely outdoors?

• How much time do you have to spend with a pet?

• What is your activity level? Are you sedentary or physically active?

• Do you have the financial resources if your pet has a medical crisis and has high veterinary bills?

• Do you have someone who can be a secondary caregiver if you are away from home? If not, how will you provide care for your pet when you travel?

Now you are ready to consider specific species and breeds.

Dogs are very social creatures; they aren’t happy left outside or alone all the time. Make sure you’re going to be able to spend several hours a day them. Also, consider carefully what kind of dog to get – different ages and breeds can produce very different characteristics. Since dogs live ten years or more, keep in mind that you are making a long-term commitment. Consider your dog to be part of your family – to your dog, you and your family are their pack.

Contrary to popular opinion, many cats are social animals and love attention. Though most cats don’t require as much attention as dogs, they still need play time and petting on a daily basis. Spending time every day with your kitty can be the difference between a happy cat and a bored cat.

Birds are fascinating and beautiful creatures, but they are not easy-care pets. They are intelligent, social animals and need plenty of attention. Before you add a bird to your family, make sure you’re willing to spend time with your feathered friend each day. Some birds are also a lifetime commitment – many types of parrots can live 50 years or more.

Rabbits are intelligent, social animals who need affection and activity. They can become wonderful companion animals when given a chance to interact with their human families. Rabbits can make pleasant house pets, and most can learn to use a litter box.

One key question is where to get your new pet. Please consider adopting – there are many wonderful dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at most local animal shelters. There are also rescue groups for many specific dog breeds and other types of pets. What’s more, the staff at your local animal shelter can help you find just the right pet for you. They know the animals in their care and can help you make a good match for your personality and lifestyle.

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