All About Pets

Bringing Home A Parrot

August 6, 2015

You are forever responsible for that which you have tamed

– Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

When we bring home that adorable little puppy or that crazy little kitten, we hope to enjoy their companionship for at the very least 10-15 years, perhaps even 15-20 years with good fortune, and we do our very best to ensure that they will have another loving home should we not be able to be there for them to the end of their lifetime. But bringing home a sweet young parrot can require a wholly different level of lifetime planning.

While the average lifespan of a parakeet, cockatiel, or conure may well fall in the range of that anticipated for a dog or cat, some species of those types of parrots have been known to live 25-35 years. And the larger types of parrots (African greys, amazons, cockatoos, and macaws) can have average lifespans of 25-70 years, with some species known to live 80-100 years. Lifetime care for a parrot may well require planning for generations of caregivers.

Not only is longevity an important consideration for lifetime planning for a parrot, but so also is the importance of remembering (as described in last week’s column) that all parrots are undomesticated creatures of high intelligence and great emotional sensitivity, and do not come into a household seeking to fit in. As a result, when a parrot does develop a deep emotional bond of trust with its caregiver, and that caregiver is lost to them, the grief that ensues can bring a highly sensitive parrot to the depths of despair and the height of fear and anger. Any new caregiver must be prepared to nurture any parrot in transition with great love and sensitivity, and plan themselves for the future care of that parrot.

Join me next week for some fun highlights of what you can expect from different types and species of parrots.

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July 30, 2015

Dogs are from Mars, Cats are from Venus
Parrots are from the Wild Blue Yonder

While our domestic cats and dogs all fall within the same biological species classifications (our cats within the species Felis catus, and our dogs within the species Lupus familiaris), parrots fall within the order Psittaciformes and then diverge into 300-400 unique species. We are inclined to think of different kinds of parrots as different “breeds” of parrots, much as we do dogs and cats, but that is not the case. Each “breed” of parrot is a distinctly different species of bird, incapable of reproducing fertile offspring when hybridized with other species of parrots, and manifesting not only vastly different physical characteristics, but also very different behavioral traits. The broad order Psittaciformes includes the tiniest Parakeet and the largest Macaw, the meekest Pionus and the cheekiest Cockatoo, all wonderfully different types of birds, and each type diverging into different species.

But as important as individual species characteristics may be in selecting the right parrot companion, the most important consideration for any prospective parrot owner is that, unlike our pet dogs and cats, parrots are not domesticated animals. All parrots, regardless of species, origin, or degree of tameness, are captive undomesticated creatures of high intelligence and great emotional sensitivity, with specialized nutritional needs and a physiology that demands specialized veterinary care.

It’s important to remember that a parrot, as an undomesticated creature, does not come to us seeking to fit in. It takes a great deal of patience and sensitivity to build a joyful relationship with a parrot. It takes a very special kind of person to nurture a parrot, and the bigger the bird, the greater the challenges.

Tune in for more about parrots during the coming weeks…

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Pet Food Recall

Cat Food Dry vs Canned
July 23, 2015

What a Pet Food Recall Tells Us

Given its zero-tolerance policy for pathogens in pet food, viable infectious bacteria need not be present in a pet food (nor any adverse effects documented from feeding the food) for the FDA to initiate a pet food recall for Salmonella or Listeria; the mere presence of bacterial DNA is sufficient for a recall. Consequently, a single isolated pet food recall for Salmonella or Listeria should not necessarily be taken as damning for a pet food manufacturer, but a history of repeated recalls, or an indication of a lack of cooperation with FDA inspection processes, or any FDA citations for unsanitary conditions should most certainly raise serious questions about the trustworthiness of a pet food manufacturer.

A recall for aflatoxins is, however, another story. Unlike Salmonella and Listeria which are commonly found in the environment, and to which our ground-sniffing pets are routinely exposed with the appearance of no ill effects, aflatoxins are highly toxic compounds which are produced by molds that grow on improperly managed and/or improperly stored grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. When aflatoxins are found to be present in pet food, it is invariably through the use of moldy raw ingredients, and any recall for aflatoxins should raise serious questions with regard to deficiencies in a pet food manufacturer’s sourcing and quality control testing of the raw ingredients they use.

Regardless of the reasons for a pet food recall, any contaminated lots of foods should not be fed and must be properly disposed of, but keep in mind that not all recalls are created equal when it comes to judging the trustworthiness of a pet food manufacturer.

Tune in during the coming weeks for a series of columns for parrot-lovers! Cheers to you and your pets!!

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