Dogs are said to be man’s best friend, and deservedly so. “Loyal companion,” more often than not, brings to mind a canine companion who wants nothing more than to please his person — you say “Sit,” “Stay,” or “Come here,” and most dogs will do just that (of course there are exceptions; some dogs are prone to bouts of “selective hearing”). While pet birds are less common as pets, a healthy, well-socialized, well-respected bird can also be a happy, attentive companion — some parrots will even follow verbal cues. Consider some of the advantages bird companions have to canine companions and vice versa in this fun look.
1. With a companion bird you can … share in mealtimes. Your dog might love the food you eat, but would you ever think of eating your dog’s food? Parrots, on the other hand, make great dining companions. (And they won’t gulp down their food in seconds like a lot of dogs tend to do; you bird will savor each and every bite!) An added bonus? Eating like a bird can be healthy for you. Foods on the “Yes” list for companion parrots include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, and more. Eat like your bird (one full of the aforementioned foods), and your diet will be infused with lots of fiber and an assortment of vitamins and minerals.
2. With a companion bird you can … share in shower time. The love of bathing comes naturally to most parrots; many parrot species are native to rainforest habitats and other high-precipitation environments, so they are more likely to appreciate the opportunity to bathe. (Your dog, on the other mind, might run away, tail between the legs at the sight of a hose or turn of the bathtub faucet.) Bathing helps birds maintain good feather health. Many parrots love to bathe and share shower time with their people. Dogs generally don’t enjoy hopping in the shower; if and when they do, they leave a trail of water behind them when they’re done.
3. With a companion bird you can … have a pet that talks back. One area in which dogs and pet parrots differ is communication. Parrots are capable of mimicking our speech, even our intonations, and some can even mimic household sounds (is that the phone/microwave/doorbell, or the parrot!). Some bird people report that their pets even use words in context. What can top being greeted with a hearty “Hello!” when you arrive home! And if your bird doesn’t talk, he might be an expert whistler, which affords you the opportunity to partake in your bird’s whistle serenade. (Of course, there is a potential disadvantage of parrot communication — parrots are capable of emitting very loud vocalizations, which needs to be taken into consideration, especially if you have noise-sensitive neighbors!)
1. With a dog companion you can … have your pet sleep in bed with you. Many pet dogs (and cats) insist on sharing the bed with their people and their people love to snuggle up with their four-legged friend at nighttime. While this generally poses no health risk to the dog or cat, having your pet bird sleep in your bed can put your bird’s health in jeopardy. Companion parrots have been crushed/suffocated when their people have rolled over on top of them or they’ve become wedged in between the bedframe or between the mattress. Play it safe and keep your pet bird out of the bed — even if you have a large parrot. Parrots are more fragile than our four-legged friends.
2. With a dog companion you can … have your pet walk around your home unsupervised. With dogs, the main concern is that they will chew up something they shouldn’t or go potty in the house if not completely housetrained. Once those concerns are addressed, dogs are often allowed free range with little to no supervision on their people’s part. A pet bird, even one that is potty-trained (which can be done!), is another story. Not only is a pet parrot inclined to chew up household items, the biggest concern for a free-roaming, unsupervised bird is the risk of serious injury if he is accidentally stepped on or inadvertently let outside via an open door or window. As a responsible pet bird custodian, you should know where your bird is at all times and routinely check on him/her whenever he/she is outside the cage. That’s not to say that your bird should not be given plenty of out-of-cage opportunities throughout his day.
3. With a dog companion you can … have your pet go off-leash. There are more opportunities for when a dog can safely go off-leash, like at the dog park or in an enclosed yard. With a companion parrot, there in increased risk of injury, predation or accidental fly-off (i.e., your bird hears or sees something that spooks him and he flies off in a panic) if allowed outdoors without being in a pet carrier, in a cage/aviary or on a flight harness. Today, more and more pet birds are fully flighted, which is great for both their mental and physical health. However, with flight comes an extra layer of needed supervision, especially whenever your bird goes outside with you.
A Different Way of Eating
If you give your dog food he likes, chances are there will be no trace of the food once he is finished … the bowl is licked clean. The foods wild parrots eat, on the other hand, tend to be those the bird has to crack open or chew through in order to reach the nutrition, which leaves discarded shells and other bits of food to fall onto the ground below. This serves nature well, as birds’ natural eating habits — dropping their discards and foraging around for food— helps replant their habitat. In the home, your parrot will also have a tendency to be a “messy eater,” and he should be offered foods that cater to his foraging instincts (that’s why Lafeber created Nutri-Berries, Avi-Cakes!).
Pet parrots hardly ever leave the bowl completely empty; even when offered their favorite treats. A parrot’s hooked bill is meant to crack nuts/seeds and shred their food, which leaves empty shells/seed hulls in the bowl or the shredded remnants of what the bird had. Parrots tend to chew things from the inside out; if you give a parrot a fig, for example, you’ll likely find an emptied-out center, with the outer layer discarded in the bowl. And you might also notice that your parrot leaves a finely crumbled-up pile of “pellet dust” once he’s finished a serving of pellets, instead of an empty bowl.
The difference between the way a dog (or cat) eats and the way a pet bird eats is important to note if you have a pet sitter care for your bird. Some people make the mistake of believing that the bird has food in the bowl when, in reality, the bowl is filled with empty seed hulls, nut shells or food the bird is otherwise done with. They need to know that birds often leave food debris in the bowl and that this needs to be dumped and replenished.