The holidays are here, and it is celebration time, loaded with extra trimmings, decorations and merriment that surround our hearth and home. But, there are many challenges that we as bird owners need to keep in mind so that our feathered friends stay happy and safe.
Consider these tips to keep your bird safe and happy this holiday season:
Pet accidents increase dramatically during the holiday season. Review your home for these safety tips:
- Electrical Wires – Holiday lights and decorations usually mean extra extension cords and wires. Conceal these, or use pet-proof covers, so these don’t become a chew toy and cause burns or even electrocution for your bird.
- Holiday Plants – Poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, Christmas cactus, and many other plants are often used to decorate our homes during the holiday season. These can be toxic to pet birds. Either avoid them completely, or never allow your bird to be near them unsupervised.
- Holiday Aromas – The beauty of the holiday season is the sights and the smells. However, many holiday aromas can be harmful to your bird. Watch perfumed candles, potpourri, adhesives, spray glues, aerosol sprays, cleaning products, and Teflon all of which can be toxic.
- Open Flames – Candles, space heaters, a hot stove or oven, open pots of boiling liquids, and fireplaces present a serious health threat to your bird. Leave your bird safely in his cage when you have any open flame or high heat source around your home.
- Christmas Tree – Birds love shiny, glimmering objects. To your bird, the Christmas tree will seem to be a play haven. Unfortunately, decorations and your tree present a health hazard for your bird. Keep your bird away from the tree. Tinsel, flocking, and artificial snow can be dangerous. The tree may also be coated with potentially harmful fire retardant, fertilizer, or insecticide. Lights on the tree can become hot and cause burns. Glass ornaments can break easily, or other decorations can have small pieces that might break off and be swallowed. It is imperative to supervise your bird at all times when he is around the tree and its decorations.
- Ribbons and Gift Wrap – Many ribbons and wrapping paper are made with ink that contains metal. These are toxic to your bird. Remove them from your bird’s cage area, and do not allow him to play with these when he is outside his cage. Also, refrain from tying ribbon to your bird’s cage, as this can post a choking risk or allow your bird to become entangled in them, causing serious harm.
- Ceiling Fans and Open Windows – Even in the coldest climate, the home warms up this time of year as ovens, fireplaces, and stoves work overtime to prepare for holiday celebrations. Often, we open a door or window or turn on a ceiling fan to offer some climate relief. All of these cause threats to our feathered friends. Open doors and windows create drafts and allow birds, out of their cages, to escape to the outdoors. Ceiling fans are dangerous to flighted birds in the home. Keep birds safely in their cages during these times and away from drafts that can be harmful to their health.
- Aunt Betsy’s Dog – Some holiday house guests bring food, gifts, or even their dogs or other pets for their holiday visit. Discourage guests from bringing their own pets into your home. If they do, your bird and the other visiting pets are likely to be anxious. Keep them completely separated during the visit, and do not let down your guard in supervising these animals even for a minute.
The holiday season is a time of cheer, but it also can be accompanied by a certain amount of stress, as schedule changes, alterations in home temperatures, varying weather conditions, increased activity in the home, and added noise create a living disruption for your bird. Note these activities that might upset your bird’s behavior during the holidays:
- Big Holiday Changes -- Any change can be perceived as a threat to your bird. Decorations, lights, music, aromas, food, and trees are everywhere. The distinctive sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays represent big changes, even if your bird never leaves his cage. In addition, many of the decorations could be potentially harmful to your bird. Minimize his exposure to these added elements that can over sensitize your bird during the holiday season.
- It’s Bright in Here – Most birds need 10-12 hours of darkness each day for proper rest. The increased activity in your household during the holidays can keep the inside of your home illuminated up to 18 hours a day, disrupting your bird's sleep schedule. Keep your bird on his regular schedule, even covering the cage or moving it to a safe area in the home where he can get the proper rest he needs.
- People, People Everywhere -- The coming and going of strangers and relatives can be very intimidating. Your bird will react to their voices and body language and may be emotionally charged when approached. Keep your bird and your guests safe by slowly introducing him to your guests and supervising their interaction for everyone’s safety.
- Is It Dinner Time Yet? – The weeks leading up to the holidays are busy and full of shopping, entertaining, cooking, decorating, and traveling. The time you spend with your pet might be limited. Try to maintain a playtime, feeding, and exercise routine as much as possible. If not, your bird might feel left out or even experience some separation anxiety or stress.
Signs of Holiday Stress in Your Bird
Birds that are stressed may show a variety of signs, including:
- Feather picking
- Eating less, or not at all
- Changes in the character or quantity of droppings
Holiday stress relievers
Follow these tips to minimize your bird’s stress level:
- Maintain feeding and hygiene routines. An occasional treat should be just that. Do not make big changes in his diet during the holidays.
- Provide your pet toys and interactive activities to pass the time, especially if he shows any signs of feather plucking or behavior problems.
- A good cage cover is important tool to minimize stress during the holidays. You can use it to regulate light exposure, protect your pet from guests and other pets, or give your pet a "time-out" if he seems stressed.
- Limit your pet's exposure to strangers. This may mean relocating his cage. While this may be a change for your pet, it could be less stressful than exposing him to a roomful of loud party goers.
- If an accident does occur, be prepared. Make sure you have a first aid kit ready and veterinarian contact information where it is easy to find. Also, remain calm. Your bird can sense your emotions. If you react strongly, your bird will, too.
Keep your bird safe, healthy, and happy this holiday season. Even using just a few of these tips will ensure that your home is as happy for you as it is for your feathered friend.