There are many holiday hazards facing dogs and cats, but what about the birds? You’ll find lots of literature out there on how to avoid illness, injury and other catastrophes involving dogs and cats during the holiday season, but birds are often overlooked.
The holiday season poses many dangers for pet birds, so consider the following tips to avoid holiday hazards to those feathered friends.
Holiday Decorations Pose Dangers to Birds
More so than cats and dogs, birds are attracted to shiny objects that sparkle. This means that Christmas lights, garland and Christmas tree ornaments are going to be very attractive to a bird. But these items can be dangerous, even deadly to those avian friends. Even a small bird has a powerful beak that can easily shatter a Christmas light, creating a situation that leaves the bird vulnerable to electrocution. Or, say a pet bird eats some garland – this can cause intestinal damage and even death. And then there are the ornaments on the Christmas tree – a large bird can easily topple a tree when landing, and a medium bird who can land on the Christmas tree can easily break glass ornaments as he explores them with his mouth.
With all these holiday decorating hazards, bird owners must take precautions. Clipping a bird’s wings will prevent flight, making it easier to prevent the bird from accessing the Christmas tree, the mantle and other locations. Constant supervision when out of the cage is also vital when these new, interesting and potentially dangerous holiday decorations are in the home.
Holiday Cooking and the Dangers to Pet Birds
Teflon and no-stick pans emit fumes that can easily kill a bird. No-stick cookware should never be used in a household that has avian family members present. Most bird owners are aware of the dangers of no-stick cookware, and while they may no longer use Teflon-coated pots and pans, these items may still be inside the home.
A deadly situation can arise if a visiting family member, friend or houseguest helps out in the kitchen. He or she may grab the no-stick pan in the back of the cabinet and before you even know what’s happening, your bird is on death’s doorstep – or worse. In fact, a close friend had this very scenario play out and as a result, she lost her Cockatoo. After the fact, we learned that many bird deaths happen in this way, when a non-resident cook is in the kitchen.
So let me take this opportunity to remind bird owners about the importance of removing those no-stick pans from the cabinet. Store them in the basement, in the attic, sell them at a yard sale, give them to the kids for playing house, throw them out – whatever you do, just keep them away from the stove if there’s a bird in your home.
Beware of Candle Dangers and Pet Birds
The holiday season is a common time to light a candle, whether it’s decorative, or part of a celebration like Hanukkah. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that candles pose a serious danger to birds, so feathered friends should remain in-cage when candles are lit.
Many birds also find candles extremely frightening and stressful, so if a bird begins vocalizing or exhibiting behaviors associated with stress and anxiety, it’s time to relocate the bird or the candle to a different location.
Holiday Guests and the Dangers to Pet Birds
Birds, just like dogs and cats, are not always friendly to every visitor who walks through the door. Some birds dislike men. Others dislike children. Some birds dislike strangers in general. And even a very friendly, easy-going bird can get a bit nippy during an inappropriate interaction with a human. And like a dog or cat, a bird can do some serious damage, and conversely, the attack victim can do some serious damage to the bird.
So when visitors arrive, closely monitor all interactions with the pet bird to ensure that the person is handling the bird properly.
During family gatherings and parties, birds should be caged to ensure safety. Some birds get very stressed around strangers, so the activity associated with a party or holiday gathering could cause the bird to vocalize inappropriately, to nip or even pluck. This type of bird should be moved to a quiet area of the home during the gathering. Other birds truly enjoy activity, even when strangers are present. This bird’s cage may stay in a central location during a holiday party, but only if the bird is not prone to nipping and mouthing.
Another danger for birds during a holiday party is the constant opening and closing of the front door, which creates an escape opportunity. And food and drinks left unattended may be tempting to the bird, but this could lead to illness or even death. Remember that many birds will sample alcohol if allowed access and this can be deadly. . So again, it’s best to keep birds caged during a holiday gathering.
No Smoking Allowed With Pet Birds in the House!
Most bird owners know that smoking is an absolute no-no around birds, as it seriously taxes their fragile respiratory system, causing chronic illness and premature death. And while many bird owners do not smoke, it’s not unusual for some to light up a celebratory cigar on New Year’s Eve. In addition, some non-smokers allow guests to light up during a holiday party or gathering. This should be avoided at all costs if a bird is in the home, as the smoke can trigger serious avian respiratory problems.
In Case of an Avian Emergency….
The holiday season brings increased risks to a bird’s health and wellness. Combine this with the fact that many avian veterinarians have limited hours during the latter part of December and early part of January and it could be a recipe for disaster if a bird does get sick or injured.
It’s vital that pet owners know how to handle a veterinary emergency. Before an avian emergency arises, determine where the nearest 24-hour avian veterinarian is located. Familiarize yourself with the route to the nearest 24-hour bird-friendly veterinary clinic and keep the phone number handy – just in case.