Houston PetTalk March 2011 : Page 52

LIL’ BITS Bored Birds & Cats! Interactive Toy Solutions A BORED BIRDS! bored bird is BIG trouble, as I found out this week. I left the room for only a minute and returned to findmy parrot had escaped her cage and removed 7 keys frommy computer key board. Seven important keys! My female Alexandrine must have been thinking “NowMommy will not be typing on that thing all day. She can play withme!” Actually the KEY word in the above paragraph, is not “computer key” but the word THINKING. Our parrots think. Understanding this changes everything people used to believe about Birds and their little “bird brains”. They can learn to speak our language, dance, sing, open locks and escape their cages and find ways to charm their human family. Our thinking birds can also get very bored and act out all kinds of negative and damag-ing behaviors. They can even develop emotional problems and show it by screaming for hours or even self mu-tilating. This sad cycle once begun is very hard to stop and has lead to another seri-ous problem…abuse and abandonement. Sowhatcanwedo? Depending on your time, you can do a lot or a little and it all helps. Hereareafeweasycon-cepts and activities that can fit in an already busy life. Just start with a few and the fun and benefits will quickly have you searching formore! CONCEPT: As stated 52 www.houstonpettalk.com by Dr. S.G. Friedman, Free Food or Contrafreeloading, was a study which found that given a choice between working for food and obtaining it for free, the parrots chose to work, often quite hard. This basic foraging instinct is not encouraged in a cage with food and water bowls placed and filled within easy reach. ACTIVITY: For in cage foraging, stop putting treats and food in the same spot each time you feed your pet. Use differ-ent containers – hang food from a toy skewer – create homemade foraging toys by putting a treat in an empty toilet paper roll and filling the ends with tissue – hide food inside toys or purchase foraging toys.Notice what is a favorite food and only serve as a foraging opportunity. These are wonderful activites for them and so fun to watch as they problem solve and find their treat. CONCEPT: LearnedHelplessness occurs when an animal is prevented from escaping aversive stimuli. Par-rots that have no control over their environment can develop pathologi-cal behaviors. Dr. Seligman’s research found that we can “immunize” our birds by giving them experiences where they have some environmental control. ACTIVITY: Play Stations pre-sented under supervision allows your parrot to exit its cage when ready and choose to find a new location. This could be a play area that is next to the cage or a play gym on top of the cage. Give your bird different ways to exit the cage such as ladders, ropes or perches. Leave the food and water in the cage and let him come and go as he wishes. This is only one of somany ways you can let your bird feel some independence. As parrot owners we have the responsibility to “forage formore”. For more information on par-

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