Illustrated Articles

Behavior

  • African grey parrots are highly intelligent birds and are now commonly bred in captivity as pets. The African grey has a charming personality and is recognized as one of the best talkers among all pet parrots. It is important to keep these smart birds busy, as boredom can lead to problems, such as feather picking and screaming. African greys require regular, preventative veterinary health checkups.

  • A bird may bite out of fear or aggression. They may be protecting their territory or asserting their dominance. Screaming or loud vocalization is a natural way for wild parrots and other birds to communicate with each other in their flock environments. They will also scream if they are alarmed.

  • Feather loss occurs either because the bird is truly losing feathers or because the bird, or its cage-mate, is picking out its feathers. Feather-picking is often a behavioral problem, especially in the larger species of birds (such as cockatoos, macaws, and African gray parrots). However, feather loss and feather-picking can also be caused by diseases that result in irritation or pain for the bird, or damage to, or inappropriate growth of feathers. Your veterinarian may have to many perform several diagnostic tests to rule out potential causes. Treatment of feather loss depends on the cause. Feather loss and feather-picking are complicated problems; for specific advice, your bird should have a thorough work-up by a veterinarian familiar with birds.

  • Due to their well-deserved reputation as escape artists, ferrets should be housed in a cage that can be securely closed and/or locked. They also need a safe, "ferret-proofed" play area or room where they can explore and investigate while supervised.

  • Guinea pigs are generally hardy, healthy animals but are susceptible to certain diseases. They cannot make their own vitamin C and require supplementation or they may develop scurvy. Guinea pigs get various tumors, particularly skin and mammary tumors. Guinea pigs also get abscesses (accumulations of pus and bacteria) in lymph nodes, skin, muscles, teeth, bones, and internal organs. They are very prone to development of urinary calculi that form in the bladder, kidneys, or ureters which may become lodged, causing a life-threatening obstruction. In addition, guinea pigs often are affected by ringworm and can get fleas and lice. Barbering is a problem, usually associated with boredom, in which the guinea pig chews or barbers its own hair or the hair of its cage-mate. Pododermatitis, or bumblefoot, in which sores develop on the bottom of the feet from pressure, is common in overweight animals housed on wire-bottomed or dirty cages that abrade the feet.

  • Height dominance in pet birds can be an issue with a poorly trained pet bird or dominant pet bird. Birds that are allowed on shoulders or top of cages can be aggressive and nippy if not trained to "Step-up" on command. Proper training and socialization are essential to allow birds to perch wherever they wish.

  • Contrary to popular belief, pet birds not raised with other birds typically bond to their owners and are unlikely to want to live with another new bird. If you feel your bird is lonely or bored, first consider providing more enrichment in the form of safe toys and entertainment. If you decide you want to introduce another bird into your household, be sure you are ready to take on the work of caring for more than one bird and be certain to introduce him slowly. All new birds should be checked by a veterinarian before exposing the original bird to a new one, and the new bird should be quarantined in a separate, isolated room within the house for 30-45 days. Some birds never accept new birds in their territories. Consult your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems.

  • Masturbation behavior in male parrots is a fairly common occurrence. The basis behind this activity is sexual stimulation or over productive male hormones. Veterinary attention will help with environmental changes and/or medications used to diminish or halt this behavior.

  • Mynah birds are best known for their ability to talk and mimic sounds. They are lively, social birds and have wonderfully outgoing personalities. A young, hand-raised mynah will be easier to tame and train compared to a wild, colony, or parent-raised bird. As with all pets, mynah birds require regular, routine veterinary checkups.

  • Ferrets are generally good-natured, inquisitive, playful animals that enjoy the company of humans. They can make great pets! This handout provides some basic facts about ferrets and what you need to know about keeping one as a pet.