Those of us who have raised puppies and kittens know how dangerous a house can be. Mischievous, exploring young pets seem to find every available risky item in the first 24 hours of arrival. Having learned too dog- and cat-proof a house, we may feel prepared to safely welcome a pet bird into our lives. There are surprises in store. Birds add a whole new dimension to pet safety worries.
Unlike dogs and cats, birds fly. Birds fly into windows or mirrors, injuring themselves in the process. Decals or curtains allow a flying bird to see them and avoid a crash. Birds fly out of windows, never to be seen again. Screens are essential for windows and doors. When a bird is out of its cage, always remain nearby.
Even a bird with properly clipped wing feathers can flutter to disaster around the house. A ceiling fan should be an obvious “no-no,” but other mechanical appliances can be equally dangerous. Birds have been injured falling into electric beaters in the kitchen. They can fly and land on hot surfaces or into scalding water. Expect the unexpected with birds. If you open the hot oven, your parrot may pop right in!
If your bird is always confined to its cage, some of these precautions may seem excessive. Remember, escape is always possible, and accidents do happen. Besides, an owner of a well-trained bird will want to spend lots of quality time with the bird at this or her side (or shoulder). Most birds thrive on attention and human interaction, but wither with neglect. Plan for avian safety in all the rooms of your home.
Birds are exquisitely sensitive to toxins, especially those in the air they breathe. Remember about the canary in the mine shaft giving warning of gas accumulation? Cleaners, such as those used to degrease ovens, produce dangerous airborne contaminants and can be fatal to birds. Even strong cooking odors and smoke is a risk. Non-stick cookware is another worry. When overheated, the fumes can kill birds.
Birds can drown in small amounts of water. Upright narrow glasses are a danger as is very hot water (birds don’t expect the water to be hot). The toilet bowl, uncovered, has been the source of many avian injuries. Birds do like water play, and with supervision, many even enjoy showers with their owners. Bath perfumes and hair spray must be avoided around birds.
Chewing is the next big concern with birds. Most birds chew anything they can get their beaks on. We must provide safe woods and chew toys to allow this natural, healthy exercise. It is also essential to keep the house clear of dangerous items. Anything made of lead is forbidden (fishing weights, stained glass, metal toys, costume jewelry). Electric cords should be hidden and protected. Avoid poisonous house plants.
As you get in the habit of thinking about kinds of things that poison birds, you will automatically avoid the dangers. Remember, things that smell strong to us can often kill birds. Felt tip pens are aromatic and poisonous to birds. Nail polish and remover, paint fumes, cigarette smoke, colored ink and aerosol sprays of all kinds should be avoided. Other pets, such as cats, must be kept safely away.
There are many items to remember and dangers to avoid in keeping your pet birds safe around the house. Prevention, however, is always preferable to emergency medical intervention! Keep the name and number of your trusted avian vet handy just in case.