How to Keep Your Bird Safe During the Holidays

Lighting Christmas candles
Birds are extremely sensitive to the perfumes and chemicals emitted by lit scented candles.

Holidays can bring a great deal of happiness to both people and pets. But holidays also bring potential dangers to our feathered friends. Though injuries and accidents happen all year long, they seem to occur more often during the holidays. Here are some tips to help you avoid some often overlooked holiday hazards.

1. Say No to Candles

Candles and birds are dangerous on more than one level. First, avian respiratory tracts are extremely sensitive to the aerosolized perfumes and other chemicals that scented candles emit when lit. Secondly, flames from a lit candle are dangerous if a bird flies or hops too close, as feathers are extremely flammable and can catch fire. Lit candles are a definite no-no around birds. Flameless, scentless, battery-powered candles are a good alternative if you are going for atmosphere.

2. Kitchens: Off Limits

The kitchen may be the hub of the house for most people during the holidays for socializing and cooking, but it shouldn’t be for your bird. Like emissions from scented candles, cooking fumes and smoke can be deadly if your bird inhales them. Plus, many people cook with nonstick pans, and the vapors emitted by the nonstick coating when it's heated can kill a bird instantly. Some appliances, such as stoves, space heaters and toaster ovens, also have these coatings and should not be used around birds. So take no chances: Move your bird away from these devices into a different airspace and socialize with them in the living room.

3. Even a Little Chocolate Is Too Much

It seems like chocolate is in everything we eat during the holidays — cake, cookies, even our drinks. Many of us love the taste of chocolate, and so do our birds. But chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines (specifically, caffeine and theobromine), which birds and other pets are far more sensitive to than people. Generally, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger to pets. These substances initially cause birds to regurgitate and have diarrhea, plus they increase birds’ heart rates and can lead to seizures. All it takes is a bite or two for a small bird to have a problem. So if you want to treat your bird over the holidays, opt for something safer and healthier, like a small bite of pumpkin pie.

4. Pretty Plants to Avoid

Several plants are potentially toxic to birds if ingested, and many of these plants are commonly used in decorations during the holidays. Mistletoe, holly, poinsettia, lilies, yew and ivy are among the plants that birds should not have access to. So if you love holiday plants, better to opt for the fake variety to keep your bird safe.

Bird being held outside his cage
If you're going out of town, consider hiring a pet sitter instead of boarding your bird.

5. Beware of Boarding

Bird owners often have to face the predicament of what to do with their birds when they go out of town. To minimize stress, ideally, a pet sitter should come to care for the bird in the bird’s home. If this isn’t an option, bird owners should be very choosy about where they board their birds. Though it seems nice to have the bird in the company of other feathered friends, such as in a pet store or aviary, if the health status of the other birds present isn’t known, you may be exposing your pet to life-threatening infections if you board him there. If you have to house your bird out of your home when you are away, it’s best to find a place where there are no other birds. The exception to this would be a veterinary hospital or facility that requires blood testing of all birds before boarding. Though it’s impossible to test for everything, at least some general blood tests should be performed to try to minimize the spread of disease.

The holidays are here. Let’s keep our birds safe and happy. Don’t forget that birds are intelligent, curious creatures and it's only natural for them to want to investigate anything “new” around the house. Keep an extra-close eye on them, avoid these holiday hazards, and hopefully the holidays will be safe and joyful for all.

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