Posted: November 8, 2007 7:45 p.m. PST
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
Prepare your bird for busy holidays by moving it to different parts of your home.
Every holiday season, people ask me about how to handle difficult visitors. Since you are enthusiastic and loving bird owners who do everything possible to make your pet birds' lives better, you have become teachers for new bird owners and may be asked the same question. I hope that sharing the following information will lead to a wonderful holiday season experience.
Holidays are a time for gathering with family and friends and should be a pleasant experience of love, warmth and sharing. Hopefully, we will enjoy all of our guests; however, there may be those whose company we enjoy less — people who have little regard for the rights or feelings of others but who, for some reason or another, we believe should be part of our celebrations. Although we may choose to share time with those individuals, that decision can be very difficult for our animal friends, especially pet birds.
Be realistic when dealing with difficult people. They will not magically change and will not be any better this year than the years before. Toxic individuals simply are who they are. They have selfishly decided to behave in a manner that gets them whatever it is they want.
Toxic people often try to force pet birds and other animals, including people, to behave in a particular manner and, when they don’t, may retaliate by teasing or bullying them. What can be done in those situations?
The ultimate act of independence and compassion — for us and our pet birds — would be to eliminate all disrespectful, unruly or aggravating individuals from our lives. By holding toxic people accountable for their hostile actions, they may eventually make the effort to change the way they choose to behave.
However, what can be done by a bird lover who, for whatever reason, does not have that option? The most important thing is to protect the innocent ones that do not have a choice not to interact with difficult people. Some early planning can make the experience easier for them.
Over a couple of weeks, gradually accustom your pet bird to being in another part of the home, in another bird cage or perch or where you can easily wheel her regular cage.
Choose a room where you can close the door so your pet bird will not be disturbed by others. If necessary, put a lock on the door in advance and plan to keep it locked until the toxic person is gone. If that is not an option or if you know the person will continue to bully his or her wishes over others, arrange ahead of time with a friend who is not entertaining that day, or with a boarding facility, to keep your bird. The cost or inconvenience will far outweigh the trauma to your bird family member of being badgered in what should be the safety of her own home.
For those who do not have problem relatives, normal holiday precautions need to be addressed. If your bird is located near a path of heavy traffic, relocate her bird cage so that she can see everyone but her cage is not brushed by or bumped into. Partially cover her cage with a cloth or place a tall, bushy potted plant on the floor in front of one corner of her cage so she can choose to “leave” all the commotion at will.
Explain your “bird rules” to everyone. In the beginning, even if your bird enjoys being around people, forbid anyone handling her without your direct supervision. Set up a few minutes specifically for getting acquainted with her, so you can watch those who interact with her and teach them some guidelines for her comfort.
When children are present, it is imperative that they also respect the bird’s rights. They should only handle or feed your bird if you are supervising the interaction. If this cannot be guaranteed, follow the “difficult people” recommendations.
If your bird is unaccustomed to visitors or if, during festivities, you notice her beginning to become tired or upset, remove her to the other room with some favorite bird toys and food goodies. If she enjoys television or music, leave something on for her. Close the door so she can relax. Offer to take her out again later, if you wish; however, if she refuses to come back out, let her have her way. The most important things are to keep your bird comfortable and to maintain your trustworthiness. In essence, you are telling her that you will not allow anything to jeopardize her safety or create fear or discomfort for your bird in her own environment.
Even the most sociable bird requires sleep and can be taken to the quiet room if festivities carry on too long. Some birds like to remain in the same room. If your bird is a social butterfly, at bedtime, cover most of the cage with a cloth, leaving a small, 6-inch or so opening or “peeking area” in the front, so she can choose either to doze or to walk over and monitor any interesting developments.
Remember people are in your home, and your bird is your bird — you know what is best for her and can set any rules you want! Because you are more aware of their needs, you are the one responsible for protecting the innocent family members in your home.