Archive for November, 2010

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Thoughts on Giving Pets as Christmas Gifts

November 28, 2010

It’s that time of year again — that time of year, every year, when I start thinking about the number of families who are considering buying a bird, kitten, bunny or puppy for Christmas. Every year I put off writing it until it’s too late because, frankly, it just depresses me. At the risk of being a grinch, I hate the idea of anyone buying their kids a pet parrot (or any pet) as a Christmas gift.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t let your children have a pet bird. Or that a parrot couldn’t be the best gift (read: blessing) you could bring into someone’s life, but just don’t do it on a big gift-giving holiday.

Why Not to Give Animals as Christmas Presents

  • A pet isn’t a commodity like an Xbox or a bike. Don’t set the expectation that an animal is a toy or a plaything like other types of gifts they might be used to.
  • There are too many competing stimuli, other gifts to open, etc. for a child to really absorb what the new responsibility means.
  • The entire family probably has a lot of other commitments and errands that need to be run at this time of year, making it difficult to focus on the needs of your new family member, and sets a poor precedent.
  • All that stimulus and excitement an be overwhelming and frightening to the animal, especially a prey animal like a parrot.
  • When you “surprise” someone with an animal, there’s a chance they might be disappointed that it’s not the kind they wanted. It also doesn’t make them as invested in the choice.
  • Unlike other gifts, the animal doesn’t actually “belong” to the child. While the child may be responsible for feeding and cleaning the bird, the ultimate responsibility (and thus “ownership”) actually belongs with the adults in the household.
  • Animals are not “new and shiny”. Birds will bite, scream and poop. Maybe not what you had in mind for the holidays, especially if you’re a control freak who likes your special occasions to be just perfect.

If You’re Going to Do It … Ideas for Gift-Giving

If your child (or family) has been wanting a pet, you can still get the the animal in a way that sets a good foundation for a great life-long relationship.

First, get the child involved in preparing for and choosing the pet.

Second, don’t put the actual pet under the Christmas tree.

Both of these tips help set up the expectation that a living thing is a very different type of gift. If you don’t want your kids to treat a pet like a toy, then lead by example by not presenting it like one either.

If you want to use the holidays to introduce the idea of a new bird into your child’s life, there are ways to set your new pet and your child up for success.

For example, you can give the “promise” of a new bird along with books and supplies in preparation for bringing home a bird later. The founder of Petfinder promotes this very idea with a Pet Promise Certificate.

To get the child invested in the new future family member, you might even include a piggy bank with a birdie “trust fund” to use as a starter fund for the bird’s care — the child would then need to contribute a minimum amount to that fund to demonstrate their continued commitment.

Then, together as a family, you can learn about the various needs and types of birds and make an informed decision about what birds you’d like to go visit. Then go visit the birds to find one who “clicks” with your child.

Remember, a bird can live longer than any other gift your child has ever gotten. No video game, toy or even new car is expected to last as long as the relationship you’re starting with a new bird. Make sure you start off on the right foot. Given that a bird can easily be your child’s best friend for a decade or (many) more, putting off an introduction for two or three weeks won’t diminish the experience at all.

And just for fun: An African Grey Sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Photo by offstandard under Creative Commons.

Related post:Best parrots for children

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Talk N’ Play Cell Phone Toy Review – One Upset Pionus

November 24, 2010

Talk N' Play Cell Phone Have you ever seen those little toy cell phones designed for birds? The ones with the buttons that make noise when you push them? They are advertised as interactive fun that can keep your bird entertained and engaged when you’re away. Your bird will LOVE playing with this toy and making it talk back, the website says.

Uh-huh.

Both my birds HATE. HATE. HATE this thing. According to them, it’s the most EVIL thing ever.

Even after I took it away, Mika continued yelling (and she’s usually a really laid back girl) and even flew around the room looking for it so she could continue to give it a piece of her mind. She made a pretty tricky landing on the bookshelf (remember: she’s not a skilled flyer) and started kicking this toy around.

It is now safely hidden out of sight.

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Dancing Cockatoo Frostie: Whip My Hair

November 20, 2010

Frostie the dancing parrot shows off how to whip yo’ hair.. um, I mean “crest”.

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Personality, Not Pity, Is the Key to Promoting Adoptions

November 4, 2010

Over at the Pet Connection Blog, Christie Keith points out a study that reinforces something a few of us have already known instinctively: posting pet adoption ads that scream of desperation might get a lot of views and pity, but it doesn’t help the cause (either long term or short term). The article talks about pet adoption ads that actually end up reinforcing people’s fears about shelters, and by extension shelter dogs.

Similarly, I know from my conversations with other people that many individuals interested in birds rule out adopting a parrot — instead opting to go to a breeder — because they think they can’t handle the baggage that comes with a “rescue bird”.

Ann Brooks, founder of the parrot welfare organization Phoenix Landing, shared her thoughts on her attempts to change how people think of rehomed birds:

We need to change our paradigm about pet birds, and the jargon that we use to describe their lives in captivity. If we can help people understand that rehomed birds come from bad AND good situations, perhaps people will be more likely to consider adoption first.

We also do a huge disservice to birds if we use the term “forever home.” Very few healthy birds are able to stay in the same place for their entire lives. Even the smallest parrot (a parakeet) has the potential to live longer than a dog.

We can all agree that animals should not live in neglect, and certainly many birds do. They certainly deserve better. However, I hope we can all begin to acknowledge that birds should not go from the good life to the bad either, just because they need a new home. My long-lived Phoenix will surely outlive me, and she deserves a safe and healthy new family as much as the bird that was dumped at the shelter. The best thing I can do to insure she has a good future is to help change our perception about why birds need new homes.

In other words, not all rehomed birds are “problem birds.” Birds may need new homes for any number of reasons, chief among them that parrots live a very long time.

I’ve had the fortune of learning a lot over the years about the work Phoenix Landing does and I know that there are many adoptable parrots in foster care who just need someone to love them for the great pets they already are.

To learn more about Phoenix Landing’s work and read about some of the birds, large and small, available for adoption, please visit http://www.phoenixlanding.org/ and click on the newsletter from the homepage.