Parrots Forever
Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation
   Home      FAMILY DYNAMICS March 27 2015

Misconception: Bringing another pet into the home, like a dog, cat, or another parrot, won’t make a difference to our existing parrot.
Fact: Any additional people or animals that enter the home to live on a permanent basis will change the dynamics of the household, which will affect the interactions of the companion parrot with their caregiver and others within the already-established family unit. The parrot will now have to adjust to the impact of the new dynamic that has been imposed upon him/her by the addition of another living being, person, or animal. This change in dynamics alters the parrot’s world. Whether positive or negative, everything within the home is different.
Companion parrots, like many people, are very sensitive to variations within their environment. Unfortunately, most caregivers of companion parrots don't give a second thought to what effect it could have on their parrot when they make the decision to add additional living beings into the home. No consideration is given to how that change in family dynamics may affect their relationship with their parrot.
As an example, I have come across too many instances where a companion parrot caregiver decided they wanted to bring a dog into the home as a new pet. When the addition of the dog does not go very well and trouble ensues, 9 times out of 10 the parrot is pushed out the door and the dog stays. Why, you may ask? Because the caregiver’s new flavor of the moment is to have a dog as a pet. The parrot is old news and not as fresh and exciting as having a dog. The parrot becomes troublesome and a bother to the caregiver. It becomes disposable. It simply is not what the caregiver wants right now.
All things considered, if a caregiver does feel this way about their companion parrot, then maybe it is time to let go and re-home the parrot. Adding more stress to a parrot’s life by creating a situation where the parrot is vying for attention and experiencing the psychological pain of rejection only delays the inevitable.
Parrots are long-lived animals. People today live complex lives with work, raising kids, social events, obligations to friends, and extended family members. Most caregivers’ lives are in constant flux. Boredom and the need for distractions easily creep in. All of these changes that accrue over a person's lifetime can have a very negative impact on the pets that are in their care. Seemingly small changes in a person’s life can mean that big changes take place in a pet’s world. Whatever the reason, the act of adding a member to the family when a companion parrot is already in place and a structured environment has been established, without taking into account the effects this action will have on the parrot and the family dynamics, is short sighted and disrespectful to the parrot!
The type of dog that enters the home will dictate how much time will be required to properly care for him/her. The dog may be a high-energy sort, a dog that has an aggressive nature, or one with strong hunting instincts. Many variables need to be considered. Does the nature of the new dog make the environment unsafe for the parrot? Does the parrot spend more time locked in the cage for safety? Does the parrot’s cage need to be moved because of the new pet? Is the parrot locked up more because of dog walks and outings, or due to the time required to take the dog to training classes? Does the parrot threaten or attack the new pet or other members of the household out of frustration with the situation? Could the parrot seriously injure the new pet?
Unfortunately, the implications associated with bringing a new pet into the house are only realized after the fact. The changes to the household dynamic become apparent and may be uncomfortable. At this point a hard decision has to be made in order to deal with these new challenges of equilibrium. In most cases, the caregiver comes to the conclusion that, due to the added stress for all involved, one pet must go. This pet usually ends up being the parrot.
The parrot has many points against him/her, even though he/she was there first. A parrot is more work to care for with the cleaning and feeding required. Parrots require more dedicated, individual attention, and most cannot participate in recreational activities outside the house. Often, the parrot is simply not safe with the new pet and is relinquished for their safety and wellbeing. It is easier to get rid of a perceived problem when it can be justified as being for the best.
It is very sad to think how we as a society can have so little regard for the existing pet family members in our homes, that we can make decisions without considering the impact to those individuals. If we decide that we want a parrot as a pet, we buy one and bring him/her into our home even if we don’t fully understand the responsibility, commitment, and work that we have taken on, or what it means to the parrot. If we decide that we now want a dog or a cat, and this creates issues within the home, it’s usually the parrot who has to go! After all, if the parrot were giving us everything we needed, what would we need with a dog or a cat? Sometimes there isn’t time, energy, or love enough for both.
It’s unfortunate, but this happens with other pets too. A dog owner might want another dog or a different type of dog, or a cat owner might decide that they now want a dog as well. If bringing another pet into the home doesn't work out well, someone has to go. Another animal becomes an unwanted pet due to insufficient thought and diligence by the caregiver, and with not much consideration of the change in family dynamics being utilized in the decision-making process. The effect on existing pets is brushed off, if thought of at all. The owner expects that everyone will just get along and it will all work out.
On the flip-side, there are of course, many instances when bringing another pet into the home is positive for everyone involved, including the other pet family members. This happens when proper consideration is done in advance. When a good family dynamic exists, and the parrot and other existing pets are already comfortable and happy with the way things are, it may be possible to introduce a new pet. When the new pet does not detract from the time and quality of attention that the parrot receives, then the transition may work. When the nature of the pet being introduced into the home is accurately assessed and does not pose a danger to existing animals, then the transition may work. When potential problems are anticipated and addressed before a new animal is introduced, and a responsible contingency plan is in place, then the transition may work. New animals can be a positive influence in the home—when the transition is done right.
Regardless of the type of pet the caregiver is considering, the sensitivity of the parrot’s nature must be weighed and respected. A realistic evaluation of how this change will affect everyone within the home must be done. Once the real implications of adding to the family are considered, it is often easier to understand the reasons for wanting another pet in the home. Everyone’s wellbeing and safety have to be considered. 
Is it realistically possible for everyone to coexist safely? What will the parrot or other existing pets be forced to give up because of the new pet? How big an impact will this have on their life as they know it? Will the parrot be forced to remain in the cage indefinitely? Will the cage be moved into a separate room away from the family? These are not reasonable accommodations from the parrot’s point of view, and will cause considerable stress and psychological trauma. This was the parrot’s home first, and the parrot should not be punished because a new animal is introduced.
Parrots can get along with other parrots most of the time. Parrots can get along with most other dogs and cats, depending on personality traits. The size of your parrot can be a big contributor to how well they and the other pets get along. For example, if there is a cat in the home already, and you want to bring in a parrot, do you know if the cat is a bird hunter? Probably not.
If you bring home a budgie or a cockatiel, and your cat responds to the parrot as if it were a great new toy of their very own to play with, to chase and eat, then that type of parrot will not work. However, if you were to bring home a larger parrot such as a blue and gold macaw or a Moluccan cockatoo, your cat could be the one in danger. The cat might want to chase, attack, and possibly eat that big bird, but will figure out fairly quickly that there is a risk of a severe bite that might cost them an ear or an eye. Most cats won’t attack a larger bird, even if they want to, just out of self-preservation.
The same goes for dogs living with parrots and for parrots living with other parrots. Not only do size differences matter, but also the personalities of everyone involved. Is one docile and easy to get along with while the other is aggressive and likes to intimidate others just for fun? What will be the dynamics of the relationship between the two, three, or all four of the pets within the same home?
Once the benefits or hazards connected with a new pet family member are analyzed, and these issues are considered from the parrot’s point of view, then it will be a lot easier to make an informed decision. The impact on your parrot and other pet family members will be positive, rather than a disaster that forces decisions no one thought they would have to make.
Remember, your companion parrot's emotions, physical and psychological wellbeing are considerations that must forever be apart of your decision making when it comes to changes in the home dynamics.
Companion parrots, are forever.


       Wesley J Savoy Parrots Forever Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation, March 27 2015
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