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PARROTS AS PETS & PARENTS OF PARROTS

Do People In General Make Good Caregiver's For Parrots?

In today’s society, people tend to have a very short attention span. We are easily bored and lose interest quickly, discarding yesterday's toys, fads, and fashions for the next new and improved thing. The pace of people's lives has increased as well, and their time is much more fractionalized. We skim through the day trying to do more and more in the same amount of time (24 hours in a day has not changed) and not spending a great deal of time on any one thing. With the advent of the Internet and cell phones over the last 25 years, and more recently the social network phenomena where we spend time befriending people who we've never met, and who share dubious common interests, we are constantly being filled with external stimuli. This puts more demands on our time and attention.
 
Because of this, people have become more impatient, quick to judge, shortsighted, and uptight. We have become uncomfortable with even the slightest bit of downtime and are forever looking for something to fill that "void". For a lot of people, this endless search for the next bit of external stimuli is as addictive as a drug. And because of this, most people don't really know what they want from one moment to the next. They don’t take the time to develop insight into why they want something, to think about the long term consequences of their actions. After all, if they don't like it, they just discard it and move on to the next great desire. We have become so accustomed to our fractionalized natures that we can jump from "likes" to "dislikes" instantly, with no information or reasons, but with much justifying. There is a term for this condition. It is called "miswanting". Miswanting describes the situation of mistakenly believing that getting a particular thing will make you happy, when in fact it is nothing more than an "idea" of "thinking" that we "may" want something." (Macmillan Dictionary.com 2013).
 
So because of miswanting and our propensity to make very quick judgments on our likes and dislikes, it has become a lot easier to convince ourselves to follow through on our first impulses, to grab what we want, to get that instant gratification. And this is exacerbated by the fact that it is easier and much less expensive than ever to purchase things (smartphones, ATVs, iPads, pets, and so on). As with most pets, purebred or not, parrots are available to anyone with the slightest inclination to own one.
 
You don't even have to go to a pet store or through a breeder. A couple of clicks of a button, and you find Craigslist or Kijiji, a source of instantly available and cheap parrots. This easy and user-friendly medium not only makes it easier, quicker, and less costly to obtain a parrot of your choice at a moment's notice, but it also instills the reassurance that if (but more likely when) you change your mind after purchasing a parrot, you don't need to go any farther than your own home to discard it. Just snap a photo and list your used parrot for sale and, voila, mistake fixed. And another step down the long and vicious road of re-homing for the parrot.
 
This brings up another negative aspect of the way we've become so fractionalized in our daily lives. We have become much more matter-of-fact and self-centered in how we communicate with one another. We are very quick to move on once we feel that we have addressed a concern or dealt with daily tasks that we deem unimportant to us, even if it's of the utmost importance to the other individual involved.
 
Because people have the ability to measure time and to judge how long something should take to do, we have become very good at parceling out blocks of time for commitments and fitting in other things and activities throughout the day (pushing our time limits). Most of us are bent on filling our day with these commitments, projects, tasks, and responsibilities, to the point of having very little or no time for ourselves or others. In some ways, this is about feeling like we are accomplishing something of significance, when in fact a lot of this is just about filling time.
 
Because of this, many of us are stressed, overtaxed, and forever in a rush. There always seem to be good reasons for this daily chaos, but little thought about how this may affect others in our lives. For many people, whether they have taken on too much, or they only know one way of functioning, being constantly busy and distracted has become the norm. Allowing ourselves to enjoy quiet times at home has become more and more difficult. The feeling of hyperactivity has become so familiar that we often do not realize that our perception of time is often skewed.
 
All vertebrate animals are capable of measuring time. If you were to feed your pet skunk at only a certain time in the morning every day, the day that you are late and do not feed the skunk at that time, rest assured that you will be reminded. That skunk will make good and sure that you will be less likely to be late again. Dogs and cats know when their caregivers are due home from work and when they are late. They know the timing of events within a daily routine, and they know what day it is as well. They know when a weekend is due to start, or when a regular visitor is due to show up. Dogs and cats plan their own activities around these times. They use their time alone to nap, or play, or spy on the neighbors, and are ready to engage in activities with their owner at the appropriate time.
 
Parrots judge time too, and are aware of the time of day and the day of the week. They also know the timing of routine events. They too will spend their alone time doing their own thing, be it napping, playing with their toys, rehearsing their vocabulary, chewing something into sawdust, or watching the neighbors. Parrots know when the caregiver should be home, when mealtime is, when they will be allowed out of their cage and for how long, when they will be interacted with and for how long, and when bedtime is. They know that these activities should happen every day and they know when they are being gypped.
 
Many parrots are not let out of their cages even when the caregiver does come home from a long day of work. The caregiver is too tired or has too many other things to do and has no time to be with the parrot. In some cases the parrot's world is similar to a fish in a fish bowl. From the point of view of the caregiver, the parrot is something nice and amusing to look at (as long as it still has all its feathers), and maybe something to talk to sporadically when it’s convenient. From the parrot's point of view, it’s a life of boredom, isolation, waiting, and rejection. It’s solitary confinement with no one to talk to and with a jailer who may or may not feed you. It’s endless days of nothing. It’s hell.
 
Because parrots are very intelligent creatures, they are active, need to be stimulated, and need to interact with their surroundings. They are wired this way; it’s their telos to be interactive with their environment and with other living beings. For a parrot to sit alone and wait for so many hours during the day and then to be constantly disappointed when they are not let out of their cage, not handled, not played with, not fed fresh foods, puts a huge strain on them. They live in a cage and this is ALL they have to look forward to. This stress can build over time. Parrots who live interesting and interactive lives can withstand some changes to their schedule. An hour less out of the cage occasionally or dinner being a little late may be disappointing, but it’s not going to destroy the parrot's psyche.
 
For some parrots, however, most of their days—for decades—are spent waiting, bored, ignored, slowly losing their minds until they resort to self-mutilation just to feel something. They scream and develop neurotic behaviors. They may become too big a burden to ignore and be are sold or given away. While it is true that not every caregiver ignores their parrot, enough do that thousands of parrot rescue organizations are overwhelmed. This type of barely adequate care should not happen at all, under any circumstances. Parrot buyers need to realize that providing a clean cage of appropriate size, good food, and clean water is not even scratching the surface of what a parrot needs to be healthy and sane.
 
Most people buy a companion animal with the best intentions and truly want to look after the animal well. With people becoming increasingly busy in their daily lives, and lives becoming more erratic and unpredictable, circumstances are often out of our control. Good intentions and reality are not always compatible, and people end up having less time to spend with their parrots. There are many successful parrot owners and happy parrots out there, but these owners have made hard choices and sacrificed their time and lifestyles. Unfortunately, an increasing number of parrots end up in homes that just don't have what it takes to make their companion parrot feel wanted, loved, important, cared for, and most of all, an integral part of the family.
 
"For me, the sight of a parrot living alone, living in a cage, deprived of flight, miserably bored, breaks my heart. And the parrot's too, perhaps." Dr. Jane Goodall


What Does A Parrot Experience When They Are Re-Homed?

Imagine yourself as a 3-year-old child. Your parents invite some strange people over whom you have never seen before. After being told to be on your best behavior, you are brought out of your room to meet the new strangers. The strangers stare at you and make comments about you. They talk to you and maybe pat you on the head a few times. You are asked to speak a few words, walk around a bit, jump up and down, and are encouraged to sit on their laps and give them a hug. After the people leave, you are sent back to you room and life seems normal again.
 
Then a few days later, your parents let you out of your room, grab you, stuff you into a crate, and lock the door. While you are sitting in the crate wondering what just happened, the strangers who were in your home a few days earlier show up. They grab your crate, throw a blanket over it, and cart you out the door. The crate is put in the back seat of their car, and the car drives away with you. After what seems to be a very long and bumpy ride, the car stops, your crate is picked up, and you are carried somewhere.
 
When your crate is uncovered, you do not recognize anything, and your parents are nowhere to be seen. You are placed in the same room that you were in at your first home and all your stuff is in it. Nothing else is familiar. Not the house, the sounds, the views that you were so accustomed to. You are confused and frightened. You have no idea what's going on, who these people are, and why you are here. You wonder where your parents are and when they are coming to get you.
 
Then the situation gets worse. The strangers take you out of your room and demand that you talk and walk around just like the first time they saw you. They place you in a corner on a stool, talk to you some more, pat you on the head, and want hugs. They tell you that you are very good and offer you a cookie. You eat it because you are hungry. You are also very scared, stressed, and exhausted. You don't know where you are or what's going on.
 
Then more strange people show up and you discover that there is also a dog in the house. The new strangers stare at you. The dog stares at you and barks. The strangers start talking to you and touching you, petting you, and carrying you around the house. The new strangers also want to hear you talk and see the tricks that you can do. You are so scared, tired, and overwhelmed that you just want all of it to stop. You try to defend yourself from this unfamiliar and unwanted attention. You try to bite one of the strangers but you are told "NO" and placed back on the stool in the corner.
 
Finally the strangers get tired of you. They feed you and send you back to your room. You are too scared to sleep, and you miss your parents. As the days go by and your parents don't come to get you, you slowly give up hope. You become very depressed and resent these horrible strangers who changed your life forever. The strangers don't like your behavior. They want you to be the same as when they first saw you and do not understand why you have changed.
 
You are told that you are lucky to have a good home where you are given food and water, a clean place to live, and toys. You also get a lot of attention whether you want it or not. You should be grateful. You should love them. No one cares that you had no say in the matter or that you do not like the situation. You are only a 3-year-old child, what do you know? You'll adjust because children are resilient and not all that aware of their surroundings anyway. And if you don't, well too bad for you. You'll just find yourself in another strange home.
 
Parrots experience all of these things when they are re-homed. They may be leaving a very good home where they were very attached to their caregiver. They will miss that caregiver and will mourn the loss. They do not automatically and instantly form attachments with someone just because that person feeds them. Parrots choose their own friends and they can take a very long time to decide if someone is trustworthy. They will also miss the familiar routine of their old home. New sounds and situations can be very stressful and frightening.
 
Again, they can take a very long time to adjust as they try to figure out where their place is in this new environment. Even if the home that they left was less than ideal, or even downright abusive, parrots will not be instantly relieved and happy in their new surroundings. They don't assume that new is necessarily better; they need proof. They will watch and wait, and slowly decide for themselves that their situation has indeed improved.
 
Whether they are coming from a good home or a bad one, parrots need time to observe and adjust to their new environment. This will happen in the parrot’s time. New caregivers cannot make it happen faster, but can certainly slow down or halt the process by demanding too much too soon. Caregivers must also realize that the relationship that a parrot had with one person will not automatically transfer to another. The dynamics of the relationship with the new caregiver will be different from the relationship that the parrot had with his or her original caregiver. What you see when you purchase the parrot is not usually what you get.
 
 


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