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10 Fun Facts About Parrots

10 Fun Facts About Parrots by James Alston writing for ExoticDirect pet insurance.

1. There are nearly 400 species of parrot
There are 393 species of parrots (though more are being found all the time). Parrots also like the heat with most being found in the tropical and subtropical regions of Australia, Asia, Central and South America and Africa.

However, some parrots do live outside tropical environments. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, living in New Zealand and nesting in the roots of trees.
The Maroon-Fronted parrot, meanwhile, lives in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains of Mexico, sometimes nesting in limestone cliffs as high as 3,500 metres. Don’t look down!

The Maroon-Fronted parrot is also endangered, with perhaps as few as 2,500 still living in the wild.

2. Parrots can mimic humans – but some know more than you think
We’ve all seen videos of parrots saying hello and copying the things their owners say. But did you know that some budgies have vocabularies of up to 2,000 words?
There is even debate within the intellectual world as to whether parrots have a cognitive understanding of the things they say.

Alex, a famous African grey parrot, had a vocabulary of about 100 words. However, some studies showed he could tell the difference between small and larger objects, and could even identify different objects by their shape.

Interestingly, if captive talking parrots are released back into the wild, the rest of their flock can pick up some of their phrases, even if they have not been trained from a young age.
So be careful what you say around parrots – they just might be able to understand what you’re saying!
Own a parrot? Did you know you can get parrot insurance from ExoticDirect pet insurance.

3. And it’s not just human language
Parrots have an intricate system of sounds, shrills and squawks that can tell other parrots things, from warning them of predators to telling them there’s food in the vicinity. (Most parrots don’t have many predators except larger birds of prey. When a parrot is younger though, it may have to watch out for things like snakes and even monkeys.)

Some parrots use their feathers to communicate too. Cockatoos have crests on their heads that they can raise or lower at will.

They use these feathers to communicate with other parrots – for instance, to attract a mate – or to warn off potential predators. Some crests in domesticated parrot species are made from selective breeding or mutations. Also, it’s not totally understood how or why this particular trait has stuck around in domesticated parrots that don’t need a crest, and research into this is common. Perhaps they just love looking glamorous. Who’s a pretty boy, then?

4. Parrots are cleverer than you think too
We’ve seen that many parrots can mimic humans, with some budgies having a vocabulary of up to 2,000 words. However, that’s not all parrots can do!

The Kea parrot has been shown to be particularly intelligent, learning to push and pull certain things in order to get food. Keas can also work together to achieve certain objectives, and have even been observed fashioning tools from sticks in order to experiment with animal traps and get food. Reportedly, some will use pebbles to mash up cockle shells in order to get their calcium.

Keas are known as the ‘clown of the mountains’ because of their cheeky nature. They’ve been observed flying off with unguarded items of clothing and food scraps. So if you’re ever around a Kea, make sure you hide your gear!

5. Not all parrots can fly
Almost all parrots can fly, with some, such as the Hyacinth Macaw, having a wingspan of nearly a metre and a half. The Hyacinth Macaw also reaches lengths of nearly 1.2 metres from head to toe.
However, less well known is the critically endangered Kakapo, sometimes known as the Owl parrot. This flightless bird, the heaviest known parrot, roosts under trees or in the ground, and is nocturnal.
As of June 2016, there were only around 150 Kakapos left. This is mostly due to the introduction of predators into its native New Zealand such as cats and rats.

Kakapos have been studied extensively and have even been filmed for The Life of Birds, a documentary narrated by David Attenborough – and who doesn’t want to listen to him talk?

6. A parrot’s not just for Christmas…
Many people don’t realise, but parrots sometimes live as long as humans. The African Grey parrot, for instance, can live between 50 and 70 years.

One of the oldest parrots, Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, died in August 2016. He was believed to be one of the oldest parrot of his species in captivity, dying at the ripe old age of 83. He was recorded as being the oldest living parrot in the world by the Guinness World Records.

It’s important to bear this in mind if you’re thinking of buying yourself a parrot, as it could be a lifetime commitment. But it means you’ll be able to show it off to your grandkids!

However, often parrots in captivity won’t live quite as long as those in the wild. To help your parrot live out her years, you should make sure she eats a suitable and varied diet, has the right kind of stimulation and exercise, and that your home is safe, comfortable and free from dangers. You should also consider pet insurance, as this can cover unexpected vet fees. ExoticDirect offer a range of policies.

7. One true love
Most parrots are monogamous, meaning they mate with only one partner for their whole lives. These ‘pair bonds’ as they are known are preceded by courtship displays. This means parrots will dance and sing songs in order to win a mate. These mates usually then work together to raise their young.

Only the El Oro parakeet and the Golden parakeet have been shown to exhibit polygamous behaviour. While this means they may take more than one mate, or collectively breed, it also means that multiple females may help each other in raising their young. These parrots know the meaning of teamwork!

Generally, around five eggs are incubated by females for around a month. In monogamous pairings, the mother feeds the young while the father brings them food.

8. Problem child
Though most parrots lay between two and seven eggs, some lay just one, like the Palm Cockatoo.
These parrots are known to have particular trouble breeding. One study followed the Palm Cockatoo for nearly three years, and observed that 81% of nests didn’t produce any young. Meaning that there was only a 19% breeding success rate in nests.

The study suggested that this was because these parrots are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment. They have even been referred to as the giant pandas of parrots because of the trouble they have breeding. Just as cute, but with feathers!

9. Feral parrot populations
In the mid to late 20th century, a number of escaped Rose-Ringed parakeets escaped from captivity and started a population in the south of England, mostly in London.

Even now, if you go to Crystal Palace Park or Hampstead Heath, you can see Rose-Ringed parakeets sitting in trees! These parrots have adapted to a life in an environment extremely different from their natural habitat. And it’s not just in the UK, either; the Rose-Ringed parakeet can be found in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and even Germany, and some have even spread as far as the United States and Lebanon.

So next time you’re walking around London, keep an eye out for one of your colourful friends sitting in a tree.

10. Something that would be useful at the pub
Many parrots have a hinged upper and lower beak. This means that both mandibles can move, rather than like in us humans – we only have a lower mandible that can move.

These powerful beaks are useful for opening seeds, the main diet of parrots. There are probably lots of people out on a Friday night who wish they had this ability.

They also use them for other things, like courting, feeding their young and preening themselves.
Parrots are also one of the only species of bird that moves food to its mouth using its feet. You might have seen a parrot holding a seed with its foot while its lower mandible crushes it in order to get the nutrients inside. Thankfully, humans can just take a vitamin pill.

ExoticDirect offer insurance for a wide range exotic pets, including parrots. If you own an exotic-y pet, why not find out how we can help you?

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12 interesting facts about cats that you might not know

Cats, along with dogs, are the most popular pet in the world. And it’s no wonder – these adorable, cuddly creatures are great at winning over our hearts. But even if we think we know them in detail, there are some things about cats that are not so widely known.

I have compiled a list of 12 facts about cats that many people might not know yet. You will be able to understand your cat and their behavior better by knowing some of these things.

1. Cats don’t have a sweet tooth

While us humans enjoy every bit of sweet candy, cats aren’t really interested in eating sweets because they can’t taste sweet. In their natural habitat, cats would eat meat and only meat. But today’s cat food often contains corn and other grains with a bunch of carbohydrates, which is why feline diabetes is so common.

2. Most cats are lactose intolerant

Even though cats and milk may seem like the perfect combination, it is most often not. Most cats lose their ability to break down the sugar in milk after they stop being nursed by their mom. In other words, they become lactose intolerant. That is why milk and dairy products are not something you should feed your cat to every day.

3. Cats have a blind spot under their noses and chins

If your cat doesn’t always notice a treat that is right under its nose, this is the reason! Cats are great at catching motions and often see movements that we can’t notice, but when it comes to seeing things right in front of their noses, they are not that good at it.

4. Spaying and neutering may prolong cat’s lifespan

Banfield Pet Hospital, the world’s largest veterinary practice has found some interesting facts about pet’s lifespan. According to their State of Pet Health 2013 Report, the lifespan of pets has increased from 10 years ago. Lifespan in 2012 was 20% longer than lifespan in 2002, which adds 1 year to a cat’s life. Hooray to that! They also found that spay and neuter may contribute to a longer lifespan. You can find more about it in their research linked above.

5. Kittens are growing while they sleep

When kittens are born, they sleep most of the day because only then is when the growth hormone is released. When cats turn 1, they are pretty much finished growing. A 1-year-old cat is like a 21-year-old human, and each additional year of life is like 4 human years.

6. Cats spend most of their lives sleeping

Cats really like to sleep in (well who doesn’t?). They sleep approximately 12-16 hours a day which makes 2/3’s of their lives! So, an adult 12-year-old cat will have spent 8 years of its life sleeping! They mostly like to be awake and active at dusk and dawn.

7. Cat’s whiskers have a big purpose

Many people assume that a cat’s whiskers are just ordinary hair. But that is far from the truth. Those pointy little thingies are actually touch receptors. They help the cat navigate and without them, the cat would be disoriented and scared. Whiskers also help cats judge if they can fit through an opening since they are as wide as their body.

8. Cats have sandpaper-like tongues

Their sandpaper-like tongues are responsible for good grooming sessions cats give themselves and other cats every day. Cats love to clean themselves and their tongues are designed to give them the best grooming experience and to clean themselves in detail.

9. Cats can make over 100 vocal sounds

While dogs are able to make only 10 vocal sounds, cats can make over 100! Those 100 different vocal sounds include a variety of meows, purrs and growls. I just wish we could interpret what each sound means!

10. Cat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than humans’

Cat rely on their sense of smell to locate the food, find a mating partner or to warn danger. My cat, for example, can immediately smell if I petted a random dog at the street. She starts sniffing my hand and looking at me all funny, like she is disappointed at me 🙂

Because of the cat’s strong sense of smell, you should be extra cautious in using essential oils and perfumes in front of your cat.

11. Cats can drink sea water

Cats have highly efficient kidneys that easily filter out the salt from the sea water. So, unlike humans, cats can stay hydrated from drinking sea water! But, of course, this doesn’t mean you should give sea water to your cats. Fresh water is always the best choice.

12. Extra toes are genetic

If a polydactyl cat (a cat with extra toes) and non-polydactyl cat have babies, there is 40-50% chance kittens will have extra toes too.

Polydactyly is a genetic mutation (adorable one I must say) and it is not harmful to the cat. Most polydactyl cats have one extra toe on each front paw, but they can have an extra toe on the back paws too. In some cases, cats can have up to 7 toes on each paw!

Conclusion

Well, I hope you learned something new about cats and that it will help you understand these cute creatures a little bit better! If you have an interesting cat fact to add, do tell us in the comments!

Author Bio
Monika is a huge animal lover, currently having two cats in her life. She is the owner of a pet blog called Animallama where she writes about pet care, pet tips and advice.

Posted in cats, guest post | 1 Comment

A Microchip Miracle: The Gift of Reunion

Like so many of us who share our lives with a beloved dog, we had our dog Teddy microchipped when he became a permanent family member after a short foster period. And although life is fickle, and nothing we do can guarantee that a lost dog will be reunited with its hopeful humans, anything that can make it possible is definitely worth the effort.

The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. According to the Petfinder adoption site, one in three pets will become lost at some point during their life. And while only approximately 22 percent of lost dogs that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families, the return-to-owner rate for micro chipped dogs is over 52 percent, a staggering 238 percent increase!

While these statistics are eye-opening, there’s nothing like a true-life story to bring home the message that a tiny microchip can make a huge difference in an outcome. When I posted on the National Dog Week Facebook Page asking for someone to share their personal microchip reunion story, Bebe Faryewicz sent me her family’s touching story about their German Shorthaired Pointer, Kris.

Bebe relayed that when her dog-loving daughter Valerie was only nine, she’d saved her money for a German Shepherd dog. She took great care of this dog – feeding, training, providing lots of play time that even included “dressing up” the big dog. At 13, Valerie remained a responsible young person; a good student who’d garnered recognition for many achievements. Bebe, and her husband Jim, thought their daughter deserved another dog.

According to Bebe, “We often visited family friends on their ranch where they had German Shorthaired Pointers. Valerie came to really liked the breed.” At that time, the Farywicz family was living in Plano, Texas, but usually traveled to spend time with family in Arkansas during the holiday season. During one of those visits, Bebe and Jim located a German Shorthaired Pointer breeder in Arkansas.That Christmas, Valerie’s surprise present was a puppy she named Kris, in the spirit of the holiday.

Bebe says Kris was very sweet, affectionate and smart even as a pup. He was a working dog, however, always chasing birds, butterflies, dragon flies, squirrels, and rabbits. His instinct for pointing birds found him running hard on the family’s 500 acre ranch, often until he dropped. Unfortunately, due to these breed traits, Kris eventually became lost in March 2013. “We lived in a house with a fenced in back yard. There was a partially broken picket, and Kris managed to break through the picket, probably chasing after an animal. By the time I realized he was gone, it was too, late,” Bebe sadly recalls.

The Farywiczs searched for Kris long and hard, doing everything possible to find him; visiting at least 50 shelters, calling vets, and putting up signs. But three months later, when the family relocated to Arkansas, the local ground search ended with their move. For several months, however, Bebe continued to search online.

As you can imagine the unresolved loss of their beloved dog was devastating. “Our hearts were broken. I had terrible thoughts of him getting injured, being out in the cold (which he did not like), or crying during storms,” Bebe says. The family held out hope that someone had found Kris and had taken care of him, but remained distressed about his unresolved disappearance.

Then, in June 2017, Bebe received a call from a veterinarian in Texas – Kris had been found by a rescue group in the town of Garland. With the information contained on his microchip he’d been traced to them. “I couldn’t believe my ears,” Bebe says. The rescuers who’d taken Kris in loved him and were so excited about finding his family that they drove that night all the way from Texas to Arkansas; at least a six hour drive, to reunite him with the Faryewiczs.

When Kris was found he was weak, dehydrated, skinny, had hookworms and suffered from lung inflammation. When the rescue group brought him to the vet, it had been determined that Kris hadn’t been on his own that long because he was relatively healthy; he had no liver or kidney problems. At age twelve, however, he’d become blind and deaf. According to Bebe, “We suspect someone took care of him for quite a while, and they either ignored the chip information, or never mentioned he was micro chipped to a vet. And we’re guessing, despite his advanced age, he’d escaped somehow, like he had done with us. I’m sure his new owners loved him like we did. At least, that’s our hope.”

Kris may have begun his life with the Faryewicz family as a Christmas gift, but his lasting gift was that of reunion defined as the act of getting people, and their pets, together again after they have been apart. Bebe, Jim, their son Jimmy and of course Valerie, remain grateful for all those who were involved in their dog’s rescue and return.

Microchipping is an inexpensive, simple, permanent, and painless procedure that can be safely administered by your dog’s veterinarian. Remember to register the microchip so that it’s included in a national database, and keep your contact information updated when you move. To ensure your dog’s chip is operational and critical information is up-to-date, ask your vet to scan your dog during an annual veterinarian checkup.

Hopefully, you’ll never experience the angst and uncertainty experienced when a pet goes missing, or is stolen. But knowing that you’ve had your dog microchipped can offer a sense of hope and ultimately, the gift of reunion. Just ask the Farywicz family.

About the Author:
According to Chinese star-gazers, Lisa Begin-Kruysman was born during the Hours and the Year of the Dog. It’s no surprise then that she’s made canines the focus of her award-winning works of Fiction and Non-Fiction, and social media platform. She is the recipient of the DWAA’s Maxwell Medallion and the North Shore Animal League America Award and the author of Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co.) and other titles. Her writing is inspired by the licks and love of her adorable foster-to-forever dog, Teddy. For more information please visit: www.lisabegin-kruysmanauthor.com

Posted in guest post, pet care, pet stories | 3 Comments

How hot is too hot for pets?

With Boynton Beach (FL) Police Department’s video saving a dog from heat stroke in a hot car has gone viral (click here to watch), Petplan pet insurance wants to remind pet owners that the heat takes its toll on our four-legged friends much differently. They put together these handy graphics to help pet owners see just how hot is too hot for our pets.

pet heat safety

pet heat safety

Pet heat hacks
It can be dangerous when pets’ body temperatures get just a few degrees above normal. Fortunately, with a little planning and preparation, keeping four-legged friends safe in warm weather can be a breeze. Here are six easy ways pet parents can help their pets beat the heat:

  • Chill out with a tasty treat. Freeze low-sodium chicken broth in a popsicle mold or ice cube tray for dogs and cats to enjoy on a hot day.
  • Hose down hot pavement, patios and porches before letting your pets outside. A little water could go a long way toward keeping paws cool and avoiding paw pad burns. Pet parents can also run cool water over their dog’s feet.
  • Say yes to ice water. Adding ice to pets’ water bowls creates a game for curious canines—they’ll bob for ice cubes and stay cool and hydrated in the process!
  • Cool the crate. If your pet will be crated while you’re away, try freezing two-liter water bottles and placing them on top of the crate. They’ll give off cool air and help keep the spot cool.
  • Wear a cold compress. A refrigerated wet bandana will help keep Fido cool and stylish this summer—this is especially effective because of the temperature receptors around dogs’ necks.
  • Make a splash. A backyard baby pool is a great way for pets to stay cool (and it’s fun too!). Some cats may even choose to toe the water.

When these hazards send pets to the vet, they can cause a deep dive into pet parents’ pockets with treatment costs averaging $2,606 for heat stroke, $398 for dehydration and $913 for hyperthermia. And the risk of heat-related incidents is nearly twice as high for brachycephalic (or snub-nosed) breeds such as Boxers, Bulldogs and Pugs.

Be safe while you are enjoying the summer with your furry friends! Remember, if it’s hot for you, it’s even hotter for them!

Posted in cats, dogs, guest post, pet care | 1 Comment