Category Archives: pet care

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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Preparing Pets for Hurricanes

Too many times we see pets abandoned during weather-related disasters and with yet another Hurricane possibly headed our way (Irma), Petplan pet insurance wants to remind responsible pet parents to be aware of these simple tips to keep their pets safe and sound.

The Basics

Before the Storm: Keep calm and prepare. Pets can sense barometric pressure changes, so ease worry by speaking in a reassuring voice and distracting pets with games, toys and natural calming remedies.

In the Thick of It: Take shelter and keep pets inside—do not let them out in your yard off-leash! Stock up on puppy pads for an indoor bathroom solution. If you evacuate, make sure your dogs have ID tags and cats are in crates.

Aftermath: Proceed with caution. Pets can become injured or ill from breathing toxic generator fumes, drinking dirty water or eating spoiled food.

Hurricane Evacuation Kit Checklist for Pets (click here for info on each item)

  • Pet carrier
  • Medication for two weeks
  • Food and water for one week
  • Two slip leashes
  • Printed and electronic copies of medical history
  • Identification and contact information
  • Take a photo of your pet before you leave your home
  • Litter, piddle pads and trash bags
  • Shampoo, brush, towels
  • Plenty of patience

No one plans on a natural disaster disrupting his or her lives. What you can prepare for is how you’ll respond when the crisis occurs. Good luck, be safe, and may we all be pet-prepared should disaster strike.

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Flooding aftermath poses risks to our pets

Petplan pet insurance staff veterinarian Kim Smyth shares important tips about the hazards that those in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey (and flood prone regions) should beware of when it comes to the health of their pets in the weeks to come.

“In the aftermath of a natural disaster, both physical and mental health hazards abound. Overcrowding in pet shelters or pet-approved human shelters increases stress, which in turn decreases immunity. Your pet may be exposed to infectious diseases, both in flood waters and on dry land in crowded shelter environments. Pay close attention to your pet’s health as you navigate the long journey of recovery from a natural disaster. Post traumatic phobias in pets are common following natural disasters–changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance should all be addressed by a veterinarian as soon as possible.”

Water Woes – While the flooding that follows a significant storm poses immediate risks to the safety of our pets, the standing water left behind for weeks or months is just as dangerous.

  • Floodwaters can be tainted with toxic chemicals, as well as wildlife-borne diseases like Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that is particularly problematic in wet conditions.
  • Says Smyth: “Pathogenic fungi are often displaced from their natural habitat during flooding. These fungi pose a health risk to those who may come into contact with it while wading or swimming through flood waters.”
  • Standing water also attracts mosquitoes, which can carry diseases and parasites, like heartworms, to unprotected pets. Keep pets away from floodwaters and keep a few months’ worth of heartworm preventative on hand at all times so you can stay up to date with doses no matter what.
  • Flooding can also alter landscapes and obliterate scent trails, which can confuse your pet and cause him to become disoriented. Don’t let pets roam outside off-leash, and be sure to keep contact information current on their microchips in case they get lost.

Adds Smyth: “Pets who have near-drowning accidents can succumb to fluid buildup in the lungs as much as 48 hours after the event. If your pet struggled to evacuate through flood waters, please keep a close eye on his condition for at least 48 hours, even if he seems normal.”

Dangerous Debris – Depending on the severity of the storm, debris from destroyed structures, downed trees and trash can hang around long after floodwaters recede.

  • Never let pets climb on debris or nose through trash, as they can suffer lacerations, abrasions or broken bones from falls.
  • Additionally, curious canines could find unsavory snacks that can lead to intestinal obstruction, bowel perforation or poisoning.

Stress Test – We’ve talked about how noise phobias can affect pets during storms, but plenty of stressors can make the aftermath just as upsetting for our furry friends.

  • Cats in particular are vulnerable to anxiety caused by changes to their environment, but even a usually plucky pup can find himself frazzled in unfamiliar situations – like if you are displaced, or if you foster displaced animals for friends, family or neighbors.
  • If you do take in additional animals, keep non-household members separate from each other to minimize the potential for negative interactions.
  • Take note of common canine stress signals like yawning, licking or chewing when no food is present, excessive shaking as if to dry off and freezing when touched. Cats signal stress through excessive vocalization, inappropriate elimination and even vomiting. Exercise and play can help alleviate anxiety, but it is a good idea to keep your vet’s number on hand to discuss any concerns that crop up.

Says Smyth: “Remember that you comfort your pet as much as he comforts you in stressful times. Do your best to stay together after evacuation, but if you must separate, make sure he/she is wearing up to date contact information or in a pet carrier that is clearly labeled. If your pet is microchipped, make sure the microchip company has up to date contact information for you.”

Spores of Trouble – Although toxic black mold poisoning has not been widely documented in pets, two cats who survived Superstorm Sandy succumbed to the toxin.

  • Because mold spores in the lungs can cause long-term respiratory damage and other health issues not just to your furry friends, but to your entire family, it is absolutely critical to have your house checked if you’ve sustained flood damage. If you notice your pets scratching themselves or chewing on their extremities or at their skin, or your pet exhibits extreme lethargy, wheezing, coughing, struggling to aspirate, bleeding from the nose or disruption in regular eating habits, your pet may be suffering the long-term effects of black mold exposure.

Says Smyth: “Waiting until a natural disaster strikes to think about evacuation plans puts your entire family at risk, especially your four legged family members,” says Smyth. “Have a disaster preparedness plan that includes pets in place, so if the worst happens, you know where you’re going and what you need to take with you. Areas that have been damaged by natural disasters may not be accessible for weeks–never evacuate without your pets.”

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